By Caitlin Switzer

MONTROSE—The family tree has roots in Sweden, but here in Western Colorado its branches have flourished and grown. The Sanburg family has a Western Slope presence that spans generations, and crosses all walks of life. This month, the Montrose County Historical Society will honor the Sanburgs at its annual Pioneer Social event at the Montrose United Methodist Church (19 South Park Ave.) on Feb. 21.

Kurt Sanburg of Bostwick Park called the event a great honor.

“We appreciate the recognition,” Sanburg said. “When my great-grandfather came here he homesteaded, and my grandpa ranched and farmed. There are Sanburgs in all facets of life today—some are in law enforcement, some are engineers.”

Kurt’s older sister Susan Humphrey, who has put together a slide show of old family photographs for the event, will serve as emcee. The family’s history has already been compiled in a book by Susan’s Aunt Nadine Sanburg Shannon, who traveled to Sweden in the course of her research.

“Knowing about your family and your roots is one of the most important things you can know,” Humphrey said. “It is essential to know where you come from.”

Montrose resident Monte Sanburg, 82, believes one of the most interesting things about his family is its size.

“The Sanburgs are big time in this country,” he said. “I have a lot of relatives, and so many of them still live around here.  My great-grandfather Olaf came from Holte, in 1880. He and my grandmother came separately, though she was from Sweden too. They met in Leadville, and moved over to Greeley on the Eastern Slope, and spent several years farming, and having seven kids. Olaf and the two oldest came here in 1907 to scout things out, and they bought land south of town. Then Olaf went back to the Eastern Slope, loaded all the furnishings, and brought his family over on the train in 1908.

“They settled mostly into agriculture, and ranching cattle and sheep.”

Monte’s father Walter was born in 1912, and was one of four brothers. Of the other three, Harry went to the Paradox Valley, Oscar went to Bostwick Park, and Dick went to Coffeepot and Cerro Summit.

“In later years, the family got bigger and bigger,” said Monte, who was born in 1932. “I’ve got hundreds of cousins, fifth cousins and great aunts!

“I have lived here all my life,” he said. “I was born on a ranch at Riverside, and I picked a lot of potatoes, stacked a lot of hay, pulled a lot of beans, and worked on the farm.”

As a young person, he also spent time hitchhiking around and working in the Paradox Valley. Eventually he went to work for the City Market chain, where he spent 33 years, and later spent a decade doing archaeological tech work in the oil fields near Rangely.

“Then I really retired,” Sanburg said. In addition to his working life, Monte has given his time and energy to the Montrose County Historical Society. He was instrumental in helping to preserve the D&RG Railroad Depot building that now serves as the local historical museum.

“I went to Denver and negotiated with the owner of the Denver & Rio Grande, and they donated the property to the City of Montrose, with a provision that it be rented to the historical society at a cheap rate,” he said.  “It was a real mess! The Depot had been abandoned, so my friends, my wife and I spent three or four years cleaning it up and making it fit for the Museum.”

Monte said he looks forward to learning more about the history of his own family at the upcoming Pioneer Social.

“It will be interesting to see what comes up, and what kind of participation there is,” he said. “There are only so many minutes to talk about all these families! My wife and I have three kids, six grandkids and 19 great-grandchildren. We’re liable to see most of those 19; they’re itty bitty buggers. Most of the families live around here, but a few don’t that I wish could be here. My brother and I married sisters from the Cimarron country, and though my brother has passed on, my wife’s sister can’t be here.

“There are so many other families that have married into ours and become a part of it,” he said. “They are part of the Sanburg history too.”

Myrna Sanburg, a Sanburg by marriage for 44 years, said that she is proud of the whole family and proud to be part of it.

As for the Pioneer Social, “I plan on being there,” Myrna said.

The Social program will begin at 2 pm.  Donations will be taken at the door, and everyone is invited.  For more information please call Sally at 970-249-2085.