Huerfano County, Colorado
Huerfano County Gen-Con 2001 Contributed by Karen Mitchell
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Scheduled activities were Talks and Tours throughout the week, with a picnic on July 4th.
Scheduled speakers were:
Judy Benine, Huerfano County Clerks Office,
Jim Slack, Romero Funeral Home,
Valeri Vecellio Kishman, Colorado Department of Health,
Carolyn Newman, Huerfano County Mining Museum,
Edie Sheldon, Huerfano County Commissioners Office,
Evelyn Lara Martinez, well known sculptress from Denver,
Shirley Jameson, Highway of Legends,
Nancy Godfrey Kozoriz, Genealogy and Graphics, Las Vegas, Nevada
The Agenda for the Conference was as follows:
Huerfano County Gen-Con 2001
Headquarters: Best Western Rambler, Conference Room.
3 pm to 6 pm Registration and official greeting, social hour.
8:30 to 9:00 Coffee and donuts at the Conference Room
9:00- 9:30 TALK Judy Benine, Huerfano County Clerk and Recorder.
10:00 to 10:30 TALK Jim Slack, Romero Funeral Home, Funeral Home Records
11:00 to 11:30 TALK Valerie Vecellio Kishman, Colorado Dept. of Health.
12:00 to 12:30 TALK Louise Sandoval, County Assessor.
12:30 to 1:30 LUNCH, on your own.
1:30 - 2:00 TALK Anne Lucero, Author of "Trujillos Creek".
2:00- 2:30 TALK Shirley Jameson, "Highway of Legends", Different
settlements along the Highway of Legends, pioneers, historic buildings.
3:00 Spanish Peaks Library, TALK at the Library.
6:00 pm TOUR to Redwing. Stop at Turner, Badito, Gardner, Redwing school,
8:30 to 9:00 Coffee and donuts at the Conference Room
9:00 to 10:00 am TALK at the Museum. Carolyn Newman of the Huerfano
County Mining Museum. Presentation of the
history of the Coal Mining era by "Mother Jones" and tour of the museum.
11:00 to 11:30 am TALK Edie Sheldon for Oris Deherrera, County
11:30 to 12:00 TALK Mary Ann Trujillo, St. Mary's Catholic Church.
12:00 to 1:00 LUNCH, on your own.
1:00 TALK Evelyn Lara Martinez. How to bring your family history alive
with a presentation in sculpture.
3:00 pm TALK Nancy Godfrey Kozoriz. Genealogy and Graphics. How to work
with photos in your genealogy collection.
6:00pm TOUR to Cucharas Junction. Stops at Cucharra Junction and Valdez.
12:00 to 6:00 Barbecue at La Veta Town Park.
5:00 TOUR Short walking tour of La Veta. On the way back from La Veta we
will take a detour up Bear Creek Road to Ideal Coal Camp. Stop at Cameron
8:30 to 9:00 Coffee and donuts at the Conference Room
9:00 to 12:00 County Coordinator, Karen Mitchell, general discussions or specific research
help. Research Day
8:30 to 9:00 Coffee and donuts at the Conference Room
Pre-Conference - As all of you know we have been gearing up for all of this
for almost a year and finally the time had arrived. It has been all over the
other Lists that this was going to be quite an historical event as this was
the first Conference for our County. Now folks, that can really put some
pressure on the organizer, let me tell you. I did what I thought was right
and just hoped it was.
In looking back through our List Archives I found one
message where I had said it would be nice to have a barbecue on July 4th of
2001. How did we get from a barbecue to a full fledged Conference??? (grin) I don't know what happened there, but whatever it was, I'm sure glad.
so excited to have the opportunity to meet some of my researchers, and renew
acquaintances with the ones I had already met. I was pretty worried about
presenting enough information for the researchers and just hoped that
everyone would be able to locate data they needed, have fun, and enjoy the
speakers I had set up.
I started loading the car on Friday and finally took
off for Walsenburg on Sunday. You should have seen my car, it was loaded
down! When I finally pulled out of the garage to head for Walsenburg, I sat
there for several minutes going through lists in my mind, hoping I hadn't
forgot anything. It felt like I had half the office with me. Actually I
looked forward to the half hour drive just so I could relax for a little
bit, knowing that the week ahead was going to be pretty hectic for me.
if anything can go wrong, you know it can with me. I got to Walsenburg and
unloaded my luggage to find that a bottle of Mylanta had opened and spilled
in my toiletries case. Good grief, what a mess (grin)! Just my luck! Took
awhile to clean that mess up, took a shower, and headed for the Best Western
About two weeks before the Conference I had sent a Press Release out to
about 8-9 newspapers. Unfortunately it was only ran once in the Huerfano
World on June 21st, and not at all in the Signature, the two newspapers in
the area. Lesson #1 - If you plan a Conference, pay for the ad, to make sure
it will get noticed. I had no clue that I should have done this, but now I
do. Had I known that it wouldn't be widely publicized I would have been
taking names, addresses, and phone numbers of all the people I had talked to
that wanted to know about it. I just took for granted that the community
would receive word through the newspapers. Mistake. Also, I would have
prepared flyers and rounded up some of the school kids to distribute them.
But as you know we were working on a small budget. There were flyers put up
around Walsenburg and La Veta, and as Jan had reported, some of them were
missing, but the ones at Safeway, Duckwalls, both libraries, and the
courthouse were still there.
Day one - Sunday 7-1-2001
The registration started at 3:00 and went very well. The first persons to
register was Bobbi Grove and Frances Martinez. Bobbi said I look just like I
write, bubbly and blonde. Blonde? Was that a compliment? (grin) Everyone was
so happy and cheerful. It was so great to finally get to put names to faces.
As we progressed, Geraldine Sporleder came and brought some books for us to
sell at the Conference. They were "Romance of The Spanish Peaks" by her
grandfather Louis Sporleder, and the 5 book sets of the "Territorial
Daughters of Southern Colorado". We have all talked about these books and I
still have some if you want to get them now. "Romance of the Spanish Peaks"
is $5.00 plus about a dollar for postage. "Territorial Daughters" is $25.00
for the 5 book set plus about $3.00 for postage. You can order them through
me OR from Geraldine Sporleder. Let me know if you want her address. And
what a lovely lady Geraldine is. She is from one of the pioneer families and
can tell you quite a bit about the history of the County.
Day two - Monday 7-2-2001
We started off the day at 8:30 am with coffee and donuts provided by the
Rambler. That was really nice of them. They set us up every morning we were
Our first speaker was Judy Benine, Huerfano County Clerk. She was very
informative and had all the answers we needed. Judy invited all of us to go
into her office at any time and do research. She also gave us a listing of
the Clerk's books that I hope to get posted on the web page.
Judy also owns
the Best Western Rambler. We were initially set up in a separate section of
the dining room but due to the diners it was a little too noisy. After her
talk she offered to move us into the Lounge, which didn't open till 5:00,
where we could close the doors and hear our speakers better. So the joke all
week was that we were just hanging out in the bar. But it worked out
perfectly for us. Judy told us that the earliest records they have are about
1869. But in Book 1 there are records recorded that refer back to the 1843
St. Vrain Land Grant. The Clerks office charges $1.25 per copy and $2.25 for
a certified copy. They also have 36x32" maps for $5.00. You can find the
address of the County Court house on our Directory Page. Since 1991 they
have been putting all of their books on CD's which will make for easier
accessing of records.
When our second speaker arrived, Jim Slack from Romero Funeral Home, I think
some of us were a little bit skeptical. But he proved to be a very dynamic
speaker and really shared some good information with us. When I got home I
immediately called my Mother to have her check on her pre-paid funeral plan
because Jim had told us that if we hold a pre-paid plan from the Lowen Group
or SCI that they are no longer good. The companies have gone bankrupt. Lowen
was the biggest pre-paid funeral company in the United States with SCI right
behind them. He reiterated to us that if we need a marker for an ancestor
that was a Veteran, we need to get a form from a funeral home and they will
request a marker, which is free from the government. Most generally a
replacement marker for your ancestors grave can be ordered with the most
inexpensive one being about $300.00 for what is called a slant and made out
of granite. Roselawn Cemetery in Pueblo started in 1889 but there is an
older one in the north part of town. In talking about re-interments he said that in most coffins
manufactured in the past 15 years there is a glass tube that slides into the
side of the coffin. In this glass tube is a scroll that gives the name and
vitals of the person in the coffin. This way they don't have to open the
coffin to verify who is in it.
The next speaker was Valerie Vecellio Kishman from the Colorado Department
of Health for Huerfano and Las Animas Counties. Valerie was a little bit
nervous because she had only been on her job for 2 months, but she did
really great. She brought us some maps of which states were considered open
record states and which were closed. In an open record state you can go in
and check the records yourself. Colorado is a closed records state so you
have to deal with the clerks and they will check the records for you. The
fee is $15.00 per request. They have birth and death records from 1900.
There are some earlier than that but those are very infrequent. For the
birth records, any County Health Dept. office can check them statewide but
for the deaths only the County that it occurred in can search them. She also
told us that if there is no birth record, with the proper proof they can
issue a letter for Social Security reasons etc. and told us how to apply for
a correction of the records when there is an error.
Our fourth speaker was supposed to be Louise Sandoval, Huerfano County
Assessor. Friday evening Louise called and had to cancel her talk due to
being short-handed in the office. So we took an early lunch break and just
Our first speaker for the afternoon was Anne Lucero, author of "Trujillos
Creek". Anne owns a Centennial farm in Trujillos Creek and used to be a
school teacher. She told us that there were about 20 families that lived in
the Arenoso area and that all of the outlying villages had train stops where
the people could board the train to come into town. She said Las Cucharas
was so named because the early Spanish settlers had found wooden spoons from
a prior civilization along the banks of the river. The community was started
in about the 1860's, then became a rail road community when the D&RG came
through. Anne reviewed her book and answered many questions for us.
Our sixth speaker of the day was our very own Shirley Jameson, from our
List, who gave us a talk on the Highway of Legends and gave us little
booklets about each stop along the way. Shirley had really done her homework
for this talk and it was very interesting. Shirley and her husband have done
a lot of work on the Highway of Legends project. As she led us through the
booklet she told us why each place was significant, and gave us more
information on each of them. The Highway of Legends goes from I-25 at
Walsenburg, up Hwy. 160, through La Veta on Hwy 12 and drops back down to
I-25 at Trinidad, a round trip of 120 miles.
After Shirley's talk we all convened to the Library where we were supposed
to get an Orientation from the staff on the Resources available there. When
we got there, the director told me to go ahead and give it (which I wasn't
prepared for) and I did the best I could on a moments notice. Then
everyone went their separate ways to pursue their own research.
At 6:00 pm we met back at the Rambler to go on our tour to Redwing. We
stopped at the Gordon Mine, Turner, Badito, Farisita, Gardner, Malachite and
Redwing. You should have heard Shalane and Ilene whooping it up at the
Redwing cemetery when they found some graves they were looking for. And
Shalane looked so cute in her shorts and cowboy boots!
We finally made it back to Walsenburg about 8:30 and most everyone was
pretty well worn out from the event filled day. WHEW! That was a long day!
Day three - Tuesday 7-3-2001
On Tuesday morning we started off with our coffee and donuts again and then
went to the Mining Museum for a tour. We stood outside visiting until 9:30,
then called Carolyn. Poor thing, she thought our tour was at 11:00 instead
of 9:00. But she rushed right down and had us in, in just a matter of
minutes. Small towns are wonderful for just calling someone up and they just
come on down. Carolyn used to be a teacher at the high school and is very
well known by everyone in the community. She is very knowledgeable about the
coal mining era of the County. Carolyn gave a talk and showed us some of the
mining gear then let everyone wander around the Museum. Jessie Todd was so
excited because she found her Dad in one of the photos there. Richard Cruz
stood in the entrance of one of the jail cells and we got his picture
because his Grandfather was in that jail at one time. It was fun. Our
researchers purchased quite a few of the booklets, etc. from the Museum.
At 11:00 Oris Deherrera, Huerfano County Commissioner was supposed to give
us a talk but he had to cancel and asked Edie Sheldon to take his place.
What a joy she was! She is the daughter of Jeanette Violet Faris Thatch, the
lady that Farisita was named for. She told us that there has been people in
the Huerfano County since man came over the Bering Strait and that
prehistoric remains have been found above Gardner. Edie really entertained
us with stories of the mischief her four Uncles used to get into. During the
smallpox epidemic they all came down with the disease so they were secluded
in a bedroom away from the rest of the people. At the end of their
confinement there was not a scrap of furniture or piece of linen in that
room that was still intact. Another time they snuck into the Morada during a
Penitente service. Once the people were all in, the building was closed and
sealed for the night. The little boys set off stink bombs and threw itching
powder all over. Sounds like they were quite the rascals alright! Edie told
us that most people acquired their land by occupancy meaning they were
squatters. She also told us about the settlement of the Upper Huerfano
Valley meaning Malachite, Redwing, Gardner, Chama, Farisita, and Talpa.
The next speaker was to be Mary Ann Trujillo from St. May's Church who wasn't able to attend.
Then came Evelyn Lara Martinez who gave us a sculpture presentation on the
leather sculptures she has made to represent the different people and era's
When I first talked to Evelyn I thought she was going to be
bringing in little leather dolls about 6 - 8 inches tall. Boy was I in for a
surprise! Some of these sculptures are almost 3 feet tall. I was truly
amazed at what she has created. The authenticity and beauty of these are
really hard to describe. She showed us the sculptures starting with the
first Conquistador and down through her Grandmother and herself. She had a
sculpture representing the miner as well as one of the Spanish Saint. At the
end of the talk she told us about her grand daughter's fight with cancer and
unveiled the sculpture she had done of the Santuario in New Mexico where
they had gone to pray for her grand daughter. She has dedicated this
sculpture to her grand daughter. Evelyn also gave each one of us a small Ojo
de Dios, or Eye of God, to place with our research to bring us luck.
The next speaker on the Agenda was our very own Nancy Godfrey - Kozoriz.
Nancy was to show us how to work with photos in our research work and boy
did she put on a presentation. We learned how to put text on photos and how
to insert or remove objects from a photo. She gave us several hand outs to
bring home with further instructions.
Then her and hubby, Kevin, started
showing us their "toys". Of course Nancy has a super laptop computer that
any of us would love to have but then she showed us her portable scanner. It's about 4 inches wide and 7 inches long that you can just take the cover
off of and lie it on a page and scan it in.
Then Kevin showed us a small,
flat, black case. As he opened it, he started folding out the various
sections and it was a full sized computer keyboard but without the
thickness. To this he plugged in a Palm Pilot and showed us how it worked,
just like a full sized computer. You wouldn't believe these things.
Nancy and Kevin are referred to as "the electronic people". Kevin said they
have all these neat toys because they don't have kids (very big grin). If
any of you have questions about computers, gadgets and digital cameras, talk
to Nancy and Kevin. They are so knowledgeable about this stuff.
At 6:00 pm we once again gathered together to take a tour out east. We
stopped at the road where Cuchara Junction Cemetery is, but beings the
cemetery itself is a little ways back in there we didn't go there. Then we
stopped at what was once the Cuchara Junction community. It was kind of sad
to see that the old school is being renovated into a residence. I'm glad I
got a picture of it last year before the work started. Then we went on up
the road to the Valdez cemetery and walked around there for awhile looking
at the old stones. It was a short tour and Shalane had not seen St. Mary's
South cemetery yet so we came back to Walsenburg and went there. We walked
around the cemetery for awhile and talked about the various stones and
finally had to leave when the caretaker was waiting to lock the gates.
Day four - Wednesday 7-4-2001
We had our picnic at the beautiful and comfortable La Veta Park. Shalane and
Richard had gone up on Tuesday and put out our RESERVED signs. Almost
everyone was there when I arrived with the food.
Louise and Susan showed up
to share the picnic with us too on their 5 week trek across the country for
research. Louise presented me with a beautiful bouquet of red carnations for
appreciation. What a thoughtful gesture that was!
We had the majority of the
food catered and it really was very tasty. We had sliced beef briskit with
barbecue sauce, barbecued chicken, baked beans, potato salad, and coleslaw.
I brought some chips and some of that salsa I canned last summer. Ilene
brought tortilla chips and buns. She also had to pick up some large serving
spoons because I forgot them.
During the meal we all sat around visiting
and discussing. Afterwards everyone took off on foot to explore the little
town of La Veta. And oh yes, we had an uninvited guest show up at the park.
As we sat there visiting, a beautiful deer came prancing through the park.
That was pretty neat.
We also tried to get the "traditional pictures" of
each couple. You know the ones where the man is always seated and the lady
is standing with her hand on his shoulder.
After the picnic Shalane and Richard, Sherry and Wilbur, and I took off for
a tour up Bear Creek and on over to Ideal.
But first we decided that beings
Shalane wanted to find the Oakview Cemetery we would go there first. We
went up above La Veta and found the cemetery and they were able to see the
gun turrets above the area that were for the coal mine.
At this point I have
to tell you that Sherry collects rocks. Yep, rocks. I got a pretty good
picture of her coming up the road carrying a chunk of slate from the Oakview
mine. She was especially happy she had done so, because the next day she met
a cousin and was told that her own Grandfather had worked in that mine. She
also found a rock with a fossilized leaf in it.
Then we all went back down
to Walsenburg and out Bear Creek Road. We got as far as Bear Creek and the
school when Shalane and Richard turned around, they were pretty tired. But
poor Wilbur and Sherry hung in there. Boy did I take them for a ride! We
drove forEVER! I told them it was the scenic route! (grin)
We were about 13
miles out Bear Creek road when I realized we had missed the turn to go over
to Ideal. The road kept getting narrower and narrower. I finally flagged
down a pick up and met Randy and Nina Sprague who got us turned around and
led us right to the turn off. I thought that was the right one, but someone
had posted a Private Property sign on the fence. The Sprague's were really
nice to lead us right to it.
On the way down we saw a baby fawn on the road.
So we drove and drove and finally got to the Ideal Coal Camp and Sherry was
able to get pictures there.
We finally got back to Walsenburg at 8:15. I
then went up to Lathrop State Park and met up with some of our people to
watch the fireworks. It was real nice, but made for a real long day.
Day 5 & 6 Thursday 7-5-2001 Friday 7-6-2001
Both days we again met for coffee and donuts. It was so nice to sit and
visit one on one and help each other. These days were reserved for everyone
to take off and do their personal research, but I remained on-call for
anyone that needed help.
Friday morning almost everyone reported in that
they had found something on their ancestors. Thursday morning I spent at the
library, where unfortunately I ended up getting ill and had to go lie down.
After a good rest I was back at it on Friday and spent quite a bit of time
at the courthouse with Ilene.
We were going through the old books and
decided to start indexing them as we went. I finished indexing Book 1 where
I found some very interesting material and a few more marriages. Ilene was
working on Book 3 when I left.
Day 7, Saturday 7-7-2001
Everyone had headed for home by Saturday or were in the process of leaving,
so I loaded up and headed home also. It was nice to be home again but boy
was it QUIET here. I had wished I had snagged some of the researchers and
brought them home with me. (grin) For me, it was a long fast week but I
truly enjoyed it and hope the rest of the participants did also. I'm sorry
the rest of you had to miss it.
Now that the Conference is over I would like to share some thoughts with
you. Of course, as with anything, we have to reflect on what we have learned
along the way.
The lessons I learned were this:
1. Always pay for an ad so that the public will be informed about the
Conference. We had no local participants, other than the speakers, and I
think it was simply because they didn't know about it. I have spoken to a
few people since then that said they would have loved to have come had they
2. Don't plan a Conference is July. It was so hot all week that I think
everyone was wilting. Friday it hit 103 in Walsenburg. I would suggest June
or September even if you have to deal with Mother Nature and the rain
3. Ask for pre-registration to be sent in prior to the event so you have a
better idea of how many people you will be hosting.
4. Make sure the cap is tight on the bottle of Mylanta BEFORE you toss it in
the bag! (grin)
Unfortunately, Jessie wasn't able to make it to the talks so was unable to
record for us. I took one of my recorders but as luck would have it, the
darn thing wouldn't work. So there I was with 20 cassettes and nothing to
record on. Nancy was able to video some of the talks and is going to try to
put the recorded parts of the Conference onto a CD so you will want to watch
for that announcement.
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© Karen Mitchell