20. Rye and the Singing Sawmils

Mile marker 28.5, Highway 165

 This small foothills community was established ca. 1870 it was first named Table Top Mountain for the flat- topped mesa nearby. Around 1900, national post office officials complained that the name Table Top Mountain was too long. It did not fit in the new circular cancellation stamps. Locals changed the name to Rye, Colorado. Some say the name Rye was chosen since the grain was grown in that area, others say it was chosen because it was the shortest name they can think of!

 In addition to farming and dairy ranches, the Rye area used to be renowned for its numerous sawmills. Lumberjacks cut local pine and fir trees creating many of the meadows in the area. Lumber was in great demand for the mining activity in the Wet Mountains. Before the area had telephones, mill workers would “talk” to each other by banging on the huge saw blades with a mallet. One gong meant “all is well here” Two gongs meant “going to town soon, bring your list.” Three gongs meant “need help from neighbors today.” Several continuous clangs meant “Help! Emergency!” Hence the sobriquet “singing sawmills.”

Rye has another claim-to-fame. It was used as a Quarantine Area in the 1800s. Miners with smallpox and tuberculosis were brought to the Rye area to keep the diseases out of the bigger cities. The miners lived in tent- like huts by Greenhorn Creek.