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

 

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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.

Death Certificate: George W. Jackson

 

 

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Image Source: FamilySearch

 

George W. Jackson, born 28 July 1850 in Tennessee, was the son of William R. Jackson and Mahala Cooper. He was the 7th of ten siblings.

According to his death certificate, George was seventy years old at this time of his death on 16 January 1921.

He was a mechanic who was widowed. His residence was in Coalfield which is near the center of Tennessee.

The informant for George’s death certificate was Wiley Jackson also of Coalfield Tennessee.

Cause of death is hard to read. The secondary contributor to George’s death is Nephritis which is an inflammation of the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure.

Interesting to note, the undertaker was an L.G. Jackson.

 

Thank you for reading,

J. R. Findsen

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Henry Ethan Hitchcock

 

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Henry Ethan Hitchcock

 

 

Henry Ethan Hitchcock was born 1823 in Vermont. He is the son of Alured Hitchcock and Sarah Warner Stevens.

On 2 July 1851 in Galesburg, Illinois, Henry married Margaret Gale. Together they had eight children: Henry Seldon, Margaret, Sarah, George, Louise, Mary, and Martha.

Henry E. Hitchcock passed away on 21 Jan 1907 in Galesburg, Illinois. He grave is at Hope Cemetery in Galesburg.

 

Image Source: Jim Ferris, FindaGrave

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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Girl Gone Missing

 

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Agnes Ellen Gurney, Age 7 years old

 

 

Agnes Ellen Gurney born 12 October 1867 in Pepperell, Middlesex County, Massachusetts to Mary Williams Orcutt and Henry Ebenezer Gurney, went missing in 1880 at the age of 12 years old.

The portrait above was taken about 1874 when Agnes was seven years old before she and her mother (Mary Williams Orcutt) left New England for Iowa.

Luckily, for generations that followed, she wrote down memories from her childhood. In her story, she gives an event by event account of the years leading up to 1880 and the years following with little factual details such as dates and full names.

Her narrative is like reading a trail of breadcrumbs. Feeling very much like Gretel, I follow.

The nagging question I must answer is where was 12 years old Agnes during the 1880 United States Federal Census?

I found her mother in the census living in Charles City, Iowa teaching. She was living alone and suffered from tuberculosis on and off again.

According to Agnes’s account:

“After teaching for several years in Osage, my mother taught in Charles City, Iowa, and I was sent to stay with my mother’s cousin Bina in Indianapolis where I attended school….The next year I went to Charles City to be with Mama.”

From the information above, this is a no-brainer. In Agnes’s story, she states living with Bina and her husband in Indianapolis for a year. Easy, right?

No.

Maybe my dating is off? Agnes mentions only a few dates.

I can place everyone in her family and the people from her narrative in the 1880 US Federal Census. However, Agnes appears to have gone missing.

Here is what I do know:

  • In the Fall of 1876 Agnes and her mother leave Massachusetts for Iowa.
    Her mother worked in Osage, Iowa until about 1879.
  • Agnes’s mother gets a teaching job in Charles City, Iowa and Agnes goes to live with her distant cousin Albina Jenkins Warne for about a year.
  • Agnes returns to her mother in the spring of 1881.
  • Her mother becomes very ill, and they stay in Osage on their way to Stacyville until Mary is strong enough to travel.
  • Mary’s doctor thought she did not have long to live, so Mary arranged for Agnes to be adopted by a local family the Douglasses. I have the adoption document. It is dated 9 May 1881.
  • Mary lives, and in the fall of 1881, they return to New England for a visit along with Mrs. Douglass.
  • Mary did not fare well in New England and quickly returned to Iowa with Agnes.
    They stayed with the Charles Penny family where Mary died 26 December 1881.
  • Sad story, I know.

You may ask, “Did you check all known relatives and friends households in the 1880 Census?”

I can answer “Yes.” I found everyone in Agnes’s life in the census for that year. She is not listed with anyone including her cousin Albina Jenkins Warne with whom she had gone to live. The census date at the residence of Albina was 2 June 1880.

My best guess at this moment is Agnes was in transit to or from Indiana at the time census takers knocked on doors.

Am I satisfied? No. Will I keep looking? You bet.

What kind of mysteries in your ancestral tree is baffling to you? I would love to hear from you.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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