Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

NOTICE All data and photos on this website are Copyrighted by Karen Mitchell. Duplication of this data or photos is strictly forbidden without legal written permission by the Copyright holder.
DOROTHY WERNER

Contributed by Karen Mitchell
Interviewed by Rosalyn McCain
Dorothy Lyle Werner, born 4-30-1901
Parents - Robert J. Hamilton and Winifred Lyle Schooley
Family origin - Pennsylvania
Date of family arrival in County - 6-1-1947
Location of first family settlement - La Veta

JUNE 16, 1979

My parents were both born in Pennsylvania where they met and married in 1900. When dad was just a little boy, his parents joined a group, mostly relatives, who went to Nebraska in 1878. But, as his father died during their first year there, his mother returned to Pennsylvania. dad was a young man, he went to Nebraska again for a short time returning to Pennsylvania. My mother had never been away from Watsontown, her birthplace except for a sight seeing trip to Washington, D.C. to a Christian Endeavor Convention. But after they were married, they began to think of moving west. They waited until I was six months old, then made the first step of the journey-going to Iowa where my mother had some cousins living. They lived in Kamrar where Owen was born and had several tennant farms in Iowa. It was about this time they happened to get some literature about Routt County, Colorado, and from then on that was their goal, making short moves in that direction as they were able. First to Yuma County, Colorado (the Sand Hill Country) where Phyllis was born. Then to McCook, Nebraska where we lived about five years. Carl was born there in 1910. Then a few months in Denver where Phyllis and I lived with Grandma Schooley while dad, mom and the boys went to a sawmill near Tabernash where dad worked and mama cooked for the men. Then a short move to (four or rive miles) as the rail- road moved its division point there, and dad got some work, building homes for the railroaders who also had to move. Owen and I used to walk back up to now and then. There were some folks named Warner who ran the store there, and they were always nice to us. There were a few cars then, but I do remember that while living in Fraser the neighbor stopped his car and offered my mother and me a ride. The first time either of us had rode in a car. I imagine my mother was pretty nervous, but she had the courage to get in. I was twelve years old. Then, still with Routt County beckoning, we moved to Steamboat Springs on June 26, 1914. We began hearing of the war starting in Europe. The first thing we notice was that the price of sugar took a sudden increase. The railroad (the Moffat road) was being extended on past Steamboat and finally reached Craig. Coal mines were opened up along the way now that there was a way to ship the coal. One was at a place afterwards called Bear River. Another was Mount Harris. My dad got work there building houses for the miners to live in. Dad, mama and the boys lived in a twelve by fourteen foot tent down along the river. In the meantime dad had filed on a homestead up Wolf Creek about eight miles from there. They stayed in Bear River until November, when it became ap- parent that the developers of the mine had gone broke and dad's job was gone. It had been some time since he had received any wages, but there was a company store there where they could get groceries, and of course, they had been promised their pay later. My mother told how all summer she had gotten along with as few groceries as possible so as to have that much more in the fall, but dad never did get any wages at all. This was a crushing blow as they had been depending on this to get started on the homestead. But they decided to go anyway. There was an old man there, a Mr. Stonham by name, who had a team and wagon. They got him to move their tent and other belong- ings up Wolf Creek. The road was very bad and they only got to Canyon Hill, the first day and camped over night there. They killed a porcupine. I don't remember if they could eat it or not. They had a dutch oven they could bake biscuits in over a campfire. The weather was getting pretty cold by then, but some way they got to the sight of the homestead the next day and set up the tent. In the meantime Grandma, Phyllis and I were still living in Steamboat. But they told us to come out to Mystic on mail stage and dad met us there, and we got to the homestead after dark that night. Dad must have borrowed a team and wagon, probably from Berry's because we did not have any horses yet. All seven of us lived in that tent the rest of the winter. I remember the organ had to sit out doors with canvas over it. Also my Mother's trunk and many other things had to be outdoors. Owen and Carl slept on what we used for a table. At first we only had a monkey stove and had to bake our bread in the dutch oven. For a while mama used to carry her bread dough over to Irwins (the neighbors) to bake it. She repaid them by doing some sewing for them. Hazel and Hannah Irwin, were getting to be good sized girls, and crazy to go to dances, and sometimes when she got there with the bread dough, they would bring out a piece of goods and expect her to make them dresses to wear that night, to a dance over at Chimney Creek. We finally got a stove with an oven, but I don't know how. At that time there seemed to be a coal miners' strike going on, and Irwins, McElhinneys, Hills, Crockers and others were out on strike and drawing relief from the union and living on their homesteads, so they were doing pretty well. Berry's were older people and had moved to their place some time, from Steamboat. They were not miners. They helped us out sometimes when we needed to go to Mount Harris, which was our Post Office and the nearest store. Dad often walked and carried home groceries. That was seven miles. At one time he walked all the way to Steamboat, and one thing he carried home was a pail of Karo syrup. He knew it would be a treat for us kids. Grandma Schooley had a small pension, being a civil war veteran's widow. I suppose it was all used to keep us going that first winter. We lived mostly on potatoes which we could get from Irwins. How hungry we got for butter. That was before the days of oleo. Anyway by the time we were all together again it was nearly Christmas. The Wolf Creek School was near our place, and it was about to close which we attended, and they were having a Christmas program, the teacher as part of the program recited the poem called Lasca. I have it in a book here called the Speaker's Library. Her name was Dorothy Smith and she boarded at Berry's. They had known her previously in Steamboat. The Wolf Creek School continued for several years. At one time it had about 15 pupils. We all went to it, and in later years my mother taught it several years. But as people improved, they sold out and moved away, so finally the school was closed. The Terrys, relatives of Erwin, had quite a family and I be- lieve they were the last family to attend it. Anyway our first Christmas on the homestead in 1914, must have been a pretty lean one, but we were glad to be together and proud to be on our own place. There was lots of snow that winter. I remember how the tent roof would sag down, and if you touched it from the inside it would begin to leak. Dad would go outside with a broom and brush it off as well as he could. He built us a toilet out of logs, as soon as he was able. In the spring he managed some way to get a team of horses. He bought them from Simmie Peary, who had used them as leaders on the mail stage. Their names were Kid and Fritz. They always started out real fast, didn't know a thing about going slow and steady. When dad first tried to plow with them, they went tear- ing across the field, the plow just hitting the ground just once in a while, and dad hardly being able to keep up. I remember that day very well, we tried to grub the brush off that little level strip along the creek. The horses finally learned to slow down, and did a lot of plowing. They took us to town once a week. Dad was always kind to his horses. He wouldn't let us ride them around on Sundays. He said they needed to rest and eat. In winter we used to ski on our home-made skiis. In a country like that where the snow is deep and lasts until late in the spring, the sun melts it enough on top and it freezes at night and makes a hard crust that can hardly be dented, that is until it begins to warm up the next morning. Before long we built an addition to one end of the tent and later another larger room on the other end. That is the only house we ever had on that place. A barn, chicken house and cave had to be built, and the land had to be cleared of the sage brush and the trees. How we kids did hate to pull brush as we called it, while dad plowed the ground. Most of the time we kept quite well and never had any broken bones. I don't know if there was a doctor yet at Mt. Harris, but we had no money to pay one anyway. One accident was when Carl, my youngest brother, cut his leg. He probably should have had a few stitches. It bled profusely and as dad was nearby cutting trees, we called him. He was very upset about it, and carried Carl all the way down into the house. I believe he was about four years old then. It finally healed up, but left quite a noticeable scar. Several years later Owen, my older brother, had what they called inflamatory rheumatism. The folks thought it came from his swimming in very cold water up by the spring. They got him some Doane's pills, but I believe it was Rheumatic Fever. He was pretty sick with it. It would hurt so, and he would want to be turned often, then he would complain that it would hurt when we would try to move him. Speaking of illness, there used to be a belief that people got Mountain Fever the second spring after coming to the mountains, and there must have been something to it for both dad and mother got a spell of chills and fever, they were pretty miserable for quite a while. Mrs. Emma Peck, the county Superintendent of Schools, was visiting our school at that time. She was an old pioneer and said the remedy for it was sage tea, not sage brush, but a little plant that grew in places. My mother fixed some of it, and I don't know how much they took of it or whether it did any good, but it certainly was bitter. They eventually recovered. Then we had plenty of wood ticks to deal with, but they never seemed to do us much harm. In 1918 a family by the name of Butz moved into Wolf Creek, down by the Haddon place on a homestead that was filed on by Tim Gaskill, Mrs. Butz' father. They became our good friends, and we still keep in touch. Just this summer, 1979, a man and his wife, stopped to see me, and she introduced herself as Effa Butz, one of the daughters. We had a wonderful time recalling those long ago days. Before they came to Colorado, they lived on a farm in Texas, and had five little girs, one of whom was never very strong. The doctor there told them that perhaps a higher altitude would help her, so they sold out and came to Colorado, in hope of benefitting her. They felt that she might have lived, but that was the year of the flu epidemic, which they all got. Mrs. Butz nearly died, but little Nada did not survive. Mr. Bashor was the County Coroner then, and he came and helped them plan the funeral. She was buried in Hayden. The casket was sent down from Steamboat on the passenger train which got to Mt. Harris late that night. My dad met the train with a team and wagon and brought the casket up to their place at night. Irene Harold was teaching the Wolf Creek School then, and I had been going to school in Hayden, but was home because the school had been closed because of the flu. I remember Irene and us kids had to stay alone one night while the folks were down at Butz' and we were nervous. Irene left soon after, to go home for Thanksgiving and was never able to come back because she also got the flu and was very sick for a long time. I don't believe our family ever got it except Owen who was working at Harris, and they kept him down there in a house with others who had it. I remember we went to see him and talked to him through the window. The schools were all closed until sometime in January. When dad would plow the ground, that would tear most of the brush loose. Then we were supposed to pile it up and later it would be burned. Potatoes were usually planted the first year. Then by the next year the ground would be in better shape, and grain could be grown. The season was too short for hay. We had no way to irrigate any of our land. We were real dry farmers. but we'd get some rain in summer and always snow in winter. So the ground didn't get too dry and we raised wonderful potatoes, and all kinds of hearty vegetables. Grandma Flickinger, my father's mother, had been living in Pennsylvania until then, but when her second husband died, she decided to go to California and live with Uncle Ben, her brother. So on the way out there she stopped and spent several months with us. This was the first time she had seen her grandchildren. Later she sent dad some money to buy some Jersey cows, and bought an incubator and got eggs from Priestesses to put in it so we got started in chickens, so we lived better after that. Grandma went on to California and lived to be quite old and we never saw her again. After the mine at Mount Harris was developed and the town grew, it became a good market for vegetables, eggs and dairy products. We would buy a bushel of onion sets and sell most of them as green onions in bunches. We would work hard all day getting a load of produce ready to take, we would take potatoes and other vegetables in season, eggs, butter and buttermilk and sometimes chickens. We'd have it all in the spring wagon and would drive along the street, the people would come and buy. Later on after I was gone from home, on one of these trips, one of the horses got sick and died right in Mount Harris. Our neighbors, the Irwins, happened to be in town that same day, and they took the folks home leaving old Kid behind. I suppose my folks had to borrow a horse or team and come back for the wagon. When I was ready for high school, I went to Hayden for a while, then I went to work in Mount Harris while my brother Owen worked at various ranches. When Phyllis and Carl finished the grades in Hayden where mama had moved and grandma was also living, she made a home for them so they could go to high school. Carl graduated in 1929, the only one in our family to finish. He won a scholarship to agricultural college in Fort Collins and graduated in 1934. Mama and grandma moved to Fort Collins with him. Dad stayed on the homestead alone, for a while, then went to New Mexico to be with Phyllis, who was married and living there then. I believe the homestead finally was sold for taxes. I don't know who owns it now. The last time I saw it was August 22, 1972 when Bob, Mabel and Bill took me there, and we cooked supper up above where the schoolhouse used to be. I can't remember whether or not there were any buildings left at the homestead at that time. Our big problem when we were on the homestead was the range cattle. At that time the cattlemen could turn their herds loose anywhere in the summer. As long as there was good pasture along Wolf Creek, that was a favorite place. Our fields were fenced, but the cattle would get in anyway. Part of our cultivated ground was out of sight from the house. It was very discouraging to get up in the morning and find a bunch of doggies in the middle of our fields or truck patch. Finally a herd law was passed, and free range was a thing of the past. Later on when I was married, we heard of homestead land, being thrown open for entry over on Slater Creek. I'II never forget the look of horror on my grandma's face when we told her we had taken up a homestead, but it didn't discourage us. But she still remembered our early days on Wolf Creek. The following is a brief account of our life on the Slater Creek homestead. We were living in Mt. Harris after returning from Illinois when some friends of ours, the Ayres, told us of homestead land to be on Slater Creek. So Jack Ayres and Adolf made the trip over there in the spring. That was probably in 1924. Each of them filed on a place. They could only get as far as Jameson's place, which was about five miles down the road, with the car due to bad roads and lots of snow. The altitude was about 8,000 feet, and it was twenty miles from the store and post office of Slater, which was the nearest thing to a town. It was run by Mildred MacIntosh. We were acquainted with the Jamesons. They had already lived on Slater Creek for several years. The road was fairly good as far as their place. But our place was about five miles farther up the creek. At first there were no bridges, and the creeks were high, and hardly passable for a car. We had a Chevrolet touring car then. In the spring of 1925 Adolf, my husband, quit his job at the mine. I think we had about $400 saved. Bob was about two years old. We had to vacate the house at Mt. Harris, so we stored some of our furniture at the livery barn at Hayden and got someone with a truck to take the rest of it to Slater. We could only get as far as Jamesons again and had to leave some things there and also leave the car. A bachelor named McMichael took us the rest of the way with his wagon. We had a tent which we set up along Douglas Creek. The weather was nice by then but it got very cold at night. We had bought a small wood burning stove in Craig but I think it was a while before we got it moved up. We also had a little gasoline hot plate, but we couldn't use it much because we had to save gas. No filling stations were closer that Slater post office. So we cooked on campfire for a little while. I don't remember how long before we were able to get the car up to the place, but a man named Hoggatt moved our stuff from the Jamesons with horses and wagons . Smith's sawmill was only about six miles away. and it wasn't long until we got some lumber, and we began building a twelve by twenty-four foot house. We also planted a little garden by the Creek, but it was too frosty. Adolf's father came from Illinois to visit us about this time, and he gave us $100. We paid it back later. We decided to move back to Mt. Harris for that first winter returning early the next spring. I think that was the only time we left the homestead except for a few months at Savory so as to be near a doctor when Josie was born. Jack Ayres was rinning a mine there, and Adolf worked with him in the mine. We would get a little money each year by renting out our pasture to the sheep outfits, and Adolf usually got a few weeks work in the summer clearing the forest trails, also he worked at the sawmill sometimes, and took lumber as wages. By this time the Depression was in progress. Before long we got a cow and some chickens and most years, we could raise potatoes. We could get a mess of fish now and then, but I only remember getting one deer while we were on the homestead. In the fall we would get enough flour, sugar, coffee and so forth to last a year. Though these were Depression days, we felt very well off when we'd hear of people in cities standing in bread lines. After a few years we decided to move up on a hill into the timber as it was hardly possible to raise a garden down by the creek, because it frosted so often. It was a cold place to live and no timber close by for firewood. It was beautiful up there, but very isolated. Our neighbors were the Rubidues, Mr. Marshall, Baldwins, Hammricks, Floyd Crawford and Bart Melton, the last two were bachelors. Also Cochrans, from Oklahoma moved in near Rubidues, and a friend, Lucy Perry, came with them. A school was organized, and she was the first teacher. Bob had to walk about two miles to go to school, but I think Miss Perry left before he was old enough to go to school. There were several other teachers later and quite a few pupils. The Ayres children, Baldwins, Hammricks and the Rubidue girls. We eventually got a mail route and a party-line telephone. However, the folks with children all moved away as soon as they could prove up and sellout their places, and we were the only ones left. So after the school was closed, the next year, Josie was old enough to go to school, so we had to give up the homestead after living there eleven years and moved back to Mt. Harris where we lived until Bob finished high school. Josie died while we lived there. She was not quite eight years old and in the second grade. Josie came home from school one morning feeling weak. We took her to see the company doctor. He said she had the flu. He said, "put her to bed, and feed her poached eggs." The last thing she said was, "The trouble is, I don't like poached eggs." She went to sleep, slipped into a coma, and died that next morning. Another company doctor saw her and she had kidney failure. So even though there was a company doctor available, it didn't do any good. If we had been in the mountains and not had a doctor, we would have thought that she would have made it if only there had been a doctor available. The company doctors were abused. People called them for every little thing, and doctors became calloused because they were over worked. We then moved into the Hadden place which was not far from my dad's homestead. Wendell was born there, and when he was old enough to go to school, we moved to La Veta. There was no one living on upper Slater Creek by that time. We sold it to Leslie Anderson, a sheep herder, who had been leasing it for several years. We had left a batching outfit in the house on the hill, but someone stole all of it, and the heavy snow broke down the cabin. Bob had built a little house, and it was still there when I saw it last, which was a few years ago. The sweet williams that Josie had planted, had spread quite a distance into the timber and rhubarb, was still doing quite well. The following is an account of our move from Routt County to La Veta. We had been living on the Haddon place for about five years, although we had bought it some time before that. I had continued to live in Mt. Harris, until Bob graduated from high school. About two months after that took place, little Wendell arrived. There was no school anywhere near, and we knew that eventually we would have to move again, when Wendell was ready for school. We had thought some of moving down around Grand Junction, (the fruit country), but we didn't know anything about raising fruit and heard that they had problems too. Either late frost would damage the fruit crop, or a bumper crop, would bring low prices and great difficulty in getting pickers when needed. In the meantime we had become interested in dairy goats, and when our friends, the Mathews', wanted to sell their herd, so we bought them, I think about 15 milkers. They did real well for us. We separated the milk along with that of the cows and shipped the cream. I subscribed for the Dairy Goat Journal, and not long after- wards, saw an article in it about a cheese factory being established in La Veta to make cheese out of goat milk, and they were paying a good price for milk and wanted people with goats to come to La Veta, to supply them. That seemed to be just right for us. I made a trip down to look over the country, taking Wendell, he was five years old. Gross's were running the hotel then, and we stayed there. Mrs. Germano, Doug, Josephine and Audrey, were staying there also, and we got acquainted. Later that winter Adolph came to La Veta to see how he liked it. He bought the place where Jack Bailey now lives, from Ray Spangler, and did some work on the house, which had just been moved on the place, and needed a lot of work done on it. He built the chimney, and also a garage, and had a supply of hay put into it, and built a corral fence for the goats. Bob and Cleo were then living on their place, having come from Seattle, where Bob had been working for Boeings and had met and married Cleo Smith on December 1942. World War II was going on then, and every so often Bob would be called up, but was not actually drafted as he was working in an essential industry. He was told that he would have to go soon, so they decided to come back to Colorado, so they could see their place, and Cleo could stay with us if he had to go. The war ended about this time, so he never was called. He bought some used lumber from an old mine boarding house they were tearing down, and he built them a nice house. There had been a small cabin on the place where they lived meanwhile. So while Adolph was gone, Bob came up to bring the mail and anything else I needed. After Adolph came home, we began to pack up and make arrange- ments to move to La Veta. We engaged a big truck from Steamboat to take the goats. The road up to the house from the main road was very poor, and of course, it had to rain and had to be muddy, so the big truck could not get up to the house. So everything had to be taken in the small truck and transferred to the big truck. Bob came up to help us get loaded, and as we drove off, the last sight I had of him was standing there, muddy from head to toe. I think it was late afternoon. The main road was not too good, being muddy. I chickened out and was afraid to ride up the big hill, just before getting to Mt. Harris, so Wendell and I walked up. Pop managed to get up okay, and from then on we were soon on the highway. The big truck had stayed in Steamboat for the night. They loaded the furniture, in the front end of the truck, then made a partition with bales of straw, and put the goats back there were about 20 or 25 of them including, the old, the young, and the billy. We took the chickens with us in the back of the pick-up. We stopped a little in Steamboat at the home of the truck owner where we were given coffee, etc. It was then nearly midnight I think. But we intended to go on ahead and get to La Veta ahead of them. So the-re was no sleep for us that night. We got over Berthoud, and through Denver okay, but along Castle Rock, Adolph began to feel sick, and we had to stop awhile. We had no breakfast, so I thought he would feel better to have something to eat, and some coffee. So we stopped at Larkspur. Meantime we had seen the big truck pass us, so we knew we could get there first. So I called Spangler in La Veta and told him the situation, and asked if he could get someone to meet the truck and help them unload, which he did. When we finally got to La Veta, the empty truck was just leaving. They charged us $200 altogether, for the moving. The goats had been put into the corral and the furniture piled into the house. There was a small chicken house where we could put the chickens. The goats had not been milked since the previous morning, so I had to get busy. I did not feel that the milk would be good, so I threw it away. There was no barn, so I had to bring each goat into the garage to milk and feed her grain. Hay had to be thrown on the ground, and they had no shelter at night, or when it rained, which it seemed to do quite often. Several of the young ones died from exposure, and of course, the milkers did not give much milk either. The cheese factory was paying 60 a gallon for milk then, and Adolph had to take it over each morning. As soon as he could, he put up a nice cinder block barn, with a hay mow, and things were much better then. When I began to get things organized in the house, I soon discovered that everything was covered and driven full of flour. We had a fifty pound lard can of flour among things, and the lid came off some way, and the wind and speed of the truck had caused it to be blown into practically everything. Of course, it was nothing dirty, and not too hard to clean off, but nevertheless it was a nuisance added to the other hardships of moving. Years after- wards I would find flour in such places as the sewing machine drawers. Another trouble was that although the place was within town limits, no one had lived on it before, and the water had never been piped up to it. The war was over by that time, but it still wasn1t possible to buy water pipe, so for quite a while we had to haul water for the goats and household use. Finally we were able to get pipe, and that problem was solved. A new floor had to be put in the house also, and flooring was to get done, but Adolph paid quite a price for some used flooring and got that done. The house originally had two large rooms. I don't think it was wired for electricity when we first got there either. The price of milk kept going down until they were only paying 28 per gallon. Several people protested, and the man who was running the factory called a meeting which I attended. He explained that he could not pay any more because in selling the cheese, he could not compete with other areas, which were better suited for dairies, such as more rainfall and better pasture, like Wisconsin and Minnesota. We could not sell our milk at what he could pay, so he had no choice but to close the factory. That is what happened, and everyone was faced with disposing a lot of milk, and a lot of goats that couldn't be given away. I heard that there was an outfit from Texas that came in and was paying $5.00 a piece for them. We butchered some of ours. I separated the milk and shipped the cream for a while, but that only brought about half as much as selling the milk even at 7 a quart. We got a couple pigs, but they could not use all the skim milk. So the whole deal was a failure from beginning to end. We had never expected to make our entire living off the goats, but thought it would help, and as we had to move, we did not lose much actual cash. Adolph soon got work as a carpenter, and Wendell had a nice school to go to. We never have regretted moving to La Veta, and have found the climate more pleasant than northwestern Colorado where it is much colder and has more snow. The old timers have told me that once or twice before, some one has started a cheese factory, but they never lasted long. Wendell soon found friends, Archie Mendoza, Henry and Emily Romero, and went to school with them. Bob, Cleo and the girls soon came to visit us and later decided to locate in Pueblo where Bob worked for a construction company. My son Bob, was six years older than his sister Josie. Then Wendell was twelve years younger than his sister. My two sons are eighteen years apart. I had my last baby when I was forty. Maybe having a baby so late made my body keep on longer than most. They say that many women who have babies when they are older have babies who aren't normal, but I always felt that Wendell was very bright. Now they are just discovering that mother's milk is the best food for babies. Isn't that amazing? Who would ever have doubted that if they were in their right mind? You know cars used to be a rarity. I really think that the coming of so many cars has completely changed life in La Veta. People use cars so much now, that it is no wonder that there is a shortage of energy. At the end of the interview, when my baby was ready to fall asleep, Dorothy said, "now you just close those sleepy eyes and let your worries slip away."

Back to the Oral Interviews Main Page

Return to the Huerfano County Home Page
© Karen Mitchell