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Minnie Grace Branch
Scanned by Dick Chenault Jan 2006
Edited by Karen Mitchell Jan 2006
Interviewed by Roslyn McCain
Please note: We do not have a data sheet for this interview.
MINNIE GRACE BRANCH
January 8, 1980
MB: Well mining was the important industry in Huerfano County, from the time I was a small child up until they decided to close the mines. And they closed them you know, because of the strikes and the things that they had, they just weren't going to be bothered with it, and of course along some of the mines had flooded, some of the places had flooded and they had to use pumps to get it out. And it was getting expensive. And then later, just the past few years you know when the government put out that ruling that they had to have certain safety rules & regulations. Well some of them could not afford those and so they closed their mines down. So the coal that we have comes, quite a bit of it comes from the north.
RM: That's right.
MB: Yes, comes from the north. Now we had mines from here, Walsenburg, out about 14 to 16 miles. About every mile or two miles you would go there was a mine and a camp.
RM: Uh huh, there was dotted all over.
MB: Dotted all over. The Green Mine, up here, they didn't have camp for the people. Of course they could live in town, it's just up here by the hog-back. Over by the hogback they had the Peanut mine and there was no camp there because there was places where they could live in other camps. Then there was Toltec and Pictou and Maitland, and those three in a row I know. Now there was the Rocky Mountain and the Morning Glory and I can't think where the French's lived.. .Del Carbon, Del Carbon and then Big Four, and I believe there was one even beyond that. So you just can imagine the amount of payroll a month for all those mines. Then there was Walsen Camp, Mutual Camp and Robinson Mine. Then south they went down there. I don't know the names of the ones to the south, to Aguilar... .the ones that were in Huerfano County. And there was some up by La Veta, they had some up there. This part of the country was just full of mines.
RM: Mines and miners, too, weren't there?
MB: Yes, and they had a fine grade of people.
MB: Fine grade of people. Many of them were Italians, Slavs, Welch, the English, the Scotch, and there were a few Japs. Now that's all I know from people of Asia. Just a few Japs in the mine.
RM: So they really had people from all over the place.
MB: I've heard that they want to send coal down into Texas, and use the water to flush it down there. What do they call that? I've forgotten.
RM: The Coal Slurry Pipeline.
MB: Slurry, uh huh, just to wash it down right there. Well I don't think Colorado has the water to do that.
RM: To go out of the state, I don't know.
MB: No, not to go that far, we just can't. We don't have the water.
RM: Well they talk about taking it out of these deep under ground wells, but I can't see that won't affect the water table for everybody.
MB: It will, and it will take the water out, you know, from the land.
RM: That's right.
MB: And people around Alamosa, and I don't blame them for complaining.
RM: Cause they won't get any benefit from it at all.
MB: I know. And you know, have you ever gone up to Medano Pass?
MB: And you should look down between the mountains and there comes the Medano River, and you look out and there's the Sand Dunes, and down goes the river.
RM: Uh huh.
MB: Well that river's underground.
RM: That's right.
MB: Now I don't know that there's coal mining or much coal mining over in that area.
RM: I don't know that there is.
MB: I don't know that there is, but this place, Huerfano County, was just full of mines. And they were a good grade of people. And they spent their money freely. And I heard my brother say, the salesmen. He was a blacksmith, had a blacksmith shop down here in Walsenburg. The salesmen liked to come through Walsenburg because there was always plenty of orders.
RM: Uh huh.
MB: Plenty of orders.
RM: So mining really provided the backbone for the economy for the whole county.
MB: Uh huh. That was the salary or the paycheck, or the backbone of Huerfano County. It really was. But I heard my father say, he was at that time the Fire Boss. Now I don't suppose they have a Fire Boss anymore.
RM: What did he do as a Fire Boss?
MB: Now he got up at 1:00 when the men came out of the mine in the evening at about 5:00. The men that went in were called shot firers. Now they went in. They had so much certain kind of explosive that had to be used a certain way. And that, they put that in and they had to count the shots as they went off, be sure that every one went off, that they put in, see. And that brought the coal down and then the next morning the miners went in to load the coal.
RM: Oh, I see.
MB: Now they have the electric cutters, you know, And they don't do it that way. Well he had to go in then at 1:00 in the morning. The shots had all been fired. The dust had settled and everything. He went around the mine, to be sure that it was safe. And if a place was marked for gas, if he marked it for gas, they were not to go in there until he had gone all around and came back to that place and got the gas out. They used certain methods, put the fan in and all, to get it out. And direct the air a certain way to get the gas out of there.
RM: So he was really a safety inspector, wasn't he?
MB: Oh, he was taking a chance. He was, my dear. He took a chance, he did that work for many years for the CF&I. Then, of course, he got older. It was tiresome and there was the responsibility. So he decided he would take a night watchman job. So he did that for a good few years. And all the time that he worked in the mine he had one little scratch here on his shoulder and he dislocated his thumb, when he hit a Jap. Father had marked the place for gas. Now he took two lamps with him, the one about so big and about a foot long, it was called a wolf light. The men used the wolf light besides the little one on their cap. And he had one that was so big around, smaller and about so high about 12 inches. That was the daily light and that when you went into a room, where there was gas, the daily light would go out instantly, the wolf light would keep burning, you see that's why you had to have the both.
RM: The two of them.
MB: Because the men if they went in there with their light, well it's burning. They can't know the difference, you see. And that's why they have to have the two lights, and he went all around to the mine and he came up, and my brother took his breakfast up to him. Then he went back down into the mine to work on the places that he knew where the gas was and he came home about noon. That was his shift.
RM: So he would be not only responsible for finding the places where the gas was, but also for dispersing the gas.
MB: Yes, getting rid of it, you see they had a great big fan outside, oh I would say a couple of blocks from the mine. A great big building and good big fan and that forced fresh air into the mine, you see. And they had telephones in the mines as well as electric lights, and Pictou mine and Toltec mine were joined. They came back around here in the canyons and joined. When my cousin was hurt in the mine they telephoned from Toltec in here, and they got word right down to my dad that our cousin had been hurt in the Toltec mine. All right, instead of coming back around this way, he just went right through there and got it., and was right there with him. And I heard him say, he said most of the accidents men have in the mines are their own fault.
RM: Is that right.
MB: Yes, he said they will not take five minutes to put a prop up to protect themselves against a fall of rock. He said I have talked and talked. “Put up a prop, so that you won't get hurt.” “Oh I just got a little bit more to shovel up, just a little more.” Down she'd come, and then they were injured. But no explosions in the mine where my father was fire boss.
RM: Now they had explosions in some mines didn't they?
MB: Oh yes, and Midland had an explosion one time.
RM: Is that right?
MB: Yes, I don't know who their fireboss was. You see, I wasn't born in Huerfano, I was born in Las
Animas County. I was five months old when we came back to Huerfano County. See my father worked at the mines in Las Animas County too... Darkville.
RM: I see, he started down there then?
MB: Right. He worked there and then he worked here awhile and sometimes they'd transfer him back, you know. Wherever he was needed. And I was just five months old, when we came back, and then I lived there until 1910, when we moved into Walsenburg.
RM: So your first young years, you were in the mining camps, weren't you.
MB: Yes, for nine years.
RM: You went to school there didn't you?
MB: Yes, they had good schools, good teachers. They had a nice kindergarten. And up to the eighth grade.
RM: Uh huh I see. So then would the children come into Walsenburg, if they wanted to go further than the eighth grade?
MB: Most of them didn't. See that's a long time ago. That would be 75, 76, years ago. The men didn't figure on going to High School. The young men, they just figured that's sissy. They had one young man that went, another one did go, but he didn't get very far, and the other one went, the girls some of the girls came in, but that's all. Well when I was in High School here, the ones that lived in Toltec, they walked in when the weather was good. Two and a half miles. If the weather was stormy, one of the fathers would bring them in, and another would come and take them home. But that is what they did. And of course the company stores, they supplied them with everything they needed. Making the mining industry right there, you see. The mine, the store, they had the boarding house for the men that didn't have a home, a good boarding house, and good clean beds and all. They were, they took good care of their people. And Pictou and Toltec they had two doctors, now I don't know what Toltec was under, it was not CF&I. It was a different Company, but Pictou was under that, and they seemed to work together some way. And the two doctors would help take care of Toltec as well as Pictou.
RM: And what were there names?
MB: Dr. Barret and Dr. Lester were the ones that I remember. And Dr. Andrews and Dr. Trout up at Walsen. Now there were others farther out that had a doctor, too. They had supplied the doctor and then if they needed to go to the hospital, of course they would have to bring them in hack or else a wagon, you know, covered over, get on the train in the baggage car, take them to Pueblo to the Hospital so that wasn't done very often. No they doctored them at home if it were humanly possible.
RM: Now did people in the camps use a lot of home remedies? Would the women have a lot of home cures that they would use on their families?
MB: Yes, oh yes, we had some. But then the doctors were the ones, they gave you the medicine, they had the medicine right with them in their bag. They carried a good sized one. And they gave them the medicine that they needed. But they did well with their people. The only thing, they were not allowed to organize. Have you ever read the book Out of the Depths?
RM: Yes, I have.
MB: You read it.
MB: Now that's just one side of the story.
RM: That's right.
MB: There's another side to that story about that man too, the one that his wife was burned in the tent colony I heard a woman, she told me about that, but I don't know whether there's a book written about it or whether it's just by word of mouth. Oh they fought the organizing. They had a hard time to get that going. We just had one out and out battle royal.
RM: That's right.
MB: Yeah, I remember that.
RM: Tell me about it.
vMB: They sent us home from school in a hurry, and we didn't have school for three or four days.
RM: Is that right?
MB: That's right.
RM: Now was that when they had what they called the fighting they had up on the hogback?
MB: Yes, and in this square block, where this house is, this square block, that's where of course they had the militia first you know. And the militia was for the company. And of course the boys didn't like that. And the militia had a very bad reputation, in this county for awhile. And when they got to organizing, then they had a deputy. He was.... If he saw there was an organizer in the camp, he got them out. That was it, they got them out in a hurry. Oh yes this square block, I remember that. That's where they brought the regular troops in. The National Troops were brought in, the Cavalry, and their tents were in this square block.
RM: Is that right, so this is where they camped?
MB: This is where they camped, and they had their horses on the other side of the street, you see, right over there they had the barns and horses over there, in the blacksmith shop.
RM: So now was the militia local people that were volunteered?
MB: Yes they were the State Police, the militia. They're State.
RM: Were they mostly from this county?
MB: No, not necessarily, I don't think they were. Maybe some of them did, I don't know, but I don't think so.
RM: So they probably came from all over the state.
MB: All over the state. You know we have a state militia now. And if there was to be an emergency they would send off the militia, to patrol. But they had to get the United States cavalry in here. They sure did.
RM: And so at one time, was the militia and the Cavalry both here?
MB: They were here separately. Separate times. They just could not keep the militia here. See they, the people, resented it so because the militia was with the company. They were helping the company. And the people didn't like that. They stayed by their own men. And so that's were the trouble was. But mining was the backbone of Huerfano County. And since the mines have all gone down, you can certainly see the big difference in the paychecks and in the progress down on Main Street.
RM: That's right. That's right. How many miners would be employed at each of these mines on an average, would you say?
MB: Why I have no idea, my dear. You could just about figure the company houses oh, maybe there'd be 15 or 30, about 30 or 35 maybe houses, and then some lived out from the camp a ways, and they had their own house. We did. My folks, my mother didn't like living in a rented house or in a row. So we had our own place.
RM: And how many children were in your family?
RM: Three. So were you the youngest?
MB: I was the youngest. My brother, the oldest brother, he was 13 years older than I. He liked the mine. He liked to work at the mine. But he had rheumatic fever, and they thought it best that he got out of the mine, it was a little damp, see. Then he went up on the tipple to weigh the cars. My younger, the other brother next to him, was ten and a-half years older than I, and he didn't like the mine. He didn't like it at all, didn't want to go in it. He cleaned the lamps. They had what they called the lamp cabin. And it was his job to clean those wolf lamps and fill them with fuel, that they needed. That was his job, which he did after the men came up out of the mine, about 5:00 or 5:30. He would go back after we had supper and clean the lamps.
RM: Now when did your family first come to Huerfano County?
MB: When my family first came to Huerfano County, there were three buildings on Main Street.
RM: Is that right?
MB: Yes, three buildings on Main Street. Now my oldest brother would be 91 this year or say about 93 years ago. My father mined in Wales before he came to this County
RM: Is that right? So he was a miner there?
MB: Yes, then of course he mined in Pennsylvania, and some of the other states in the east, he mined there. And then they came west. And they liked the west very much and never went back to the east again.
RM: And how did they travel? How did they get here?
MB: Oh they had trains in when they came. They didn't have to come in a covered wagon. They were here you see, and my mother' s people came in 1870. And they were in the east a good few years then you see.
RM: So was your mother from Whales also?
MB: No, she was from England. She was five years old, the year that they came over.
RM: So she was born in England?
MB: She was born in England, and my father was born in Wales, but he was grown when they came to this country.
RM: So have you been back to Wales?
MB: I never went back.
RM: How about any of your family?
MB: None of them went back, and none to the others that were left there. There were three brothers who came, and two of the brothers married sisters.
RM: Is that right?
MB: My mother and her sister, and then just in October one of the boys, this lady's son that this package came from, came to Canada. He is a music major. Have you heard of the Welch choirs?
MB: Alright, he has his choir. I think it's 71 members in his choir. They came to Canada, and they were there, I think, about two weeks just putting on concerts one after another all around there. And he's the only one that came onto this continent.
RM: How exciting.
MB: No, I didn't have such pleasant memories of Wales when father told us about them. They were not too considerate of their people. He said if you had a gun, they taxed you. If you used that gun, they gave you another tax. He said, “They taxed us for every penny they could tax us”. And they just got up and left.
RM: So did he have relatives or friends that had come to this country?
MB: Yes, they had work to come to. Other people who had come ahead of them, see.
RM: I see.
MB: And they had kept contact with them, and they had work for them to come to. And so that's how they got over here.
RM: And where did your mother's family first come when they from England?
MB: The came from Havenstock, Devonshire England in 1870. My mother was five years old the year the came.
RM: And where did they come to?
MB: They were in New York first, then in New Jersey, and several other states there in the East, and then they finally came west.
RM: And that was in 1870 that they came west?
MB: That they cane, and they landed in New York, and they were there awhile and then in New Jersey, and then some of the other states. Then my father came over. They met and were married in Pennsylvania.
RM: I see, So they came here together?
MB: No, oh that you mean come west?
MB: Yes together. Yes they were married when they came west. They had been married in Pennsylvania.
RM: And where did they first come in the west?
MB: As far as I know it was in more or less Leadville. My father didn't like gold mining. See the gold dust is much heavier on the lungs than the coal dust. And my mother's brother-in-law died of that.
RM: Is that right?
MB: Yes, he died from that. The gold dust is very heavy and my father didn't like the gold mines at all, so then they came down in this part of this country and then they were in Starkville and then they went on into New Mexico. I think it was Dawson New Mexico. Dawson, yes. And my mother didn't like it there because there were Indians, and she was afraid of the Indians, so they didn't stay there very long.
RM: Do you remember some stories that she told about the Indians?
MB: Oh yes. There was one that she told us, that I've always thought was so funny. She had forgotten to latch the screen. She said that during the warm weather you left the door open, but you latch the screen. Well, she forgot to latch the screen. And when she turned around and came back to the kitchen, there's this Indian. And he had a big cup and he wanted coffee. So she got the coffee and let him have what he wanted. No, that wasn't what he wanted. He didn't want the coffee to put in the cup. Coffee pot and he did this. He made the motion of grinding coffee. You see they had coffee grinders in those days. I have my mother's coffee grinder which I gave to my daughter-in-law. And she got the grinder. That was it. He took it. And when my father came home, she said, “Well, I imagine you'll be going to town pretty soon to buy us a new coffee grinder”. She told him what had happened and she hadn't even more finish talking when here came the Indian with a nice big pan of the most delicious peaches you ever ate and the coffee grinder.
RM: Is that right?
MB: And he thanked her. She didn't like staying there.
RM: That's a wonderful story.
MB: Yes, oh we used to just sit around and listen to her tell things about when she was a youngster. They had some wonderful experiences, really they did.
RM: I imagine.
MB: My grandmother was a midwife.
RM: Is that right?
MB: Yes, in England. She worked with a doctor there while grandfather was in this country, finding a place to locate.
RM: Is that right? So did she practice as a midwife once she came here also?
MB: Oh yes, yes my mother and her sister just older than she. They never had a doctor.
RM: Is that right?
MB: That's right. She was the midwife and she was a good one
RM: I imagine the midwives knew a lot about other kinds of medicine other than midwifery.
MB: They did, they did, and they knew a lot. Well, this one was funny, talking about doing things on the medical side. Grandfather had bought a nice rooster, a very pretty one, a very good one. The boys had gone fishing, and when they came back, they just left the pole along side of the house, you know, line, hook and sinker, and all, and the worm was on the hook. Well the rooster came along, he swallowed the worm and the hook and grandfather said, “Oh my, what'll I do now?”, he said, “I'll have to kill my rooster because he swallowed the hook.” Grandmother said, “No you won't.” She said, “Pick off his feathers right along here. So grandfather picked off his feathers she cut it, opened it, took out the hook and sewed him up. She sure could.
RM: So she was a veterinarian as well.
MB: Well, you see they have to know those things, because then they were quite a ways from a doctor. Well it was three miles from Walsenburg to Pictou, and they had to come by horse and buggy. And they only had the telephone in the mine office, the store, and the Superintendent of Schools, his name was Frank Mead. He had a telephone at his house. And so if it was an emergency, they contacted the mine clerk, and he would go to the office and call the doctor and tell him what it was, because he had asked them all about it and knew what the situation was before he called the doctor. And then the doctor used to give talks, too, at the school house. They had the top floor. They had folding doors, and they could open them, you see. And that was where they had their meeting place, their dances and all that. And he came once a month, and gave them health talks.
RM: That's wonderful.
MB: Yes it is, they took care of them that way, only that one flaw that was always a trouble, organizing. They did not want that. But had to take it. It had to be done, and it was really, it was needed to be done.
RM: And they weren't about to accept it readily, were they?
MB: No, they didn't accept it gradually either, that's for sure, but they did accept it. It had to be.
RM: In the end.
MB: In the end, yes. Oh they had a grand jury investigation and every thing down here. We had the works.
RM: Well things really got out of hand there for a while didn't they?
MB: Yes, and I'll never forget when I want to the teachers meeting. I think it was in either the fall of 1920 or 21. It was in the lounge there in Pueblo, one of the school buildings where they were having their meeting and they were saying “Who are you, and where are you from?” And I told them my name, and I said I was from Walsenburg. “That awful place where they had the war?” Yes that awful place where they had the war. I'll tell you, you just felt a little bit ashamed. But they didn't know the situation as we knew it. Did you get to contact Mrs. Summers?
RM: I haven't talked with her yet but I'm going to be.
MB: I think she was born and raised right here in Walsenburg.
MB: Now then, could I hear that come back now?
RM: Sure, sure.
MB: Let's hear how it sounds, I imagine I talked a little too fast.
(beak in conversation)
MB: And that was right down here.
RM: And before that?
MB: They had the two depots, C&S and D&RG
RM: Had two trains.
MB: Two trains going north and two going south every day. They had the Zephyr. It was a pretty coach. The coach cars that they had a diner and everything on it. Well then, of course, they used them during World War II. and you know, these coaches were used so hard. And after that, not long after that, they took them off. And then we got the big buses coming through.
RM: My husband and I keep still saying we wish they still had the trains, because we could go up to Denver to see my mother. It is such a long trip for my little boy. If it was a train he could play the whole way.
MB: Yes he could play and have the nice comfortable seats to sit in. That was good. I don't know why they didn't fix the tracks, you know, keep the tracks up and keep the trains, instead of going all out for buses. Then they had to build roads for those buses to travel on. And look at the wrecks they've had with the trains. No doubt, it's because they haven't kept up the tracks.
RM: That's right. I wish they would get back to the trains. That's a good form of transportation.
MB: A good form of transportation is a train. And I tell you, they used to go through here and the box cars and the coal cars. There were so many. It was just a thriving place. That's all.
RM: One question I was going to ask you was, what it was like for your mother to raise a family in those days in the coal camps. What are the differences between raising a family under those conditions and raising a family now?
MB: Well we just didn't have the things that they have today. You had to entertain yourself at home. You played Parcheesi, checkers and lotto. And the children, as soon as you were old enough, you were taught to play games, and you played jacks, jump rope. We did all those things. I don't believe children know how to play jacks anymore.
RM: I know, it's terrible. We played jacks when I was a kid, but now they just watch television, it seems more than anything else.
MB: They don't want to entertain themselves. They don't know how to entertain themselves. That makes it difficult. And my mother always had a Sunday School wherever she went. She started a Sunday School and then there would be one woman, maybe two women, in the camp that would help her. I don't know whether you know , Willetta Marshall Rogers, Jeff Rogers wife. Do you know her? She works up at the school, High School, and her mother was Millie, Millie Marshall. She always helped my mother. And of course, they had to quit school, quit the schooling house, and she got permission to have a Sunday School in the school house. And then when she finished with her Sunday School, then the Catholic ladies came in and had their school for their children.
RM: What denominations of Churches did they have in the camps? I mean what denominations of churches, what religions?
MB: There were no regular denominations. In fact, my dear, I was not aware of denominations until I was ten or eleven years old. My mothers membership was over here in the Methodist Church when it was a white wood building. It was a small church. And it was the one that they had before they built this red brick one. And when the preacher would come out.... And that's where the livery stable was. No, where the Library was. That's where the Pritchards lived. John Pritchard lived there. And where the mortuary is and that other place next to it there, that is where the livery stable was. And if I'm right, I believe he loaned the man, the Preacher, the horse and buggy to come out. And they had church on Sunday afternoon after Sunday school. And that made it nice for the people and there was this Scotchman there. He was good at directing. He was a band man. And his own boys learned to play instruments, and his daughter learned to play the piano, and there was another lady in the camp that played the piano. And they had very nice services and special music. It was really nice being there.
RM: What were some of the holidays that were celebrated at the camps?
MB: Well, Christmas was usually the one. The others they didn't bother to put on a lot of programs in those days.
RM: Now, how about the Fourth of July. Did they have a Fourth of July celebration?
MB: They used to have a celebration here on the Fourth of July, here in Walsenburg. The people would come from all around and they'd bring their picnic lunches, you know. And there used to be a grove of trees, right down where the river is. And it was a very nice place, and they would have fireworks and that sort of thing.
RM: Now how about games? Would they have baseball games at the camps?
MB: Yes they did, and one camp would play another camp, you know.
RM: So they all had their own teams.
MB: Each one had their own team. Or maybe a couple of camps would go together and make a real good team, see.
RM: So, some of the smaller camps would get together.
MB: My brother, the younger one, played on one of the baseball teams.
RM: And how often would they have games?
MB: Now that I don't know, but I would imagine about once a week, on a Sunday afternoon they always had it. Because that's the only day they had off because they worked six days a week, you know. There was no five day week. It was Sunday afternoon, and it was either every other Sunday, during the baseball season, they would have it, or maybe every Sunday for awhile if they had a good game going.
RM: Would they have dances at the mining camps?
MB: Yes. Now after the doctor had given his talk on health, the young people came. Some of them came for the talk that he would give. Others came, and they had some music, and then they had their dances.
RM: And would that be a certain night?
MB: Saturday night. That was the only night that they could go anywhere, you know.
RM: And where would they have the dances?
MB: In the school house, on the top floor, because of those two rooms and they were divided by folding doors. So that made one great big room, you see. And so they could dance. And that's where they had their meetings, any type of meeting was at the school house. And later they built the Y.M.C.A.'s in the camps.
RM: Right in the camps?
MB: Right in the camps, they had a nice one here in Walsen Camp. A nice one in Pictou too. Those are the only two I know anything about.
RM: And what would they use those for mainly?
MB: They used those for the activities, for dancing, and they had church in those, too. But by that time most of them were getting cars. And then they wanted the Sunday School in the morning, so that they could go out in the afternoon. Now, mother couldn't get there in the morning. We were needed here, and she still went out to Pictou from 1910 to 1918, she still went back out there to teach the Sunday School, and she said ”I just can't get here in the morning.” And one lady promised to take it over. Mother knew she wouldn't stay with it very long but it couldn't be helped. So then it stopped.
RM: And how would you say the roles of women have changed over the years?
MB: Well, the women have become more civic minded. They didn't just stay in their little camp and then their little place, house or whatever it was. They became acquainted with other people and other camps. Of course others had relatives, you know, like in different camps. They'd go visit them, get in your horse and buggy. And you didn't think anything of driving five or six miles.
RM: Did people seem to visit amongst each other more in those days than they do now? Would people get together more often?
MB: Well, I think the women did. My mother had her first cousin living in Pictou. She lived up in what they called the Canyon. And they owned their own house, see, and she would go to visit her, and she would come to visit my mother. My mother also had her brother and his family in Pictou too, They lived up in the Canyon and had their own place. And they would visit back and forth.
RM: And how about the relationship's between the different nationalities in the camps?
MB: Never heard of any trouble.
RM: So they mingled and got along well? How about the ones who had just come from different Countries? Did some of them not speak English when they got here?
MB: Lots of them didn't speak very good. I remember when I was teaching school in Ravenwood. That was a camp south and west down here about three miles. I had a little Greek boy and his sister in my room at school, and neither of them could talk English. So I said to the children, I said “Now we're going to have to teach these two children to talk English, and you're going to have to do it, and as you do it, say it and make them say it and do it too.” And they did, and you'd be surprised what they knew. Yes.
RM: It doesn't seem like there are very many Greek people left in the community, but there were a number of Greek miners in the early days, weren't there?
MB: Now that I don't remember, the Greeks. Yes, the Greeks didn't take so much to the mining as they did to the restaurants, you know.
RM: Can you think of any Greek people that are still in the community?
MB: No, I can't think of one. That little boy and his sister and the mother and father. Now the father learned enough English that he could get by in the mine. When they told them what to do and how to do it he could get it. But I don't know about the mother, whether she ever learned much or not, but the children did. They got it without any trouble.
RM: Now, did that family stay here?
MB: No, they left. Course the camps down and all around they left too. I don't know where they went.
RM: Seems like so many of the nationalities you run into quite frequently in Walsenburg. It doesn't seem like I've met Greek families.
MB: There's not very many Greeks here now. And I don't think there ever were very many Greeks. You see the miners from Scotland and England and Wales and Italy, and there was some of the Mexican people from Mexico came up, and they got work in the mines and not very many negroes just a few.
RM: Now were they scattered around at different camps?
MB: No they were in different camps. Now wait a minute. They had the one up here they called Red Camp. There was Walsen, and then they had what they called Red Camp, now that was where the negroes all lived. They had quite a few there. You heard of Red Camp, have you?
RM: Somebody else has mentioned it. I don't remember who it was, but I have heard of it.
MB: They had a Red Camp. They had a regular little village for the negroes. They liked it better, they had more of their own kind. They were treated just the same in the mine as anybody else
RM: Now did they stay?
MB: Yes, they stayed, but I don't know what happened when they closed the mines. They had to go somewhere to get work, and I don't know where they went.
RM: So it was at the time that the mines closed down that a lot of people just left the area to find work.
MB: Just left the area. Then they took the camp houses and brought them into town and put them on a foundation and fixed them up. You'd be surprised at the people. This house right across from me on the corner, that's one that was brought in and added to.
RM: And I know that is true in La Veta. There are a lot of houses in La Veta that were brought down from Ojo.
MB: Ojo and Oakview. Oh this was a thriving county. I tell you, you wouldn't find a more thriving place anywhere in the whole country.
RM: And what business's were operating then that you don't find now because of the population difference?
MB: Well the business places downtown, the stores, for example, they had dry goods stores, and we had a nice jewelry shop, and they sold all beautiful cut glass and hand painting stuff, you know. It was good. Jewelry shop, and we had two or three clothing stores all on Main Street. No vacant places then.
RM: All thriving businesses. Now how about banks, were there more banks in those days?
MB: Yes, there was the Guarantee Bank. It was down in the block where the Black and White is, only couple of doors down. It was in there, and there used to be a drug store in there, and that drug store moved to the corner here on Fifth and Main.
RM: Let's see, what other business was I going to ask you about?
MB: Yes, there's quite a few of them that went out of business when the mines slacked.
RM: Now were there more grocery stores?
MB: Yes. We didn't have any company stores in town. If you wanted something extra nice or something special, you came to Walsenburg to get it, because the company store just had what would be needed, a few fresh vegetables and meat and cereals and things like that, just the staple things.
RM: And how about movies, Did they have theaters?
MB: One. I remember the first one I ever went to, and it was Charlie Chaplin. You know where the Black and White store is. It had a top to it. They took that off and up there, just a big hall and a big stage. And they had the man that was running the livery stable in Pictou take one of his big wagons, that he used to move people's furniture, and he brought all the school children in. Now whether there was another wagon, I don't remember. But I came home saying that he was going to take us all in his big wagon. Of course I was all thrilled because I was going to get to go. I got to go but we went in the horse and buggy and mother and dad went. And we went in there and we saw Charlie Chaplin on one of his funnies, you know. And that was the first that I remember ever seeing. And that was before I was nine. And then we had a couple. We had the Valentia. That's the one that's down there now. Do they call it the Valentia, do they?
MB: Fox, at one time it was called Velentia. Then there was also one, in the block where Black and White is. There was a movie there. They had two. I don't think we ever had more than two at one time. And you could go to the one in the block there where the Black and White store is, and you got out in time to go down to the Valentia, as they called it, to see that show.
RM: You could come in and see two in one evening?
MB: And then you went in for a dime.
RM: Sounds like a pretty good price.
MB: Then later it was a quarter. And we thought it was plenty to pay too.
RM: That's right. And what were some of the things that you'd come into town and buy for a treat or something special?
MB: Well, we got ice cream in town, but if you had it in the camp, you had to make it. So we had ice cream and like a box of animal crackers and fancy grapes and things like that, you know.
RM: So the fruits were something special.
MB: Something we could get a better variety of. And clothing, all of our clothing. And I can remember that a good deal of the clothes, a good many of the clothes we had come from either Montgomery Ward or Sears and Roebuck.
RM: So you'd order them.
MB: Either hats, shoes, coat, dress, and they had groceries too.
RM: Is that right?
MB: Yes they had groceries, canned stuff, you know. And when you look through that catalog now and then about 50 years ago, what a difference.
RM: How did the countryside look different than it does now, would you say?
MB: Well I can't see that there is much difference. I think that the Hogback seemed a little taller. I think it's worn down in the last 90 years. It's worn down some. But otherwise it's pretty much the same.
RM: And then Walsenburg itself, how has it changed?
MB: Well it's just about the same as it was then only the stores. There weren't so many vacant buildings. The place was filled up.
RM: Now how about as you go on the road say from here to Gardner. You see all the ruins from the mines. Most of those had their own camps?
MB: They had their own camps, their own houses and their store and their mine, and most of them that were farther out had their doctor too. The doctor lived in the camp.
RM: In the camp.
MB: Yes. In Ravenwood the doctor lived in the camp.
RM: Now when did you start teaching?
MB: I started teaching in the fall of 1920. You see you could teach when you finished High School in those days. You took the Teacher's Examination. And if you passed it, then you could teach school. So I took the Teachers Examination, and I passed it, and then I went to Greeley. That was Colorado State Teachers College. All it did was teach people to teach.
RM: So you went to high school here in Walsenburg and then you went up there?
MB: Yes, then I taught two years in Ravenwood, then I finished in Greeley. I went three summers and then one whole school term and got my life certificate for Colorado. And at that time it was good in any state except New York and California. There I would have to take an examination. But otherwise it was good in any of the states, and then I taught 38 years right here in Walsenburg.
RM: Is that right, and what grades did you teach?
MB: I started in the fifth and one of the principals took the fifth grade. There were two fifth grades. He took the boys for manual training, and the girls went for sewing, and then I taught the sixth grade their spelling and penmanship and art. That's what I taught in the sixth grade for that period of time while he had my children over there. And that's when they started having programs, more programs in the class. The parents didn't care much for that. They felt the children were going short.
RM: They wanted them just to have the academics.
MB: The basic subjects. They put a stop to it a couple of times.
RM: Is that right?
MB: Those things do take time.
RM: The kids like them, don't they.
MB: Well, of course, they get away from their school work. They don't have to do their school work. They needed that, and they had a good school system here, too. And I taught school up here in the Hill Building and I went to school when I was a youngster in that Hill Building, and I came back and taught in that building in the room where I went to school, and I taught the fifth grade, then I got part of the sixth. Then I thought, well I'm going to try the fourth. I wanted the third. I knew there was going to be a vacancy so I asked for the third. They asked me to take the fourth. I said, “well, alright, I'll take the fourth”. And then later when they were having departmental work, the third grade was not going to have departmental work, and the fourth was, so I dropped from the fourth back to the third, where I didn't have the departmental work. And then from there I retired.
RM: So when did you retire?
MB: In 61, in May of 61.
RM: So did you enjoy teaching?
MB: Yes I loved teaching. But it was getting a little rough,
It's rough now. Yes, it is, and it was just beginning when I quit. When I retired, I could see what a change, a big change, even in the third grade.
RM: And' what would you say caused that?
RM: What caused those changes?
MB: Well, I think the people, I don't know, perhaps the war has had something to do with it World War I, you see, was over, and things had changed. There were more cars to go places and do things, and they went. And as there were more cars and more places to go, there was more trouble to get into. But I can remember going to Pueblo when they just had a shale road. You know those little small pieces of shale. It took two hours to drive to Pueblo. And just two lanes. One lane going and one coming. We were so pleased when we got the four lane. But if they hadn't gone in for those big buses, we would still have the railroad cars.
RM: Now what relatives do you have living in this area now?
MB: I have a niece and one sister-in-law and I had a cousin that was living over in Glenwood Springs. We were double first cousins. That's where these brothers married sisters see. She died the fourth of July this year. She was 96. And, of course, over there in the Glenwood area they had much mining over there too, you know, much mining. Because her husband was a carpenter, and they lived in the New Castle down there and some other places I heard her mention when they had coal. And she taught school in the camps there.
RM: Your family has been involved in one way or another in mining for a long time, haven' t they?
MB: But when she passed away, that was the last of the cousins. Now the lady that sent this package to me, she is the daughter of my first cousin. All the first cousins in Wales have passed away. And I am the last one of the first generation born in this country. Her folks had three children, and my folks raised three. And they're all gone.
RM: Now do you remember other stories that your father...
MB: You shut that off and I'll tell you a funny one. I don't want this on the tape.
(Tape turned off then resumed)
MB: My two brothers and I, and then there was two girls and a boy in the other family. And they're all gone. And my two brothers are gone, and I'm the only one now in the first generation, born in this country.
RM: When did your husband's family come?
MB: I don't know. They came from England, but I don't know just when they came because some of them fought in the Civil War.
RM: I see, so they were here a long time.
MB: They were here much longer than my family.
RM: And when did they come into this county, do you know that?
MB: Well, my husband came to this county. Let's see. He came to visit his sister a time or two. She lived here in Walsenburg. But he lived in Atchison, Kansas. Near Atchison is where he was born. And they just cane to visit, but then when he came, and he brought his wife when was in poor health, and he thought he'd bring her out here, and he'd stay with his sister, and he'd get work here, which he did. And they were only here three weeks when she passed away and they buried her in Atchison, Kansas, and then he came back to his job at the mill. That was the best job he'd ever had, he died.
RM: What mill was that?
MB: The CF&I mill in Pueblo.
RM: The steel mill.
MB: And he just stayed here, see.
RM: And do you know when he came?
MB: He came in '51. To stay.
RM: I see, So you met him here?
MB: I met him here. I was teaching the Bible Class when he and his sister came into the Church parlor for Sunday School.
RM: I see. And when were you married?
MB: In '52. And then at that time so may of the men were going to Pueblo to work at the mill and the depot.
RM: The Army depot.
MB: That was how many miles, 16 or 20 miles, isn't it, East of Pueblo?
RM: I think so.
MB: Something like that, and a good many of them went to the army depot to work. This place here, there were no mines, everything was going down, down. Now all of the young people have practically left.
RM: Well there's just so few jobs.
MB: That's right there's so few jobs here to do.
RM: You have to pretty much come up with your own employment.
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