Lydia Melvina Halsted

Lydia Melvina Halsted Barrett about 1907

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J. R. Findsen

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Headstone: Mary Ellen Barrett

 

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Image Source: Findagrave

Mary Ellen Barrett was born 18 Sept 1881 to George Barrett and Lydia Melvina Halstead in Smith County Kansas.

Mary married Caleb Grant Van Dusen and had three children with him. The marriage did not last.

She married her second husband, James Henry Austin on 22 July 1922 in San Juan County New Mexico.

Mary died on 24 Feb 1959 in Albuquerque New Mexico. Fairview Memorial Park Cemetery in Albuquerque is her final resting place.

 

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J. R. Findsen

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My Life’s Story: Chapter 6

 

1926-Ford-Touring

Image Source: American Automobiles

My Life’s Story

by Eleanor Van Dusen Bowen

 

Chapter 6: Our Trip

 

During 1924 and 1925, we traveled through the Pacific States always looking for greener pastures, until Mother returned with Mr. Austin to Bayfield, Colorado and I was sent to Aztec, New Mexico to live with my father.

As I have written, the day was nice when we left McPhee, but as we neared the New Mexico-Colorado border it began to rain. The road became muddier and muddier, and by the time we got near the Ship Rock, it was dark, rainy and the mud was ankle deep. We had a hard time finding a place to pull off the road where we would not get stuck. If I remember correctly, we stopped in the middle of the road, not even an Indian was crazy enough to be out in this kind of weather. We ate the food Mother had prepared for our first day in the car. There were Mother, Mr. Austin, Charles, Bill Austin and me. We tried to sleep but I don’t think any of us slept soundly, except maybe Charles, who could sleep any old way if it was time to do so. I know I didn’t sleep very much. The rain beat down on the car top the whole night long and it was cold.

Soon after daybreak the next morning, the sun began to shine. We could see the Ship Rock real good, as we weren’t far from it. It looks like a ship from a distance and it is the only huge rock of its size, standing starkly against the sky, in that vast area of desert land.

The mud was lightly frozen so we were able to get started up. The car slid and slipped about so much that we were afraid of getting stuck, but luck was with us and we traveled slowly until we reached the graveled road at Newcomb’s Trading Post. From here, we made good time into Gallup, New Mexico, where we rented a cabin for the night, and we had a decently cooked meal. Charles, Bill and I put our bedrolls on the floor and Mother and Mr. Austin slept in the only bed there was in the cabin.

The cabins in those days were a one room, board structure with a double bed, a table and chairs, a stove sometimes, and once in a while a sink with cold running water. Most often, though, the cabins were for sleeping only. I don’t remember any cabin that we stayed in having hot water in it and they rarely if ever had an inside toilet. Most of the campgrounds had what they called community kitchens under a roofed over area which had open sides with back to back stoves or concrete grills for doing our cooking. Once in a while we would find a kitchen with gas piped to the stoves, cost us 25 cents for so many minutes, but most often we had to burn wood. There were quarter meters for the gas stoves and we had to pay by the bundle for wood to cook with on the other type of stove. Heat was furnished in the cabins by the owners. We got our fresh water from a faucet, usually, at the end of the kitchen. There were never any sinks for we just tossed our dish water or wash pan water on the ground out of the way of walking.

When we reached Arizona, the sun shone so brightly, I thought that my eyes would go blind again. They really hurt so bad for a while that I had to shut them and put a towel over them to keep the light out of them. My eyes finally got use to the bright light and the warmth of the sun felt good to me. It was very hot at Oatman where at lunch one day, Mother prepared two cans of pork and beans and corn over a campfire. She opened two cans of sardines packed in mustard sauce. In those days cars had wooden running boards to step on to get into the seat. Mother set our food on the running board on the south side of the car and somehow the mustard sauce got spoiled on it. It was probably my fault, because I was good at that sort of thing. Later as we drove along, the hot sun made it smell to high heaven. It stayed with us all the way through Needles, Barstow, the Mojave Desert and into Bakersfield, California where Mother got some lye and she scrubbed the running board for the third time to get rid of the fish and mustard smell. I’m not able to really enjoy Sardines in Mustard Sauce to this day.

The California poppies were in bloom on the hills of Bakersfield and it was a beautiful sight to see. As we traveled up through Tulare to Sacramento, we would stop and camp wherever the men folks could get a few days work on a farm.

The old Model T faithfully climbed the Siskiyou Mountains into Oregon. There was no work at the sawmills in Grants Pass Oregon, so we decided to stay a few days in a campground near Salem. Here I saw a lumberjack climb a tall pine tree with spikes on the inside of his boots. He would get up so high and then fasten his belt around the trunk of the tree. He would cut the top of the tree off, then he would come down the tree, always, anchor himself to it and cut off another section of the tree He would lower himself to the ground and finish felling the rest o0 the tree.

There was a light drizzle of rain as we went on to Portland. We found us a campground close to the Columbia River and not far from the main part of town. I bet you could not do that now. It drizzled rain the whole time we were there. We learned to eat and like smelt, even when cooked with their heads on them. They were really delicious. Mother liked them so well that we had them several times a week, and we ate fresh salmon from the river quite often, too. The people in this campground would huddle around the gas cook stoves in the community kitchen for warmth and so they would talk and get acquainted with each other.

It was here that Bill overhauled the engine of the Model T. When it came time to grind the valves, I was drafted to do the job. I seemed to have had a feel for things like this because I could hold the tool, evenly, that I used to do the grinding with. We used a special compound to smooth them down. This tool was on the order of an old fashioned brace and bit, except it had two prongs on the end.

The men tried to get work in the sawmills at Longview, Washington. There just weren’t any jobs to be had, so, we went up to Seattle where it was still raining. We went up on the hill east of Seattle where we could see all the town. I sure couldn’t do that the last time I was in Seattle in 1972. It is just too big.

We backtracked to Portland, Oregon. Then drove along the Columbia River to Baker, Oregon. All along the way, we were allowed to join the mushroom pickers to earn money. Mother could not tell a mushroom from a toad stool and therefore she never made any money at it, about one half of her pickings were always discarded.

We were in Pendleton, Oregon during their famous Rodeo. It was very colorful with cowboys and Indians who were in their blankets, everywhere. There were many pretty girls riding their beautiful horses about the streets.

We had used up all of our money by the time we got to Baker, Oregon, and we had to camp at the edge of town, while we waited for a draft to come through that Mother had sent to her bank in Delores, Colorado. We got very short on food. We only had biscuits and gravy until our shortening gave out. I was able to get a job washing dishes at a small café for one day. Then Bill got a job baking in a large café. He was a pastry cook by trade. He decided to stay on until he earned enough money to go back to Texas where his family was living. When our money came, we went on to Caldwell, Idaho, where Mr. Austin and Charles got jobs on separate farms. Charles decided to stay in Idaho for a while, which lasted two hears, before he came back to Bayfield, Colorado. We stayed only until the haying crop was in, then we went down south to Nampa to work at prune picking and packing. We worked in the Brown Orchards. Mr. Brown’s daughter and I became friends and we worked together, side by side at the packing tables. There were several young boys serving the tables with fruit, boxes and paper. They also removed the full boxes to the tables where they were nailed shut and labeled. Being young, Eleanor Brown and I, got the best service and we mad the most money. It was fun.

We were camped at the edge of the orchard near a ditch of water. After supper was over, Eleanor, her brother and several other people would come to our camp. We’d sit around the campfire and sing songs while Mr. Austin played the harmonica or guitar. Stories were told by nearly every one of his or her experiences in the fruit harvest from here to Southern California. It was seldom that we heard a personal story. We never knew much about these people except their names and where they originally came from. The men and women seemed happy in their marriages and the children content with their lot in life. They seemed to have no other ambition, but were content to follow the crop harvesting trail. This is one time I hated to see the job done, as I had made some nice friends and I would have like it if the folks had decided to settle down here. But no, we were to move on like the rest of the people. This time we were going into Boise, Idaho, to look for work.

When we got to Boise, we rented housekeeping rooms in the downtown area. Mr. Austin went to look for work while Mother and I went sightseeing as far as we could walk. We saw our first enclosed swimming pool. It was called the Plunge. It was huge and an ugly building with screened in side walls. We thought the Capitol building was grand. Mr. Austin found a job, but it was in Mountain Home, Idaho, so we packed the car and left immediately.

The ranch where we were to work, belonged to a lawyer, in Mountain Home, by the name of Green. The ranch was six miles south of town in the middle nowhere. Mr. Green had summer wheat ready to harvest and he needed Mother to do the cooking for the hired hands and he needed a man in the fields to drive a team. That is the reason Mr. Austin got the job. We lived in a two story house and the foreman, Mr. Cramer and his two daughters lived in a small cottage. The out buildings consisted of lambing sheds for the sheep and corals for shearing them. There was the usual chicken and turkey houses, a barn and of course the usual outdoor privy.

The sheep were driven in from the north while we were there. There was bleating a plenty. There were lambs being born and men shearing sheep. The Indian women were allowed to kill a sheep when it was needed for food. When a baby would cry too much, I’d see a mother take an entrails of the sheep, zip the stuff out of it with her thumb and forefinger, then she would rinse it with water and hand it to the baby as a pacifier.

Mirages are quite a common occurance in Idaho. Once in a while in the late afternoon, I could see by mirage, a ranch at the end of a small mountain which, ordinarily, could not be seen at any seen at any other time. I could see people and the animals moving about the yards between the house and the barns.

Mr. Green ask me to take charge of the turkeys and the chickens. I was to see to the setting of the eggs under the turkey hens as he wanted to be sure and have a good crop of them to sell that fall. I was able to give an account of over two hundred baby turkeys when we were ready to leave the ranch. They were healthy ones, too.

We were on the ranch only a few days when Mother became very ill. Mr. Green suggested that I do the cooking as it was too late for him to get another cook. Besides he needed Mr. Austin with the team and wagon. I said, “Yes, I would do it.” I had six days to see if I could do it. There were already six of us on the ranch. There were three of us, Mr. Cramer and his two daughters, and the second day, Mr. Green’s son, showed up to stay for the harvesting. It was agreed that Mr. Austin would take the first day off and show me the ropes, and then after that, he would take off early at noon to make the hot bread for dinner which was a must for working men. He would, also, help me put the meal on the table.

The first meal, I cooked myself was supper on the second day. It turned out good except that I didn’t salt a single dish of food. Mr. Cramer and Larry emptied the two salt cellars that were on the table, twice, during the meal. They, also, did a lot of teasing. What I often wonder when I think back to that night is, “where did they stash all that salt?” I know that I was embarrassed and that I didn’t think it odd at the time. I’d just refill the salt cellars when they would ask me to do so. Remember, I was only fourteen at the time. After this meal I did all right with the cooking for the twenty three men who came to work in harvesting of the wheat. What helped me do a good job was Mother coaching me from her sick bed and Mr. Austin baking the bread and helping me to put the meal on the table at noon. Even when mother was up and around again, I had the heaviest work to do and she worked as my helper for a while. I really did learn how to cook to please men. Mr. Green liked to eat and as I think of it now, I believe that be lived, only, to eat and he was a big man and a fat one too! He especially liked my green salads. When the meal was nearly over, he would take the salad bowl and make a motion as though to pass it around the table, but he never waited for an answer to his, “Does anyone want some?” Then he would dump the rest of the salad on his plate and he would eat it with gusto. He loved pie and other desserts, too. We soon learned to leave a portion for us in the kitchen if we wanted salad or dessert. It there was any dessert left on the serving dish, he would eat it all.

There is an unforgettable memory that makes me laugh today; but it was anything but funny at the time. An old desert rat and his mule came to the ranch for a few days. He was a prospector, also he had most of his worldly goods on the back of his mule. He was about Mr. Austin’s age or he may have been a little older, but he looked about a hundred years old to me. I can’t recall his name, but I remember his face well. He had a face full of whiskers and held a corn cob pipe between his lips. He decided that I would make a fine wife for him when he went back to his shack in the hills. He asked Mr. Austin for my hand in marriage and offered a span of mules in exchange for me. I don’t ever remember seeing Mr. Austin as angry as he was then. I thought that he would mop up the floor with the old man. The man left the ranch that night. But he had nerve to write Mr. Austin, saying, “That if two mules were not enough, he had a few ounces of gold that he was willing to give for me, too.” Mr. Austin blew his stack and he said, “That idiot can’t understand plain English, not even a big fat NO!”

I spent my fifteenth birthday at the home of my stepbrother, Clyde Austin, in Provo, Utah. He and his family lived in a nice apartment above the bakery where he worked. Clyde was a baker, and he baked me the most beautiful cake I had ever had. It was a red devil’s food cake with thick, creamy frosting on it and his wife gave me a lovely pin as a gift.

We camped a little way out Green River, Utah on the bank of the river. It was almost forty seven years later that I camped in the town of Green River in a comfortable camper, with my husband and daughter Ruth.

Our next stop was Grand Junction, Colorado where we took light housekeeping rooms for a week while Mr. Austin looked for work. He looked up the Farmer’s Headquarters for information on what crops were ready for harvesting. He was told to go to Delta, Colorado where the onion crops would soon be ready for the pickers.

While we were here, we got mixed up with two men who wanted to join us in seeking field work. One of them Mike Flaharty, was a real migrant worker because of his restlessness and his hating to stay put in one place. He was a true Irishman and a fine, honest man, but his friend was something else, as we did learn the hard way. Baxter appeared to be educated, well-mannered and a very likeable young man. They went with us to Delta where were told that the onions would not be ready for three weeks or so, but that the peaches up north at Paonia were ready to pick and that we could get work picking them. We picked peaches for three weeks up on a small mesa north of the town; then we returned to Delta for the onion harvest.

I started to school at the Delta Junior High as an eight grader.

Mother, Mr. Austin, Mike and Baxter picked onions. They met a Mrs. Hinkle, her two boys and one girl, who were from Oklahoma. She and Mother decided to rent a big, two story house together and divide up the rooms, but they would share the kitchen. Mike and Baxter were to spread their bedrolls under a big tree in the yard. It was agreed that they were to take their meals with us, that is Mike and Baxter, at so much per meal.

Since we were allowed all the onions we wanted, Mother decided, the first night that we were in the house, to cook a big pan of fried onions for supper.

Mrs. Hinkle said, “Oh, no you’re not, not in this kitchen. I can’t stand the smell of onions cooking.”

So, Mr. Austin built a campfire in the yard and Mother cooked them over it. Mother instead that Mrs. Hinkle taste them and she ate half of them. From that day on until we left, there was fried or boiled onions cooked every day.

Our house set back from the Gunnison River about three hundred feet. One day, Mother announced that she was going to learn to drive the car. She got under the wheel and Mr. Austin go in beside her, while I got into the back seat. She did just fine until she got near the edge of the river, where there was a sharp turn in the road. Here she panicked and drove straight toward the edge of the river, but Mr. Austin managed to stop the car before it went into the water. Mother sat still for a minute or so, then she opened the car door and got out. She walked back to the house and sat down on a chair that was outside of the kitchen door. She had not said one word to either of us. Mr. Austin had backed the car along the road to the house and he stopped the car closed to her.

Mother looked at him and said, “I’ll never drive a car again.”

She arose from the chair and got into the car with us, and we drove into town with Mr. Austin doing the driving. She never did suggest driving a car again during the rest of her life.

One night, I was late getting home from school and Baxter hadn’t come in either. Mother was worried sick, and she had Mr. Austin to look for me. The uproar was because the Police had been at the house that evening asking for Baxter. It seems that he was married and had deserted his wife and baby. He had stolen a car an abandoned it and he was an escapee from prison where he had been serving time for check forgery. Mother was afraid that he had coaxed me into running away with him or else had kidnapped me; but he came in before I did, and when he heard that the Police was hunting him, he left again. We learned that he belonged to a well-to-do family in Denver. They told the folks that Baxter was not his real, name either. I came in soon after all this had happened and explained that I had been at Lena Pendergrass’s house and forgot what time it was.

This is one time I didn’t not have to listen to a long, angry lecture, because Mother was so relieved that I had come home safe and all in one piece.

After the onion harvest was over, went to Montrose. We were told that a ranch up in a canyon, south east of town, was hiring help for the winter, and though we did not get the job, we were in a happy holiday mood. Coming back down the canyon, near the bottom, we lost a pin out of the steering rod connection and as luck would have it, Mr. Austin had to turn the wheels toward the mountain to make a sharp curve, and the car ran into the side of the mountain. Mother went up the road to watch for cars and I went down the road for the same purpose, while Mr. Austin put a new pin in the connection. We were soon on our way again, but the holiday mood had left us and we drove back to town in silence. Since the job did not become ours, we all agreed that we would go back to Bayfield, Colorado for the rest of the winter. It was mid-November when we started up the mountains over the highway to Durango.

It began to rain before we got to Ridgeway. The road became muddy and very slippery. It was getting dark so we ask a rancher if we could camp on his place for the night and he said that we could camp down by the barn.

The next morning we got an early start while the mus was cold and lightly frozen, but it was slow going. We had to push the old Model T a lot of the way up to Red Mountain Pass. I truly believe that we pushed that car most of the way up the mountains to the top of the pass. It wasn’t too bad going down from Silverton to Durango, but it could have been dangerous for us if it had kept on raining. I remember that it was difficult to keep warm when we had to stop and sleep in the car at night. The side curtains didn’t keep much cold, but it did keep out the wind.

When we reached Durango, Mother sent me to Aztec, New Mexico by train, to live with my father. She and Mr. Austin were going on to Bayfield, Colorado in the car.

 

To be continued…

 

Catch up on Eleanor’s story: Chapter 5, Chapter 4, Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1

 

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Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

 

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My Life’s Story: Chapter 5

 

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My Life’s Story

by Eleanor Van Dusen Bowen

 

Chapter 5: McPhee Colorado

 

It was in June 1924, that McPhee, Colorado became the next place for me to live in for a short while. It was near Delores but it does not exist anymore. A new sawmill was being built here with a huge logging operation in connection with it. It was here that Charles had come to find work and he was hired to work as a carpenter in the building of the mill. ‘The pay was out of this world!!’ as they say today. It was all of four dollars a day!

To move us, Mother hired a man who had a Model T Ford truck to haul our stuff over to McPhee and he took us along. While I was riding on top of the load and were about half way to Durango, the pin came loose where the steering rod joined in a ball and joint connection to the rods of the front wheels. Suddenly the truck careened off the road onto a slightly slanted shoulder. Luckily, I was holding on to a rope when I was thrown to the other side hurting my back. As the truck righted itself, I was thrown to the other side before he brought the truck to a stop. I wasn’t badly hurt, but, Mother made me ride in the cab the rest of the way. It didn’t take the man long to put in a new pin and we were soon on our way again.

At McPhee, we moved into a three room, board house. The rooms were in a row with no doors, just doorways between them. When the front door was opened, one could see straight through to the back door. Mother put up curtains at the inner doorways for a bit more privacy, and of course, there was the outdoor privy with two holes in the seat. There was water piped behind each row of houses with a faucet in each yard and we had to carry our water into the house for every need.

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I remember that Mother bought two dozen laying hens. She sold eggs at one dollar per dozen all winter. I had to take care of them and deliver the eggs to her customers.

That summer was fun for me, because there were tea parties and sewing clubs for the girls. The boys played ballgames and swam in the Delores River for their entertainment. Then at night, both the boys and girls played games of hide and seek or kick the can and many others that I do not remember the names for them. We were allowed to play outside until nine o’clock which was the curfew hour for all children.

When it was time for school to start, the school was not ready, so we had to have classes in a four room house until it was finished and ready to use.

The only church service was a Sabbath School on a Saturday afternoon sponsored by five ladies who were Seventh-day Adventist. After attending it regularly, it became the only church, of which, I ever wanted to be a member.

In August, I had my first date. It was with an older man. He was nineteen years old and he was working in the mill. He took me to the movies in Delores that night, and his folks went with us; or as I look back, maybe it was they who took us. He had the unbelievable name of Cicero!

I experienced my third introduction to death, here. The Company had given a picnic for all the young people, down by the river. Floyd Bales who was sixteen, drowned August 16th in the Delores River. I think he had cramps. His body was rescued and he was carried back to his home in camp and the doctor was called. Then he was loaded on a truck and his body was taken to Mancos, Colorado, his home, for burial.

That fall, I had my first spell of partial blindness. A traveling eye doctor, as we called him, came to McPhee. On one of my good days, he tested my eyes and then he sent to Denver, Colorado for glasses for me. When I received them, I put them on and I could see clearly again. They were the first thing I put on in the morning and the last thing I took off at night when I went to bed.

Mr. Austin came home in December. I think he must have had itching feet like a hobo, because we were soon planning a trip to California. Before we could talk Mother into leaving, Bill and Elmer Austin, Mr. Austin’s sons, showed up at our house. Bill was included in our plans for the trip but Elmer went to work in the woods under a Mr. Attie Roberts.

I had received a big, beautiful doll for Christmas. I was kidded about it a lot, I didn’t care as I liked dolls and I spent hours making clothes for it.

The winter months were cold, snowy and muddy under foot. After the holidays were over, I had another attack of not seeing very good and this influenced Mother to agree to the trip to California. She seemed to think that I was suffering from snow blindness, even though the report from Denver stated that I had astigmatism.

February found us packing, storing and getting the old Model T Touring car ready to go. We had to see that the curtains were in good shape so as to keep us comfortable from the wind and cold and possible snow on the way. I seem to remember that we got cold and miserable several times before we finished our trip, which turned out be almost a complete circle back where we had started from.

We started out for Gallup, New Mexico the latter part of February. It was a real nice day when we left, but it did not stay that way long.
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If you wish to know more about McPhee Colorado the National Parks Service has a webpage detailing the town’s history. It is also the sources of the pictures above.

 

Catch up on Eleanor’s Story: Chapter 4, Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

 

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My Life’s Story: Chapter 4

 

My Life’s Story

by Eleanor Van Dusen Bowen

 

Chapter 4: Bayfield Colorado

 

Mother bought a herd of twelve Jersey milk cows to take up to the ranch in Colorado. We loaded up the covered wagon to make the move with. She drove the wagon and Charles drove the cattle behind the wagon. We arrived at the Marr’s home, which was a short way north of Bayfield, about three weeks before Christmas. The snow wasn’t so bad yet, but that we could get up to the ranch and get settled in. Mr. Marr assured Mother that there would be enough hay and other feed for the cattle and mules until spring.

Charles made a trip into town on snowshoes to get things for Christmas and to pick up our mail and a package that was from my father. We had a wonderful Christmas. Charles went out and cut a tree as tall as the ceiling in the living room. Harry and I made all of our tree decorations, and decorated the tree ourselves.

On New Year’s morning we awoke to find snow four feet deep against the window and it had blown onto the porch and against the door. Charles had to literally dig his way to the barn that morning, so that he could do the chores.

When we all went ty a party on a ranch, every woman that came brought food and everyone stayed all night eating and dancing until morning. The children were bedded down on pallets and beds. We usually made the trip to the party in a sleigh with hot bricks for our feet and blankets to wrap up in. It was real fun and we looked forward to every party that was given.

Since school would not start until the first of April, we had plenty of time to play in the snow, to snowshoe and ski on the mountain side behind our house. We would walk the trapline that Charles had set out soon after we got settled. We thought that we were helping bring in the furs from the animals that he had caught in the traps. He made quite a bit of money from the sale of the furs.

When school started, Harry and I went to school in a little one room building with two cloakrooms. We always had a hot drink with our lunches. We rode horse back to school each morning. It was about seven miles by the road and five miles by the short cut through the gap. The pony that we rode was mine and her name was Penny, because she had a shiny coppered colored coat of hair. She had a colt that spring and its name was Redwing. Mother gave the colt to Harry for his own pony when it was grown up.

Mrs. Painter was our teacher and she taught eight grades. Many times, Mrs. Painter would have me listen to the first grade children read or maybe it would be giving out the spelling words to the second and third grade children. I often thought how nice it would be to be a teacher, but I never got the chance to go to school to learn to become one because of ill health when I was young.

In September, Harry became ill with appendicitis and died in the Mercy Hospital in Durango, Colorado.

When School was out, Mother and I moved into Bayfield, but Charles remained on the ranch until the cows were sold. Mr. Austin went south to find work. I went to the Bayfield grade school and I had to take the seventh grade over due to some rules they had of children coming in to town from a country school.

Our fun, that winter, was skating on the ice in the river and the ice on the ponds, and sledding down Wheeler’s Hill on the hard packed snow on the road, and roasting marshmallows over a camp fire. We would use the campfire to warm ourselves by between trips down the hill or after skating for a while. At night the stars were clear and bright and when the moon was full, the country side looked like a fairy winter wonderland. The air would be cold and crisp and we see our breath like a fog in the air. At the end of the evening we would walk home where our mothers would have hot chocolate waiting for us to warm our insides, before we had to go to bed.

When school was out for the summer, Mother and I got ready to move to McPhee, Colorado where Charles had already gone to get work, as there was a new sawmill being built there.

 

To be continued…

 

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Catch up on Eleanor’s story: Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1

 

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

 

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My Life’s Story: Chapter 3

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My Life’s Story

by Eleanor Van Dusen Bowen

 

Chapter 3: Farmington, New Mexico

 

In the spring of 1922, Mother decided to move to Farmington, New Mexico, which is in the northwest part of the state, because Father would not stay away from her and leave her alone. She began to get ready for the move just before school was to be let out for the summer and it became quite a project for her. Mother had to buy and outfit a covered wagon with a stove, supplies, our own personal effects and beds for all of us. She bought a pair of mules to pull the wagon. We took with us two cows who names were Bess and Heart. We made a coop for a half dozen hens which would lay eggs and a white dog of mine, I had named Yep, who had a black spot around one eye.

When we were ready to go, Grandfather insisted on sending along a young cowboy, whose name was Charley Rhodes, for our protection. He rode a horse of his own and carried his bedroll across the back of his saddle, and had a rifle strapped to the side of this saddle. I often wonder what Grandfather thought we might encounter. Was it a bunch of wild Indians or maybe it might be a drunken cowboy or two? Anyway, we got Charley Rhodes for an escort.

We would average anywhere from ten to fifteen miles a day, according to the weather and the terrain of the countryside. At night, we would find a wide place beside the road and camp in it. We did not have to worry about water, since, we carried a barrelful on each side of the wagon. There was always the chores to do night and morning. We had to feed and water the livestock and milk the cows and tend the chickens.

Harry and I walked most of the way to Farmington, either behind or ahead of the wagon and team. One day when we were running ahead of the wagon, Harry and I found a little, lost lamb who was very weak. We took it into the wagon and taught it to suck old Bess to get its milk. It soon learned to tag along behind us in the road, after it became strong enough to run.

Once Harry and I encounter a bear in a roadside cave. Another time, we ventured into what we thought was a haunted house until we discovered that it was bats in the attic, because they flew out of a window while we were there.

One night, we ate what Mother called a two legged, red rabbit. It was really a red chicken that Charley Rhodes had thrown a rock at and killed it.

We were in Bayfield, Colorado on the Fourth of July. It was full of people and the Main Street was crowded with them. I could not see around, between or over the people and I had to ask bow to find our wagon that was parked in front of the Free Methodist Church. It was the first time in my life that I had ever gotten lost, and it had to be in a town of only about five hundred people, at that. There was a rodeo getting ready to start and there were fireworks going off everywhere.

It was a hot day when we arrive in Farmington. Mr. Austin, a friend of Grandfather’s, was in town, waiting, to take us out to his farm. It had taken us about thirty two days to make the trip. Now a days, we can make the same trip in about fifteen hours at the most, in a good car.

On July 22, 1922, Mother married Mr. James H. Austin which came as a big surprise to me. I think that my father coming to Farmington was partly the cause of her marrying again so soon.

Mr. Austin went to Bayfield, Colorado in November where he rented the Mars Ranch which was twelve miles north of town.

 

 

To be continued…

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Curiosity got the better of me. I did a quick check into Charley Rhodes, Eleanor’s grandfather, George Barrett’s ranch hand. He was born 1903 in Oklahoma to James King Rhodes and Laura May. His family was in the 1920 Elizabethton, Colfax County, New Mexico US Federal Census. Charley is listed among four other siblings; Elmer Thomas, Let a Rosetta, Era Mural and Floyd James.

 

Catch up on Eleanor’s story: Chapter 2  Chapter 1

 

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

 

Visit me on Facebook and Twitter.

The Ghost Town of French New Mexico

 

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Near Springer New Mexico

 

French, New Mexico is a former settlement named for Capt. William French, who came to the US from French Park, Ireland, in 1883. He settled first in Grant County, then moved to Colfax County, where he became a prominent land-owner.

French was the author of Recollections of a Western Ranchland, 1883-1889. He organized the French Tract, a group of farms with French as its center, but litigation over water rights doomed the enterprise.

The community of French was withered and died from the lack of irrigation, competition with nearby Springer and Maxwell, and the decline of railroad transportation. French never topped more than 250 residents. Captain French eventually moved to England, where he died. Today the community of French survives only as RR siding.

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Map of Colfax County New Mexico

 

George Barrett and his wife Lydia Halstead Barrett were among the 250 farming residents. My great-grandmother, Eleanor Van Dusen Bowen, remembers that her grandfather’s farm was located outside of the small town of French. The tiny town of French was not too far away from Springer.

George Barrett died in 1923 in Miami, New Mexico after the French Tract settlement failed. Miami not shown on the map below is about 10 miles west of Springer.

 

Interested in learning more? Read Eleanor Van Dusen Bowen’s My Life’s Story.

 

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Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

Visit me on Twitter and Facebook.

My Life’s Story: Chapter 2

 

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My Life’s Story

by Eleanor Van Dusen Bowen

 

Chapter 2: French, New Mexico

 

French, New Mexico [near Cimarron] was in the northeast part of the State. It is not on the maps anymore. The only buildings still there are the old livery stable and the store building. Everything else is gone as though it never existed. This in about 1978.

When we arrived in French, it was very cold and snow lay on the ground. Grandfather met us with a horse and buggy, hot bricks for our feet and plenty of blankets. We learned that Grandfather’s farm was several miles west of French on what was called the French Tract. When we arrived at the house, my Grandmother had the most enormous amount of food on the table and lots of fresh, cold milk for us to drink.

Mother soon started to get better. When spring came, Grandfather put her into the fields to plow and drive other farm machinery. It wasn’t long until she was well and had begun to gain a little weight.

I remember that the biggest events of the year were to me, hog killing time and Christmas. Thanksgiving came next in pure pleasure and fun. On the holidays, the table was always loaded with lots of good food, and Grandfather would tell us ghost stories and tales of his life as a young boy in England.

The next year, my Father came west and we moved onto the huge Taylor Ranch not far from Grandfather’s farm. Mr. Taylor had herds of cattle and be did a lot of farming. Father worked here for the next few years. Charles and I went to Andrews School. The first year we drove a horse and buggy, but the next year there was a bus to pick up the children and take them to school.

We lived in Springer during the winter of 1920 and 1921. Harry and I went to the grade school and Charles attended the Junior High School.

In the spring of 1921, Mother divorced Father and we moved back to Grandfather’s farm on the French Tract. There is a separate story about the French Tract and my life there.

To be continued…

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Catch up on Eleanor Van Dusen Bowen’s story: Chapter 1

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

Visit me on Facebook and Twitter.