Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

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Joe and Etta Murray

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Dick Chenault
Date of Interview - 7-11-1979

Joe: My family came to Colorado in 1875. They came, from Philadelphia to mine around Silvercliff at Rosita and Guerida. I was born in Gardner at the Simm's place. My family moved to town in 1910. My dad bought the livery stable in Walsenburg. It was located on west 6th across from the Baptist Church. People stabled their horses there overnight when they came into town for supplies. My dad operated the livery stable for ten years. Then he bought a filling station. So he really had a filling station of one kind or another all that time.

Walsenburg was supported by the mining camps mostly. The railroad helped also. The trains paid taxes to the county to haul coal. I think that the coal will come back. Carter is supporting the idea of developing Colorado's coal resources. Every coal camp used to have a store, a post office and a school. All the stores in Walsenburg stayed open on Saturday night, and everyone came to town from the coal camps. There used to be three millinery stores. They only sold hats. There were four men's stores. Yes, Walsenburg used to be a pretty lively town in those days. We hate to drive by the old mine camps now and just see old foundations left. There used to be thousands of people living in those coal camps. The county was full of people then.

The population of Walsenburg itself has really remained about the same. It used to be about 60-65% Spanish, now it is about 75%. None of the Spanish people used to live above the railroad tracks, now they do. The Spanish and the Anglos have always gotten along well. The Spanish were here first. There were all kinds of nationalities working in the mines. There used to be three families of Negroes in Walsenburg.

The Wobblie Strike lasted the winter of 1913 and 1914. My uncle had a couple of bullets go through his house. The strike changed conditions somewhat. The strike was about working conditions in the mines, the number of hours a miner worked, salaries and safety conditions. Times have changed conditions, they use machines now instead of mules like they used to. Those mules never came here from Missouri in an ox team.

Etta Mae: Etta Mae arrived here in 1914. My mother had TB (they called it consumption in those days). My father worked at the Huerfano Trading Company, where Ben Franklins is now. He worked for Hudson Ingraham store in Gardner for one year, and we lived in Gardner then. I was born in Minnesota. My father moved the family here for my mother's health. My mother died here three years later at the age of 40.

Dr. Chapman told my father that if my mother lived past four years here, she would be okay, but she didn't make it. Dr. Chapman was a wonderful doctor and a wonderful man. His diagnosis was always right, and nobody ever questioned his diagnosis. Dr. Chapman drank a lot, but people would rather have him doctor them drunk, than another doctor sober.

The automobile has really changed things. People didn't travel much. There wasn't any TV, and people visited each other a lot. They'd have coffee and sandwiches. There were a lot of dances, and people would dance until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. There used to be traveling musicians who would play at the dances. Musicians used to play on the Street corners, and the crowds would swarm around and listen to them play. There used to be three theatres in Walsenburg, the Strand, the Star and another (Rialto). It cost 10 cents to go to the show. They were still pictures, and they had a player piano. All the coal camps had their own picture shows. The Churches were more active, and there were more Churches. There used to be a Christian Science Church. People used to play baseball, basketball and tennis. The two houses across the street used to be tennis courts.

Joe: We used to have water fights on Main Street. There was more wind, or we noticed it more because there wasn't any pavement. The winters used to be harder, and there was more water. Farming has turned into cattle grazing. People celebrated the same holidays. Individuals had their own fireworks on the 4th of July, and we would watch them from our porches.

Red Camp was a coal camp just past Walsen Camp; it was an all Negro coal camp. They had their own Church and School. The coal camps had their own club houses. The one at Walsen Camp had its own Bowling alley, and, they had dances at the coal camps. Turner had its own teacherage.

Kids didn't have the freedom they have today. They were raised in a stricter manner. Kids didn't go away from home, and they didn't have their own cars. It was a disgrace to go to Pueblo with, a boy in those days. Kids just couldn't go far without a car like they have today. It was generally stricter.

Neighbors were closer then. Each one does his own thing now. We used to be one big family. Now you hardly know your next door neighbor. People knew more of your troubles. In Gardner, neighbors came in and took care of you if you or someone was sick.

People usually got along. They didn't have the troubles that they have today. They would only go to court over land transfer, etc. People just had to learn to live with each other. Today nervous tension makes people have troubles.

The law took care of the few outlaws. Some outlaws robbed a pay truck going to the mines. The law caught them and took care of them.

It seems like younger children do bad things now, compared to before. It used to be older people killed each other, and there was not much of that. Kids used to have more responsibility, Joe milked the cows morning and night.

There used to be Country Schools. The county Superintendent of Schools, administered the schools all over the county. In Walsenburg the schools were much the same as the country schools. They had the 3R's before, and now they have sports, music, woodworking, mechanics, Home Ecc., etc. Etta, blames the parents for the condition of the children. Parents work now and aren't home. The women used to be in the home, they didn't work. The schools could only hire one member of the family at a time, so the women stayed at home. Women working has ruined the country.

The family across the street had seven kids, and none of those kids had a sled. They didn't have many toys, and the ones they had were made by members of the family. Those kids never lost their toys, and they had a good time with them. All of those kids turned out real good. That was a good family.

Etta Mae: Joe worked at the bank for 50 years. He retired in 1972. His parents talked about one time when the Indians stopped and wanted food when they came through Walsenburg.

Joe: Gypsies used to come through town. One time they stole one of Etta's chickens in 1915 or 1916. They told fortunes, and they dressed in satin full skirts with lots of colors. They liked gaudy clothes. They stole what they could. I don't know where the gypsies went, but they sure used to come through here.

Etta has lived in this house for 40 years, and she grew up in the house across the street.

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