Pueblo County, Colorado
Contributed by Jean Griesan.
Pueblo Chieftain 4-29-1917 – Woman's Long Journey Across the Plains in Sixty-Eight – Grandma Reywalt's Story of Perilous Trip to Pueblo Amid Indians and Other Dangers –
A sketch of the journey across the plains by 'Grandma' Mary Reywalt, who died in a Pueblo hospital a few days ago, was published in the Fowler Tribune and could very evidently have been extended to many columns with the arrival of the reader. Mrs. Reywalt was born in 1832 and her first husband was George Dotson.
“I came to Colorado from Lewisburg, W. Va., in 1868, making a considerable portion of the trip overland in a wagon. With my brother-in-law Peter Dotson, and other relatives, I left West Virginia on April 11, 1868. We did not arrive at the Peter Dotson ranch, near Beulah, until the 9th of May, and I shall never forget that memorable trip, and the many thrilling incidents which marked my advent into Colorado and the wild and woolly west. From Lewisburg, my native home, we went to Charleston, and thence by boat to Cincinnati. Here we took the train to Sheridan, Kan., which was some 500 miles east of here. At Sheridan we learned the Indians to the west were giving immigrants so much trouble we were forced to stay there for a number of days. There were eleven of us in the party and we had but one wagon. From Sheridan we finally joined an overland freighting caravan coming to Pueblo from Kansas City over the well worn trail. The road was as hard and smooth as a floor, and we could make fairly good time. Indians and buffalo were numerous at that time, and on more than one occasion we had to wait until a herd of buffalo had finished crossing the trail before we could proceed.
“When we were yet east of what is now the Colorado state line, my brother-in-law decided it would be safe to separate from the freighting party and proceed at a faster gait. We had not gone far, however, before two men on horseback came to our camp at 3 o'clock in the morning. They informed us that the Indians had stolen 25 cattle belonging to some immigrants, and they warned us to put out our camp fire and to be on the lookout for the red-skins. My brother-in-law, Uncle Jake Dotson, was a resident of Colorado, and of course, was more or less familiar with the country, the Indians and their habits. The rest of the party, however, were as green as gourds and we were badly frightened at the reports which came to us. We broke camp at once and our horses were urged forward, for we felt we had to make good time and get out of that particular neighborhood. We drove from that time until well into the afternoon, before we stopped to feed our horses, and to rest. Our stopping place was a furnished house, about which the only sign of life was some chickens. Later, when we were safely out of the neighborhood my uncle told us that the Indians had driven the people from the house and stolen their cattle. We stopped overnight at Jim Graham's along the river, near where Fowler is now located, and his was the first house I had the chance of sleeping in since we left West Virginia. We finally reached a point near Pueblo and from thence went to my uncle's ranch near Beulah, arriving there on my birthday anniversary. Pueblo, at that time, was a town of perhaps 800 inhabitants. It had no water system, and no improvements to speak of; there were no railroads entering Pueblo at that early day, nor for some time afterward.
“Uncle Jake Dotson had quite a cattle ranch near Beulah, with 2,000 head of cattle, 600 head of horses and some 800 head of hogs. He furnished Fort Lyon with meats. His house was a mere shanty, covered with clay and some slabs. I well remember my first impression of that typical western ranch house. How vastly different from the surroundings of my southern home! For six months I did not see a white woman, with the exception of my sister-in-law. Only Mexicans and Indians. Our nearest postoffice was Pueblo, some 35 miles distant, and at times we would not get mail oftener than once a month.
“I shall never forget my early experience with the Indians. They would frequently come to our house begging something to eat. There was a party of eight came soon after my coming to Colorado, and as my brother-in-law had told me never to turn them away, nor make them mad. I proceeded to get them something to eat. I prepared dinner, which I spread upon the table and asked them in. They seemed to hesitate and when at last they came in and sat down at the table I was horrified to see them pick up dishes and eat out of same, rather than take food off a plate. I was quite green, but soon learned never to invite them into the house. Afterward I merely handed food out at the door, which they could eat out of their hands.”
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