Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

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Francis A. Lillis Kirkpatrick

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Dick Chenault
Interviewed by Roselyn McCain and Casey Cason
Date of Interview - 10-24-1979

Francis A. Lillis Kirkpatrick
Date of birth - 7-4-1890
Parents - Michael Kirkpatrick and Mary Donavan Lillis
Paternal grandparents - Henry Kirkpatrick and Agnes Lamme
Maternal grandparents - David Daniel Donavan
Ethnic group - Irish and Scottish
Family origin - Missouri
Date of family arrival in county - 1895
Location of first family settlement - 7th Street in Walsenburg
Kinship ties - Lamme; Dick; Merritt's in Denver
Husband - John Kirkpatrick born 11-12-1878

Casey Cason and Rosalyn McCain are in the home of Mrs. Frances Kirkpatrick. Her two daughters are here also for the interview. They are Frances Merritt from Denver and Georgia Sale from Danville, California.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick has sold her house after falling and breaking her hip. She is packing her things up with the help of her two daughters. She will be moving to Denver to live with her daughter Frances Merritt, until she recovers from her hip injury.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick does not want to have this interview recorded, so we are taking notes. Her full name is Frances Lillis Kirkpatrick. Her family was from Ireland. She was born in Missouri. She is a very independent lady. The family tells the story of her scandalizing Walsenburg when she came to live with her sister, because she wore cullottes and rode her own horse. She was born in Independence, Missouri on Independence Day. Her grandfather was in the cattle business. Her paternal grandfather was David Danvill Donovan. He ran his own cattle in land he kept in Ireland and shipped them abroad. In this way he became established in the States. Abraham Lincoln was her grandfather's attorney.

FK: My sister is Margaret Lillis. She married Bill Dick, so he is my brother-in-law. Bill Dick owned the stores in the coal camps. The mines were going good. He owned the Huerfano Trading Company. He married my sister Margaret. When she had her first baby, she had a kidney operation, so I came out to help her at Rouse. I met John Kirkpatrick there. He was working for my brother-in-law Bill Dick. The family always kidded and said that he didn't have any choice but to marry me because I was his boss's sister-in-law.

One day Bill Dick said to John Kirkpatrick., “John, I'll be late, but you go and cash the checks.” They had a $15,000 payroll for one mine. He (Bill Dick) was taking the payroll to the mine when he was shot and killed.

It was just luck that it was him and not John. He owned the company stores. They were big department stores. They had meat, groceries, dry goods, and a post office.

When my son was 15, he relieved the managers for their vacations in the summer. He sent in reports just like the managers did for the post offices and everything. I had five children. I have 16 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

GS: My father was from Ottumwa, Iowa which is near Kirkville, Iowa was the family's original home. It was founded by Kirkpatricks. My father was the DuPont man in the area. Westinghouse bought out the Huerfano Trading Company. He built the golf course. He put in the water tank for the city of Walsenburg. He owned all of Capital Hill. He donated the water tank block to the city so people could have pressure to flush their toilets, etc.

Before my father was married, he lived at the Cline Hotel. When he married my mother, he was shocked because she didn't change the sheets every day. And she actually tried to do that for him for awhile to please him. He had to have a new napkin at every meal. He always did have to have a linen napkin.

My mother used to take pictures. She took a long picture from the top of the hill. It was a wonderful picture, but it was lent to the Walsenburg World Independent and was lost. We never saw it again.

FK: My son, John, was a fraternity brother of Bill Thach. Bill came to Walsenburg because of John, to work on the paper. John was the editor. He took Bill to Gardner to go fishing, and he met Jeannette there, so Johnny made that match.

Dr. Jim Lamme and John's mother were brother and sister, so we are related to the Lammes.

Huerfano Trading Company became Walsenburg Mercantile and then the Kirkpatrick Company. There were three Kirkpatricks. Louise Kirkpatrick Jones in Pueblo had a hotel and the coke bottling company. There was a brother in Alamosa, and then John had the store. The Sporleders were involved in the company, and so were the Unfugs.

Doris Page was Dr. Page's wife. She is a wonderful woman.

Father Uzell had a tiny adobe church. Herman Mazzone's sister Clara and my sister started catechism. We used to have a week of dinners to raise money for the church. Each night would be food from a different country. American night would be turkey. Italian night would he raviolis, etc.

My five children are John, Henry, Frances, Layton, and Georgia. I didn't know much of what was going on outside of my home. I stayed home with my children. That was my life. All of my children have become successful. Georgia has five children. She has four kids in college, and they all get straight A's. One is in a lab in Honolulu, Hawaii.

John Kirkpatrick, who married Claradell Steinpurner of Denver and currently lives in California where he is.

Henry who married Ruth Baer who taught Latin here, and is in real estate in Denver.

Frances who married Wesley P. Merritt of Walsen Camp and lives in Denver.

Layton who taught for many years in Adams Co.

Georgia who married William Sale of Denver and lives in Danville, California.

I was married in the priest's home in Walsenburg. My husband was not a Catholic, but he raised all of our children Catholic, His sister, Louise Jones in Pueblo, has all of the family history.

Pauline Santi's dad sent dresses to every girl baby of friends he knew. He sent the little boys suits. He just loved babies, and he especially loved twins. I always wanted twins, but I never had any.

We used to have social clubs. NMU was our bridge club. NMU stood for Needle Mix Up. It was originally a sewing club. Then we started playing 500 and then bridge and then duplicate bridge. We have 24 members. Clara Cowing is the only other member still living. I used to take Johnny to NMU in his baby carriage.

We used to have lots of parties. If we had too many people coming, they would take all of the furniture out to have enough room. We paid high school girls to serve. They wore formals. They looked so cute. We would send to Denver and meet the trains to get our oysters. The Sporleders always came to our parties. We used to sing, act silly and play games. When the midnight passenger train would come through, we used to pretend we were seeing off someone who just got married on the train. We would throw sand at the windows. People would look all over the train to try and find the couple who were the newlyweds. We used to make noise until the groom came out to pay us to go away. That was called Chivalry.

We used to order a barrel of oysters on the half shell for our parties. Caroline Sporleder would be the hostess with me. My uncle Dan (brother-in- law) used to send a sack of ducks on the midnight passenger train. We would dress them in the morning. We had the High School Senior Class for dinner then.

Frank Kemp was the attorney for the Huerfano Trading Company. Ford Frick who was president of the National League Baseball, married a Cowling girl.

My dad was a contractor on the railroad. We lived in many little towns. We traveled a lot. We came from Nebraska, to Walsenburg before I started school. We lived in Denver for four years.

I had Slavish girls work for me as cooks. I taught them how to cook. They were such good cooks.

I don't think anyone had a better time than we did when it was a little town here. John started the Rotary Club. Jack Pritchards said I was the best putter he knew. They didn't like me to play with them because I was too good for a woman. They don't like me at bridge either here. I always get a good hand. I just think positive. I am good at slot machines, too..

When you get to being my age, you are thankful it is only your knees that are bothering you.

I think people were friendlier in the old days than they are now. Some people don't even know their own neighbors. That never happened before. Doris Page, Dr. Page's wife is a wonderful person and a wonderful neighbor. Mary Pizar was secretary for Mr. Kirkpatrick. She knows much more of what went on in the old days than I do. I just stayed at home with my children. I don't know all that went on in the outside world.

Mrs. Kirkpatrick keeps a World Almanac, Dictionary and Bible handy and consults them often.

Her mother, she says, always had all the family gather for prayers at 9 o'clock and was very strict. “You see,” says, Mrs. Kirkpatrick “how much you can get out of your children, if you are strict.” “I am so proud of my children.”

From the photographs one may judge, she was a great beauty. She remained quite beautiful at 91.

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