Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews
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Stella Harrison

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Typed and Edited by Phyllis Miranda
Interviewed by Roselayn McCain
Date of Interview - 10-17-1979

Stella Harrison
Date of birth - 4-11-1897
Parents - David Harrison Clark and Loretta Bailey Clark
Paternal grandparetns- Thomas Clark and Mary Magdalene Mitchell Clark
Maternal grandparents - John Bailey and Mary Ward Bailey
Ethnic group - English, Irish
Family origin - Tennessee
Date of family arrival in county - 1900
Location of first family settlement - La Veta
Kinship ties - nephew Marvin Clark; other children and relatives in Pueblo, Denver, Castle Rock, Washington, Florida, Massachusetts

RM: So when did your family first come to Huerfano County?

SH: I think it was in January, 1900, when he came, and we didn't come until…it was still in 1900. Then he worked at the sawmills all along. Got the house built, and it wasn't too long after that, I don't remember, that he went to work on the railroad, and stayed there up until he retired.

RM: And he came here from Tennessee?

SH: Yeah.

RM: How did they hear about this area? How did they happen to come here?

SH: Well, this Ken Curley family, like I was telling you, they were ranchers here. They live over here where Malinas live…they own all that. And it was this Schmidt, their daughter, Herman's daughter, married a Schmidt from Tennessee but I don't know how. I don't know the connection. They were from North Carolina, the Crumleys were and where they got together down in that part of the country I don't know. Whether Schmidt met her then and married her, but…I never really did ask them. But they were here when we came here. Because we lived in a shack way down below their place, down there. There wasn't any places around here hardly to build anyway. And there was a shack down there. We didn't have any money anyway, enough to put in, so we just boarded up in that till we got the house built. But that's the way everybody did in those days. They didn't have any money and they did the best they could, and I guess it was good that they could have that foresight to go ahead and see…that they wanted to stay there, that it was good enough country to live in and make a living in. And that was the reason they left down there. I know my dad used to say that he got tired of being paid corn and squash all the time and maybe a quarter a week. know, that sounds kind of funny but at the same time, it's true. It took him quite a little while. I think a dollar a day was all they were paying in this lumber when he started out here. He thought that sounded like a lot of money. Anyway, he had saved for us to come out here on the train. But we noticed here in LaVeta though, things built up. I don't know, I can't remember about the coal mines, but they did start. And everything kind of was at a good working point around here for a long time. Used to be a bank and a bakery and several stores and picture shows and oh, a lot of things going on. And two mines, Ojo and Oakview going full blast, brought a lot of people up there. And like I say we had the train in here and helpers, and I think farming is something we need but it has always been kind of the poor thing. You work your head off and you get the least paid. I mean, it's that type…almost as bad as it is now. But you know, if you know anything about a farm, it's that way, too. But we have always had farmers around here, but more cattle than anything. Cause it isn't hay country, not too much. It's more cattle country. I don't know. At one time we had a hospital and two or three doctors here. So as time went on things kind of picked up and it hasn't been too bad. Anyway, it's been good enough for me or I would leave it. But I knew I would come back. I've been a lot of places, but something about this valley and the Spanish Peaks and everything just holds you.

RM: That's right. Do you want to talk a little bit about how your family started out when they came here with virtually nothing and how they managed to build a house?

SH: Well, yes, they bought this lot over here and started out. We did start out with nothing, that was for sure, because we didn't have anything to bring. I remember we still have, I think it's in our family yet, this big old bread basket that my mother brought the lunch in when we were on the train, because it's three of us kids, I got a sister and a brother, and…we had to have something to eat on the train. We brought that. But anyway, we lived in that shack down below the Curley ranch and then we started on this and soon as we got this stand we got into it and then probably a year or two we got another room built on, a bedroom, and oh, I don't know. He stayed with the sawmill probably for three years when we first come, before he got on. That's when the round house was here, see.

RM: So what was his job on the railroad?

SH: Fireman. He stoked the fire. And then he retired and just took a job down here at the round house. Then they turn a turntable down here. They had to turn the engines by hand, turn back around when they come down. They'd push this turntable. Nowadays you push a button. When business was poor I know he went up to this coal mine, old Billy Abson's coal mine and he dug coal there for a while. He, he never ran out of work. He always found something to do. When you're handy and can do, why…and will do, you can always get work. So we never starved. We always had plenty after we got out here. We thought it was plenty. It was so much more than we had ever been used to. We were happy with it. Then finally he retired after all those years, about 25 or 30 years. No, it was more than that on the railroad. It was about 35 years, on the railroad. And then us kids loved to…we walked to up here to this little old building that's torn down now. We walked. Snow. Nobody to make a path for you. You had to make your own. But we didn't mind it. We thought that was life. Which it was at that time. And then like I say, too, that our winters, we did have full winters here. Because one time, I don't remember the year, but when we had this old ice house up here, we put up this ice 24 inches thick, big cakes of ices, that's before anybody had refrigeration and they delivered ice in the summertime. And then I can't remember what year it was, but when we had electric lights for the Fourth of July one time, and they took this old mill house up here, where the old mill was, and put those, all those things in there and made electric.

RM: Uh-huh. So they used the mill to generate electricity.

SH: Uh-huh, and used that old mill water. And that was our first night when we had street lights, one Fourth of July. We always celebrated it, when we had our first lights.

RM: How exciting that would have been.

SH: Yes, and here we had one hanging down, a light in our house, you know. A string hanging down. And then I can't remember, the appliances come along so much later. I guess you forget. I didn't think too much about that. We was tickled with lights. We never knew, we never thought of doing anything else with it.

RM: Just for lights, because that was a big thing.

SH: Yes, it sure was. Anyway, time has progressed. And then the first car my dad had was an old hubmobile. Oh, and we thought we was so wealthy when we has a hubmobile. Oh, dear, that's funny.

RM: So what kind of transportation did you have before you had the car?

SH: We walked. We didn't have any.

RM: You didn't have horses at all?

SH: No, we didn't. Then when we, after my sister, in 1906, 1907 my sister married and moved to Alamosa. And the train, the passenger train used to come through here, get in here 12:30 at night and 3 o' clock in the morning go back to Alamosa that way. And we'd catch a train and go over there and see her. We were always so excited when we got to ride on a train. So that was how we got over there and back here. And when everybody began to get cars, why they, my sister was going to get one. I remember the first time we ever went in it, we went fishing. Well, I think we has to fish and hunt and do one thing and another to help live. Cause I know we used to eat lots of rabbits. Wild rabbits. My dad used to kill them. And then we had fish and deer and of course always raised gardens. My folks knew how to do that. Kind of strange to look back and see the things you didn't have. And what the waste that goes in our country now. When there was nothing we threw away. Our old clothes, we took care of everything. But time changes everything. It's good it does. But it's good…like I say, I am so thankful I had that kind of living and raising, because being left like I am now, if I didn't I wouldn't know how to survive. And now it gets on my nerves to see people being extravagant and want this and want that cause I didn't have it and you can get along without it. You don't have to have it all. Anyway, we all got in church. We went to the Baptist church, and I never will forget when my mother was baptized down at the creek here and can't remember I think it was Woods was the preacher that did it. She didn't have us baptized. I don't know why. We went to the Baptist Church anyway. We didn't know you had to be baptized. I belong to a different church now, but what I learned in the Baptist Church, not being baptized or anything, is my religion yet. It's like, like I say about this old time religion, you don't get away from it. And I wish there was more of it than all this new stuff. This here digging out. You don't understand it anyway, so you might as well go back…to the old ways. The old fashioned values, simpler ways of living.

SH: What do you see as some of the changes in the roles of women?

RM: Well, I can't say here you see much, but if you do go away, you see they do different and in every way they have a new life in the city. The time is here now that women think they know as much as man, which I kind of think they do and some of them more. And I think that you'll never keep them down now. The time is here now that they are going to walk right over all the man and the same way in our church. I just feel terrible, but the bishop did put them in their place. They're not going to let them be priests, which I hope they don't. I don't think they should. I still think the man is the head of the home and the man of the house and one thing and another and I still think that God intended for him to be the minister and the preacher and the priest. So I am thankful that the Pope got them told off. But we are having trouble in our church. Same thing. In the Espiscopal Church. But anyway, we are not going to let them be priests, because I still think, and I wish there was more people that really understood the old time way of it instead of this younger generation, which as smart as they are, they get some kind of another interpretation of the Bible that changes and I think that's what causes all these problems. These smarter guys have put this religion in where they can work it in with money and everything and skin everybody and talk and get them all hepped about this. Heavens, they've given their money and their house and everything else. But they're not going to do that to me. I'm too old for that. But like that last deal that happened in that country and killed all the people. And look at all the people that lost their heads and had given their homes and all their money and everything. You know, there's something the matter with some kind of religion or it wouldn't affect you that way. You either get too much of one thing or not enough of the other. I don't know which.

RM: That's right.

SH: But I do think the time will come when women are going to shove man around. But it's the men's fault. They won't let them stand on their own two feet. That's what God made them for. Because they can take anybody's place right now. But I do think that things are now, that people have worked themselves up to two incomes to live. I think that's what has made them the way they are, too. Because they had found out they have got to get out and do something theirselves. Because as high as everything is, one salary does not take care of it, especially when there's children in school and everything like that. And when these dear little children have to have a new outfit every morning and a different outfit everyday to keep up with the rest of the Joneses, why, the money's got to come from somewhere.

RM: How do you think the lives of our children have changed? What are the differences with kids growing up now and then?

SH: Well, I been around my grandchildren and everything, I don't know. I look and think, well, is it their fault or their parents' fault? I do think parents give in to get along. And the kids are smarter than the parents or they wouldn't ask them what they ask for. Because they kind of hold it over them and they've got to give in to the kids to get along with the kids and then they can't get along with them. But I don't know. I love my grandchildren and everything like that. Because I think I has my foot down before it ever started. I think that was the only reason. And then I didn't know any different. I mean I didn't know. And I don't think you should. I think that children are smart, and they are smart in a different way then we were, but when you came down to it, half of these children in school can't read or write. So where is the smart. I don't know. I am awfully glad I don't have this to go through with, because I am afraid I wouldn't get along. Because I started my kids out like I was started out. And I didn't have any trouble. But today, it really is different. But really, I kind of think…I don't know what they ought to do, but I couldn't stand it, if I was a parent. I just couldn't. Because I can't see…now like I tell my daughter about her girl in high school, I tell her, “Hell, it's your own fault, when you go to buying clothes for her that's she's got to have such a wardrobe that she's got to have something new and be the best dressed girl in school.” And I said, “Why don't you send her to school to learn something, instead of being a model or something. Let her when she gets through school tell her to dress up and go be like she wants to be. But get her through school.” But you don't tell those kids that. I'll tell you one thing that gets on my nerves is when they all come to see me and turn all the lights on in the house and have all the water running in the house and everybody has to have a bath every day, run the bathtub over and turn the hot water heater up, boys and all, everybody has to wash their hair. They got two or three blowers going in there. That's what gets on my nerves, cause I don't have that kind of money. I save to pay out every month, even. So I don't have to borrow or worry about my bills. But really, when they come it is just…they don't come too often but they do run the bill up about $%, the light bill around $5. And if anybody goes in there to read, they got to turn the light on for them and turn the light off. And every time they go to the bathroom the light's on. And it's no wonder that two people have to make a living because it is management of the kids right in the home, right there. And that's bad for children to learn, right there.

RM: Do you remember stories, or do you remember anything about outlaws in the area?

SH: No, I've heard a lot of stories but won't repeat 'em cause I don't know how true that was. You know you hear a lot of stories. I never seen anything or heard anything…course, when we were young. We weren't allowed to go out nights like they do, you know, and we had no radio or no way of finding out unless somebody just come and told us or something like that. It was different.

RM: Uh-huh. What did people do for entertainment?

SH: We, well, I tell you, after we got the lights, come 9 o'clock, he'd be in bed afore that and he'd yell at everybody, “Everybody turn out the lights and go to bed.” But, oh, we might do something with our books. My mother, well, she helped us more than my dad. My dad, he was kind of an early riser and early to go to bed. He always thought that was his place and get his rest and my mother was always poking around helping us kids, reading to us or helping us. We were really close to her than we were to my dad, but my dad was good and he did his part and at that time it was his part, making a living and he was tired and went to bed. Now everybody says everybody's got their own room and own. T .V. and it is real pleasant. Oh, that's funny though, to look back and think how dumb we were and these kids come along and outsmart us.

RM: How about cooperation between neighbors?

SH: You know, long years ago, I think people were nicer to each other than they are today. Now we used to, every Sunday, some family in town would come to our house for Sunday dinner and we had the nicest big dinner and then we would go to their house maybe the next Sunday or have somebody else and people if you were sick or anything. Now I just find that people are good to me in a lot of ways, cause they know I am alone and I have this darn arthritis and I am not too good. But there was something in the olden days that the whole families were invited. It wasn't just one or two. We used to do, that, but I have often told Ozzie about that, how we used to do, whole families would come and us kids would play. Seems funny nowadays, you have to be invited, a week or so, and kind of be formal like. And I always think now how we served dinner. I think the folks, we just had lots to eat. Cause we always had cake and pie both, and nowadays if you have one you don't have the other. But it is funny the way we ate. My mother was an awful good cook, anyway and she'd cook the best chicken and dumplings or chicken and dressing and we used to have lots of people in. And the Jewwls that used to live here. They had three or four kids and we always liked each other in school and then the Crawfords were from the South and she and my mother were very good friends. Always on a Sunday, though we always went someplace or had somebody after church. We'd go to church or go to Sunday school and then go to somebody's house and eat. And it was fun. But anyhow, people eat out, like they go to the hotel. They don't stop to have this big dinner at the house. They invite you to dinner. They invite you to Castle Hill for supper. Yeah, we were, I think…I don't know what it was, but there was a better feeling about people. Cause now, I think though, that maybe money makes some of 'em…oh, you know, sometimes the dollar does puff people up and makes them a little smarter or think they are. Got more than you have, so…but at that time everybody was out at the same classroom there but nobody had any more than the other one and that's the reason they could help the other one. Which was good.

RM: How about holidays. What holidays were celebrated?

SH: Well, I think that as much as I remember Christmas was more so than anything else. We always had Easter eggs and I never will forget my mother always pickled eggs, fixed beets, and pickled beets and then she boiled eggs and peeled them and put them in that to make them get red, you know, and…I do that. Cause she did it for Easter. And that's the way we did. I can't remember. We did color eggs, but I can't remember about the coloring. It probably was pinks and red or yellow or something. It wasn't much in those days. But Christmas was our biggest day. We always had a tree. We didn't have anything on it, but we had a tree. But we did have a few candles at that time. And…I never will forget that one time I got a doll and my mother said, “Santa Claus come down the chimney.” And I used to sit and look at that chimney and wonder how. But when I saw that doll in my stocking, I wondered. And she said, “Because Santa Claus come down the chimney,” and I used to think how on earth did he come down the chimney. I don't know if kids are that innocent now days.

RM: I don't either. They have television.

SH: No, they don't think there is a Santa Claus now. We really did. We thought really that man was real and he did come down. Just try to make them believe it now.

RM: And did they have church programs for Christmas?

SH: Yes, they did. Uh-huh. They had church programs. And would families get together for Christmas dinners, or would that just be one family? We never had, only our family, because we felt it was more of a family day. And then like I say, when we come from Tennessee there was my dad and my mother and three of us so, then in later years my mother had another boy. I am the only one left now. And I has this nephew of mine over here and his mother and dad are gone. We'd get together and talk about all these old things. Dad used to drink a lot. He was the funniest, craziest guy. You couldn't get mad at him.

RM: That's a good parent to have.

SH: Yes, if you are going to do that.

RM: How about medical care? Were there doctors here then?

SH: Yeah, uh-huh. We had an old doctor, old doctor Roberts here. And then later old Doc Ryan, he was an old drunk but he was pretty good doctor when he was sober. Doctor Roberts and in later years when they had that mine and everything up here the two Lammes were here and they were good doctors, both of them, Dr. Julian and Dr. Jim. And then we had Dr. Dennis Wilburn, I think some of his relations live at Gardner. Dr. Wilburn was here for a long time.

RM: How about home remedies, do you remember home remedies that people used?

SH: Oh, yes, every time we ever got a bee sting one of the kids would say, “Put sody on it Grandma. Put sody on it.” I never will forget that. My son got stung by a bee one time and he was yelling out, 'Put sody on it, Grandma.” And we used to, oh, we used a lot of old stuff that people would think you's crazy if you told 'em now. When us kids had the croup, Ma used to put…we called my mother Ma and Pa…she d put a wet wash rag around our throat, cold rag. Cured us up right now. And of course we doctored a lot with Mentholatum, and I think bear oil and all that kind of stuff. We didn't have a great lot, but we did have mentholatum, which is a big help. And then my dad used to get us this sage and make sage tea, and that's good for you. But what was that old horse liniment that we used to use? Some kind of old, I know they call it horse liniment, that we used to use. Japanese oil, that burnt like the devil but it sure did help. Honey and vinegar, that's for cough. Those were the days.

RM: What was the countryside like here when you were growing up?

SH: Well, I don't know. To me, it's always been so beautiful that I loved it and I can't never get anything else out because it hasn't changed too much. The town hasn't improved. It has to tear down the old part of it anyways. And we still have paths and no sidewalks and all that stuff…I hope we never have anymore people than we've got in here now. That might sound mean, but I don't know, people are kind of funny nowadays anyway. They don't take care of anything. And we surely don't need any better than what we've got out there. And the people that have bought in here, I don't think take care of it as good as the people that sold to them. There's something about people that's being kind of…well, it's just like our trash. It don't bother a lot of people, and I don't know where they get it. Everybody's been taught. Even at home they've been taught to pick up and hang up and one thing and another but you wouldn't know on the street sometime when you are out. I think it will always be here. Because we are always going to have this kind of people that care or don't care. And then think, “Well I'll just put it there. Let them pick it up.” I went down here to this park every day and cleaned it up and brought it home in a sack. Makes you so mad. Go back and find the same thing every day. But I don't know you break people. I don't know how you do it, it's just within you, if you want it cleaned up you won't throw it down in the first place. But kids are careless. And they have to be told. I mean they have to be brought up with the idea that it is careless and they shouldn't do it. And I think that's the reason you'll drive along the highway and people will have a cup or something and they'll throw it out. It's terrible. But I don't know, they don't want it in the car, so they throw it on the highway educating people to do things, because like I said, it's within you. If you want things clean, you clean them, and if you don't want them clean, you don't. Somebody come in here the other day and said, “Do you cook on this stove?” And I said, “What do you think I've got it for?” They said, “Well, it's so clean, don't look like you cook on it.” I said, “Well, I'd sure hate to cook on a dirty one.” But you know it is funny how people are. And if you get in the habit of washing things and cleaning up, why, you kind of expect to go outside and it's the same way.

RM: What do you use on the top of your stove?

SH: Well, I told my friend yesterday, we went to Walsenburg, and she wanted to know how I got that stove so clean, and I use scouring pads. That's all it takes. Now that stove, I enjoy cleaning, but I don't have the strength to stand and work up under it. I use the pressure cooker. That pilot is up in there. It needs cleaning. But my daughter cleans it for me. My hands are bad. I can't do that. But I can scrub on top of this.

RM: So where do your relatives live now?

SH: Well, I have a son in Washington State. That's near British Columbia. He's got a ranch. And I got a son in Florida that I went to visit last winter. And he's with Bull Creek out there. And I got a daughter in Massachusetts, and I got a daughter in Pueblo. Her husband is with the CF&I. And then I've got this daughter in Denver. She's got 5 kids, three girls and two boys. But anyway, this daughter in Denver, her husband is retiring the first of November and she retired the first of August and they got a mobile home and we are going on a trip next month. I don't know where we are going. They have been to Arizona so much they don't want to go there and they don't like California and they just had that earthquake out there, so I don't…my brother in law don't like it out there anyway. I think we will go down to Texas first. But I've got a daughter living out in Massachusetts and her husband is with the missile outfit, and he's in the computer business now. And they sent him back to El Paso for about 4 months doing something. The one in Florida he's been in a brokerage house a long time. And he's 56 years old. This daughter in Denver is 62. The one in Washington is 54. And they've all got kids and grandkids. Lots of trouble. This one in Florida isn't married, never did marry, so he is the lucky one. But anyway…I've been here about 30 years by myself. I worked here. I started the lunch program for the school house and then I did other work and helped some folks. And I got a job in Charlie's store so I'd get social security. You know you got to get in on something to make a living now days. So I worked down there till I was 65. But you know I am sorry I quit work. I think if you can work, I think it's good for you.

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