Author: Cowpoke

Ignorance Running Rampant

During one particularly wintry day, I took my bearskin coat out of the closet and wore it to work, along with my Mohawk silver-fox cap (including tail) and rabbit-skin mittens. When I walked into the office, there was much merriment (and some flat-out jealousy, if truth be known). I remarked that the bear was killed in 1916 or early 1917, one of the last things Uncle Wal did before joining General Pershing’s staff on our entry into WWI.

Digression: Pershing was a tall man and hated standing out for his height. He liked to surround himself with staff equally tall. Or maybe he felt that on a battlefield he made too tempting a target. Uncle Wal was 6’4″.

One co-worker. however, sniffed disdainfully and lamented that a “noble animal had died to make someone a fur coat”. Continue reading

Where It All Began

   Steele Park is specifically the area above the Steele’s Alta Vista ranch on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River a few miles north of Lake City and below Cannibal Plateau, where Alferd Packer murdered and devoured his companions in the winter of 1874. More generally, it encompasses the area where Charles and Cynthia Steele ran their cattle and cut timber. It is the starting point for the history contained here.

Cannibal of the San Juans

Excerpt – Rio Grande Ripples
– Mabel Steele Wright

   Tonight when the kitchen was filled to capacity, as usual, with the overflow sitting in the dining room, and I at my typewriter answering the day’s correspondence and the rest occupying chairs, stairs and floor space, “Juicy” Owen remarked that surely there must be some newcomers—he really said “victims”—who hadn’t heard the Packer story. Response was immediate. “I have, but not for ages—besides Miss X hasn’t, I’ll bet, and maybe Susan.” Miss X was a reserved but pleasant type from Vermont, dean of women at a college Susan attended.
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The Bent Family – Hermit Lakes

Excerpt: Rio Grande Ripples
– Mabel Steele Wright

   It seems appropriate at this time to relate something of the Bent family with whom I was privileged to be closely associated for many years. Herbert C. Bent’s father, and grandfather to several of the Bent children in my little mountain school, was Charles Hammond Bent. He was by heritage endowed with an adventuresome spirit. His wife, Amanda Jane Carr Bent (Jennie), was of the same. The Carrs came to Boston in 1635 and the Bents in 1638. Both families were associated with the Massachusetts Bay Company. As time passed, members of both families sought new lands and fortunes with the result that Amanda Jane Carr and Charles Hammond Bent were married in Oswego, Kansas, December 23, 1868. While living there, he held various public offices, including that of legislative representative at the Capitol in Topeka. In passing, it is interesting to note that Charles and William Bent, who built and operated Bents’ Fort in southeastern Colorado (territory) in the 1830’s, were cousins. I remember Bert Bent saying that there was always a “Charles Bent” in the family — his eldest son a Charles. Continue reading

A Grandmother’s Tale

   Originally published in Bluebook Magazine in April 1938. The Son referred to was my uncle Herbert. The Little Daughter was my mother Betty.

High Bridge
– by Cynthia Sophia Weed Steele

   You may think that the life of a ranchwoman must always be a humdrum existence. But as proof that a middle-aged farm woman, raising children and chickens, making cheese and garden, need not always go out of her way to find thrills. I offer two experiences out of my life.
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Weed Lineage

   Jonas Weed [Jonas Weede in ship's registry] arrived with the 1630 Winthrop Fleet, established himself in Watertown MA, made Freeman May 1631. Few years later, he helped found Wethersfield CT, first official settlement in CT. He soon moved to Stamford CT and became one of the leading figures in early Stamford. BTW: Stamford public library has a treasure trove of books and documents for genealogy of the New England area, including Charles Allison Weed's book. " History of Weed and Allied Families".  Continue reading 

Weed Genealogy

Stanwick, Northamptonshire, England

Thomas Weed Sr. (b. 1508) m. Anne White
 Thomas Weed (b. 1547) m. Hannah White
  Jonas Weed b. 1575 England
  m. Mary Jane Davidson b. 1580 England
   Jonas Weed (Immigrant) b. 1598 England d. 1676 Stamford CT (age 78)
   m. Mary Elizabeth Schofield b. 1616 England d. 1689 Stamford CT
      (Mary was daughter of Daniel Schofield b. 1574 Berkhamsted, Suffolk d. 1670 Stamford CT & Sarah Petitt)
   
Jonas arrived via Arabella (in the 1630 Winthrop Fleet), established himself in Watertown MA, made Freeman May 1631. Few years later, he helped found Wethersfield CT, first official settlement in CT. He soon moved to Stamford CT and became one of the leading figures in early Stamford. Arrived with John (cousin?). Both moved to Wethersfield but John did not move to Stamford with Jonas. Instead, he moved to Salisbury, married Deborah Winsley and started another Weed line.

     Elizabeth 1637
     Mary 1638
     John 1639
     Dorcas 1641
     Samuel 1645
     Hannah 1650
     Daniel 1652
     Sarah 1654
     unnamed 1656
     Jonas Weed II b. 1647 CT d. 1704 CT (age 57)
     m. Bethia Holly b. 1656 d. 1713
       Jonas 1678
       Benjamin 1681
       Abigail 1695
       Johnathon Weed I b. 1684 CT d. 1728 CT
       m. Mary Ferris b. 1690
         Jabez 1712
         Joshia 1716
         Silas 1718
         Mary 1722
         James 1723
         Jonas 1722
         Johnathon Weed II b. 1711 CT
         m. Mercy Drew b. 1715
           Elizabeth 1736
           Johnathon 1739
           Hannah 1742
           Abigail 1744
           Mercy 1750
           Gilbert Weed b. 1740 CT d. .. NY
           m. Abigail Hoyt b. 1740
             William Weed b. 1774 NY
             m. Olive Branch b. 1772
               Tracy Hoyt Weed b. 1811 NY
               m. Cynthia Cherrington b. 1815

Cynthia may have been a 2nd cousin to Abraham Lincoln...her grandfather Wm. Cherrington married Margaret Hanks. Still tracking this down. Cherrington family geneologists say that Margaret Hanks was unrelated to Lincoln's mother Nancy. If they saw me bearded, they might rethink their position. While it could be a coincidence, I look much so like Abe that it's scary. Will probably never know for sure, as conditions in that part of the country during that time were extremely fluid and documentation wasn't high on their list of priorities.

                 Wlliam Branch Weed b. 1836
                 m. Josephine Topping b. 1838
                   Cynthia Sophia Weed b. 1872 OH d. 1963 CO
                   m. Charles Steele b. 1850: in Albany or Auburn NY, d.1926 CO

Son of Jacob Steele. Found NYS death certificate for Jacob in area north of Rochester NY, near Auburn. Family tradition says Jacob was an architect. At that time, there were no schools of architecture and the label implies self-education and/or European background. Will pursue when time permits.

            Lee 1893 - died young
            Edna (Dolly) 1896 - died young
            Mabel 1898
            Mary 1901
            Nell 1904
            Herbert 1907
            Charles b. 1910 d. 2002
            Elizabeth (Betty) b. 1913 d. 1990
            m. Andrew Dugger Saunders b. 1904 d 1983
              Norman Dugger 1932
              William Kraig 1934-2007
              Ray Lynn - 1937 
              m. Cynthia R. Gartner b. 1942
                Robert b. 1962
                m. Debbie Wein
                   Randi b. 1992
                   Lauren b. 1994
                Scott b. 1963
                m. Andrea Cole
                  Joshua b. 1986
                Amy b. 1964
                m. Peter Lawer
                  Jessica b. 1986
                  m. Kyle Flynn
                    Sean Patrick Flynn b 2010
                    Brayden Robert Flynn b 2012
                    Kylie James Flynn b 2014
                m. Peter Davis
                  Rachel b. 1988
                  m. Tom Catalano
                m. Bob Cowen
                  Amanda b. 1991
                  Elizabeth b. 1993
                    Lucas b. 2018
                Tracy b. 1968
                Tim b. 1970
                m. Gina Miccio
            m. Frank Milton Wallace - of Scots descent
              Sue Ellen b. 1947
              m. Wm. Knowles
                Julie Knowles b. 1970
                Beth Knowles b. 1972
                m. Wm. Wyman
                  Alex b. 1997
                 Alysha b. 1998


Steele/Weed side of the family

     Although he put in a year at Harvard, Charles Steele could not resist the lure of the West. Turning down his father's offer to finance his degree, he preferred to punch cows for the Slaughter outfit, among other pioneer ranchers. In moving cattle around the West, he once rode through the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and fell in love with them. Eventually, he bought a small ranch and homesteaded additional acreage about eight miles north of Lake City around 1890.

     Cynthia Weed grew up in Gallia County, Ohio. On the death of her mother, she was forced to take over running the household until her father eventually remarried, so at the age of ten, she could do all the things required of a country housewife in her day: cook, bake, wash, iron, mend and make clothes, raise a vegetable garden, preserve fruits and veggies, raise chickens and geese and tend her younger siblings. On her father's remarriage, her skills were put to work as a neighbor's 'hired girl' - that is, she got room and board in exchange for working 12-16 hours a day six-and-a-half days a week. Small wonder then, that when her sisters in Colorado suggested she come West, she wasted no time. She met Charles Steele while he was visiting her sisters' home, a wide spot in the road near Salida, Colorado.

     There were several of the Weed family in Western New York, in the same general area where the Steele family was considered to be. It is quite possible that the families were acquainted before Charles and Cynthia met in Colorado. I never heard why Charles was visiting Cynthia's sisters in the first place, since they lived several days ride from where Charles lived. However, the West was rather sparsely populated in those days, and it was quite common for people to look up others who came from the same part of the country, if only to get news from home and to lend a helping hand to newcomers. I'm sure that if the Weeds and Steeles were even minimally acquainted, Charles would have been told that there were Weeds in Colorado and would have paid his respects. In any case, he and Cynthia met and duly impressed each other (He was an up-and-coming rancher and politican, she was a tiny beauty). They were married on New Years Day, January 1st, 1892. Cynthia was 19, Charles 41.

     'Lake Fork Charlie' set to work raising horses and being a County Commisioner. He and Cynthia had eight children, with the two eldest succumbing to Scarlet Fever at a tender age. Charles himself suffered a stroke which left him bedridden in his later years. Cynthia had to shut down the horse-raising operation (it requires an expertise which Charles could no longer exercise and the children lacked). She got into the cattle business, which requires mostly an appalling amount of patience and mind-numbing optimism. Since cattle ranching is once-a-year income (and lucky to get that), she had to do a lot of truck farming to make ends meet, preserving her garden produce against the winter and selling chickens, eggs, and vegetables to the booming mining town of Lake City. All the clothes were homemade and one of Grandmother's fondest memories is of the day Grandpa brought home a second-hand sewing machine, which looked to be the original demonstration model. From then on, she didn't have to make denim overalls by hand. And you think you've got it tough?

     The income from the garden was so vital that on one occasion when the regular bridge was washed out by Spring floods, she took the wagon over the High Bridge, an amazing wooden trestle structure 125 feet above the river, bumping from tie to tie, with the horses walking planks laid between the rails, her son holding a coat over the horse's head so it could not see the raging floodwater below!. All this work while tending a paralyzed invalid husband. With the help of the two boys, she kept the ranch going until 1923, then sold out and moved to Gunnison, where she kept busy for another forty years, taking care of homes and grandchildren, crochetting Afghans (her only hobby), raising and canning fruits and vegetables from a WWII Victory Garden, and tending chickens through winters that ran as cold as 60 below zero. I have always been amazed at the household skills she took for granted and which are now becoming totally forgotten. But more amazing is that while nothing in her life had ever been easy, I do not recall ever hearing a negative word from her or a judgemental remark about others. She had great inner strength, a rather dry sense of humor and an understanding heart. She died at 93 and I miss her greatly. I deeply regret that my wife and children never got the chance to know her.

     Aunt Mabel left home to teach school at Hermit Lakes when she was 17. She eventually married Raymond Wright and settled at the Wright Ranch in the upper Rio Grande Valley. In addition to running cattle, Ray and his brothers, Wallace and Warren, build a bunch of cabins for the dudes, mostly fishermen escaping the heat of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Georgia. Some families have seen three or four generations coming to the ranch, even though the cabins are bare-bones facilities, with a pump in the front yard and an outhouse in back (of course, many of the guests lived that way at home too, 70-90 years ago). Some of my fondest memories are of the summers I spent at the ranch, fishing the Rio Grande or Clear Creek, working the cattle and putting up hay. (Imagine an eleven-year-old at the wheel of a tractor - Yippee!). Tending to the cabins and dudes and running that business became Mabel's job and she was still cleaning cabins in preparation for the tourist season when age finally caught up with her at 94, although when she finally died, we had to beat her with a stick to make her lie down.

     Uncle Herbert and Hope started raising Larry, Nelly, Peggy and Joyce in Gunnison, then moved to the Pacific Northwest and eventually Alaska.

     Aunt Mary and Hugh Monson lived near Gunnison, with Ruby, Joe and Clyde, then retired to Montrose.

     Uncle Charles worked in Gunnison til he retired, then went to Creede to become a County Commissioner, among other things, and to help Mabel with the ranch after Ray died. He has one son, Lee. Charles lived at the ranch with Dorothy until his death in 2002.

     Betty married at 19, had three boys and supported them through the depression as Clerk of the County Court and as a newspaper reporter. She remarried during WWII and had a daughter, then finished her college degree and taught English in the local High School, finding time to edit the local paper for a couple of years while the new owner learned his way around the county. She also wrote a newspaper history column and a couple of books, histories of the area and of early editors.

     Norman pursued his doctorate in Physics to the point of exhaustion, eventually settling into a government job at White Sands. He retired in 1997 and lives among the pecan trees in Las Cruces NM with Lee and their pets.

     Kraig became a jack-of-all-trades in pursuit of a unique lifestyle which would allow him and Lorna to write the Great American Novel. They definitely produced the unique lifestyle, along with some truely great stained glass work and a fantasy novel. Lorna died in December 2006 and Kraig in January 2007..

     Lynn spent four years in the USAF, part of that time in Japan, got an interesting but useless degree in Linguistics at Ohio State, then moved to NYC, where he enjoyed the Sixties in Greenwich Village. While working at IBM, he married Cindi in 1969, moved about 75 miles north of NYC and has been there ever since, with 5 kid, 7 grandkids 3 great grandkids, several (it varies) animals.

     Sue and Bill Knowles continue to live in Gunnison, with whatever pets are current. Bill retired from managing a real estate agency. They have two girls; Julie, who is a school administrator near Rifle CO (at least for now); and Beth. Beth and husband Bill own and operate Wyman Woodworks with the help of their two little girls, who have no idea how lucky they are in their choice of parents and grandparents.

My Sister the Stove

Mabel Steele Wright 1898-1993

You were retired this day, May Day, 1976, after 75 years of almost constant service, some of it night duty, far beyond the call of, and I feel a compulsion to comment on our relationship from the autumn of 1918.
It was then I was formally introduced to You. You presented what I thought, a formidable appearance. Ray and I had moved from the Honeymoon cabin where we’d spent our first summer to the Big House where I was to endeavor to cook for him and his brother who would be feeding the cattle that winter and for many more to come. Continue reading

Halloween 1889

Granny’s Halloween Story – published 1994 in Lake City Silver World

Young children growing up in the log cabin of Charles & Cynthia Steele located on a mesa above the Lake Fork north of Lake City were always particularly fascinated when their mother washed the worn wooden floorboards in a certain room of the house.

On those occasions when the boards were moistened, a deep maroon stain would gradually appear on one section of the floor. Over the years Mrs Steele scrubbed and scrubbed in an effort to remove the stain – but to no avail. When those particular boards were wet, the puddle shape of the suspicious maroon stain always returned. Continue reading

Building Fence

The Mountain Man was engaged in building fence across the Rio Grande at the Lower Ranch. At this specific time he was being assisted by ‘Vic’ Miller, a lad of around eighteen years and one of the group known to us as ‘the boys’, who periodically helped us with the hay harvest, usually starting as sulky-rake operators in the days when teams were in order.

It was just past the middle of June, and a belated spring with cold nights and cool days had slowed the melting of the snow in the high country. Now the weather had turned warmer and summer had arrived suddenly and unheralded. Down came in wild recklessness the deep snows of December and January, swelling the old Rio Grande to astounding proportions, to big for its bridges, and causing doubt whether it would be contained within its legal banks. Continue reading

Coping With Winter

 

My uncle Ray and his two brothers, Wallace and Warren owned a ranch in the upper Rio Grande Valley in Colorado. Pump in the front yard, outhouse in back. Ice cut from winter lakes & stored in ice-house to cool ice-boxes in the summer. This was pre-REA, so they had their own generator and shut it off at 11pm – after that it was kerosene lanterns or darkness. The phone was party-line and hand-cranked. Folks used to have concerts, each playing piano, fiddle, harmonica, accordion – whatever. Music online before the Internet! Snow 8-10′ deep in the meadow, took a sleigh out to feed the cattle every day and a rifle at night to scare off the elk. Roads were plowed, maybe, sometimes, barely – you didn’t depend on the County. By today’s standards, they would be considered low-tech or even primitive. Continue reading

Cynthia Weed Steele

Betty (Steele) Wallace, wore many hats over the years – reporter, Clerk of the County Court, columnist & de facto editor, high school English teacher and author. Born on a small ranch in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, of pioneer stock and into a world of ranching, mining and timbering, she had a deep understanding and keen appreciation of those who migrated to the area and built the communities. Some of those communities faded into ghost towns, some continue to prosper. The people who built that part of Colorado are long gone, but Betty had known a good many of them, went to school with their children and knew every family in the Gunnison Valley – their history, virtues, faults and quirks. For several years, she wrote a weekly column in the Gunnison News-Champion, telling the stories of the area’s early citizens. She called it her ‘pioneer series’ – interviews of the original settlers or their children; ranchers, saloonkeepers, miners, storekeepers, prostitutes, preachers and politicians. One of the people she interviewed and wrote about was her mother, Cynthia (Weed) Steele. This is her column on my grandmother, published in the Gunnison News-Champion, April 6th, 1950. Continue reading

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