Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

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George Abila

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Lydia Corona
Date of Interview - 9-28-1979

George Abila
Date of birth - 4-25-1908
Parents - Juan Santos Abila, Maria Cruz Rodriguez Abila
Maternal grandparents - Juan Batista Rodriguez

GA: My name is George Abila. I was born here in Redwing on April 25, 1908.

Q: Where exactly were you born?

GA: I think it was here in Chama where the Abilas live. That's where I was born. It was in Huerfano Co. in Redwing.

Q: What were your parent's names?

GA: My father's name was Juan Santos Abila and my mother's name was Maria Cruz Abila.

Q: Were they from here?

GA: Yes, they were from here.

Q: What did your father do?

GA: My father was a farmer. And during the shearing season he would go out to Wyoming and shear sheep.

Q: How large was your ranch?

GA: It was 120 acres.

Q: What did he have on that ranch? Were there sheep or cows?

GA: First, we use to have sheep and then we use to have cattle. Cattle for breeding and cattle for milk.

Q: How many brothers do you have?

GA: I have 4 half brothers that I meet and 3 real brothers.

Q: Was your father always a farmer here?

GA: As far as I know yes. But I also knew that he delivered mail on the pony express from Alamosa to here over through Mosca Pass.

Q: Did he do this type of work when he was real young?

GA: I really do not know. I know he was raised by a man named Deus. I did not know his grand parents nor do I know where they came from.

Q: And on your mothers side, what can you tell me?

GA: On my mothers side they were Rodriguez's. My grandfather was Juan Batista Rodriguez. I do not remember.

Q: Can you tell us where your grandfather came from?

GA: No, I do not remember. I can not tell you, the only thing I can tell you is that since I knew him he was a farmer. He use to live there on Sergios ranch and by Alven Martin. There was a ranch near by and my brother Porfirios ranch was near by also. And my grandparents Rodriguez's.

Q: Are these Rodriguez's related to my father?

GA: No they not related.

Q: And your mother's father, your grandfather, was he a rancher also?

GA: Yes.

Q: Did he have sheep or cattle?

GA: As far as I remember they always had cattle and some pigs.

Q: Could you tell me how people would get along in those days?

GA: In those days people use to live in much better conditions than they do today. In those days people who farmed use to get together especially during harvest season and help each other it was not like today.

Q: What school did you to go?

GA: The only school I went to was public school. I went only to the 8th grade

Q: And who were your teachers?

GA: Our first teacher was Springer who use to live over here and then after Springer we had a teacher by the name of Barker. And then we had a teacher from New Mexico whose name was Gallegos.

Q: And how is it that teacher Gallegos came to teach over here?

GA: I guess they must have been looking for a teacher and they contracted him to come teach over here.

Q: Were all the students Mexicans?

GA: Yes, for a long time most of the students were Mexicans except for the Martins and the Bensons. At that time there was only the district of Chama and then they divided us.

Q: How many students were there when you were going to school?

GA: In Chama there were 50 or more in school.

Q: Did they use to teach you in English?

GA: Yes in English.

Q: And did you learn English in school?

GA: There was nothing else. And really we did not even learn English. The only thing I learned in school was arithmetic and spelling. I was good in spelling. I learned a lot of words but I really don't know what they mean. I could read like everybody else but I really didn't know what it meant. I did not know the English.

Q: Did you ever have the chance to learn in Spanish?

GA: Later when the teacher Mr. _____ came he use to explain better and then he made me buy a dictionary where the words were in Spanish and in English. And he use to tell me that when there was word that I did not understand to look in the dictionary and that is how I learned what I learned. We use to have spelling contests and I use to spell words but I did not know what they meant.

Q: And when you use to go out to play did you speak Spanish?

GA: Yes, we spoke Spanish because even the Martins who spoke English they learned Spanish and we always spoke in Spanish.

Q: In those times what would have happened if you spoke Spanish in school?

GA: The teachers use to tell us not to talk in Spanish. In that time there was some discrimination the American teachers they did not care whether you learned or not.

Q: Do you remember some of the people that went to school with you?

GA: There were the Martin's and Benson's, there was Brijido, there was Rosana, there was Sylvia, Danial, Samual. All who use to live here were there, Samual Vasques here in this place in Chama. There was me my compadre Junaro, there was Zelia Alvino, there was Carto Ruben Vasques, Susana Valdez, Victoria if I mention them all I'll never finish.

Q: You who were raised up here what did you do on the ranch?

GA: My father was a rancher. I say and he also was a sheep shearer. When I was around 13 he use to leave to shear sheep and we use to take care of the ranch. We use to plant and take care of the animals.

Q: And what kind of machinery did do you use on the ranch?

GA: We had horse walking plows there no tractors every thing was done by horses.

Q: And what type of work did the woman do on the ranch?

GA: The woman use to raise their families and make the food. If they had an orchard they use to take care of their orchard and the gardens and raise beans.

Q: Do you remember who was the medic or the Doctor there at that time?

GA: There were only Medicas you know, like the mother of Tomas Rodriguez. She was a medica. If people were going to have a baby, they would go to the medica. She was the mid wife and there was another woman by the name of Cordova. She was the wife of Santiago Garcia.

Q: And where did she live?

GA: She lived where Manual Garcia use to live where they have the morada.

Q: So you know anything about Mexican medicine?

GA: I don't know any thing I could only tell you about the Pulayo, llerva buena, el tance mariaba, al contra llerva, la ósha and I don't know.

Q: What did they use the ósha for?

GA: La ósha they used to use it a lot yet they still use it quite abit. They say it is good for wounds. For cancer.

Q: Is it true that they boiled it?

GA: I don't know if they boiled it or not well they must have boiled it.

Q: In what way did the Catholic Church use to play in the life of the people?

GA: It was important because people at that time had a lot more religion then they have today. They had a lot more faith in God. There was religious observant for Corpus Christi, for Christmas's, holy week, Santiago day, and the Senora de Guadalupe and there was Dominarias during the night and rosaries.

Q: Was the church a part of the peoples social life?

GA: Yes, if some one was very sick the members of the church use to go and take care of them, they use to take turns taking care of them.

Q: When your father use to go to shear sheep for how long would be leave?

GA: They use to go and sometimes stay for a month in one place then they use to go to Wyoming and stay 20-30 days and they use to travel from one place to another like that.

Q: And did you go with them to shear sheep?

GA: When I was growing up I went with them for about two years.

Q: When your father would leave would he leave on the train?

GA: A contractor who use to take care of the contracts would come and pick the people up. On a certain day they use to all get together and leave and some times when we we were on the return journey we use to come on train.

Q: Let's speak more about religion. What can you tell me about the Penitentes?

GA: I can not tell you any thing about the Penitentes because I was never a Penitente nor was I ever with them but I like their way of being.

Q: Why do you think there are not as many Penitents as there use to be?

GA: Because the old people are dying out and the young people of today do not think of anything. In proof the youths of today don't even go to church.

Q: Did you know where the moradas are at?

GA: Yes here in Chama it was there at the rincon.

Q: Do you remember who the oldest brother was in Chama? Or over there in Pass Creek?

GA: I think that the oldest brother in Pass Creek was the deceased Luis Vigil. I think and here in Chama, Juan Cardenas.

Q: You mentioned that the church had celebrations. What did people do during those celebrations?

GA: On Corpus day they use to put ogers and help processions.

Q: What was the reason for them doing this?

GA: They use to parade the crucifix the same as the penitentes. From one station to the other they use to pray. The same as when the the celebration of the the Senora de Guadalupe. They use to take her from one place to another and pray along the way.

Q: What other things did people do rodio or the day of Santiago?

GA: The day of Santiago was the biggest celebration. It use to take place for two during July and the of Santana they use to have celebration and some times they use to bring a carnival. They use to have horse races and dances that I remember.

Q: And who use to play during those dances?

GA: There was Valerio Sciderio, Tomas Trugillo and there a blind man who use to play at all the weddings they use to bring him.

Q: During that time when people would get married how did they get acquainted?

GA: When there was a wedding during that time. They would get ready the day before and meet at the of the bride. Today whether or not they play in the house they buy or rent. If they had a certain way of asking for the brides hand and I any one wanted to get married they use to tell the father they use to say I want to get married and I want to ask for her hand. And the father would say when, when ever you want to and then the parents use to go to the girlfriend's house and ask for her. You know how grown ups are, the parents of the girl would talk to her and then would talk to each other. Do you want to get married or not? And if you did they would start to make the arrangements. And get all the padrinos, bride grooms and etc.

Q: Did any one in your family ever work in the mines?

GA: Yes, I worked in the mines.

Q: And what did you do there?

GA: I use to dig up coal.

Q: What year was that?

GA: I think it was in 1931.

Q: Was that a long time after the strike?

GA: Yes, that was before I was married in that mine. When I was young I worked about three months in the strike. I was around 18 years old then.

Q: Can you tell me about what was involved in the work?

GA: We use to go into the mines and it was 15 or 20 miles deep. Where you were working at, everyone had his own department. They use to cut the coal at the bottom with machines. About 8 feet and after it was cut they would drill holes. Then they would insert explosives but that was not during the time you were working that was at night. And in the morning when you arrived all the coal was loose. They use to haul it out with little carts.

Q: And how were the workers treated?

GA: We did not have a manager. We use to work by a contract. The only other people who use to go into the mines were the inspectors. We did not have a manager because we worked by contract.

Q: And what did you get paid?

GA: Our pay was $4 a ton.

Q: And where did you live during that time?

GA: When I was working, I lived in the mine.

Q: How did the miners use to get along with each other?

GA: They worked well together. I worked with a lot of Italians and they all use to talk well to each other. I never saw them speak bad about each other.

Q: Did you work during the time of the depression?

GA: During the time of the depression, I worked in West Cliff.

Q: Were you married at that time?

GA: Yes, I was married at time.

Q: First you worked and then you went to West Cliff.

GA: I worked only for a time in the mines. We had a ranch here and I use to have to take care of that some times. Like we use to take care of the hay and after that time I went to work in the mines.

Q: Who did you work for in West Cliff?

GA: I worked for Ed Hanson. He had a ranch there. And then he use to take other ranchers under contract. In the beginning all the Mexicans people use to have land around here. And then when the Americans arrived things started to change.

Q: Can you tell me some thing about that?

GA: They use to say this here land is mine. But they never registered it and any how they began to lose. It is the same as the water rights, they were never registered.

Q: And how did it happen on your ranch with the water rights?

GA: In our place, I do not know who registered it but I know that my father bought that place. I have the papers there but don't know the parents in those days they would never tell us this or that. And we never know. The number of our property was 42. It was a good right because in those days they did not, 42 was the property number in that time there had to be 75 feet of water in the river so we could take some. But then it came about that we could not get any water because there was not enough. There was water for the 1st 2nd 3rd or 4th or 5th property but not for us. The number 1 were the Wonkens in Gardner number 26 is over here in Chama.

Q: What can you tell me about those days, were there bad people? Were there outlaws?

GA: Yes, there were but in my time not in my time but before that yes.

Q: Who was the sheriff at that time?

GA: I met several of them. There was Jack Bar, and there was Vilverio and then there was hodel Aguerres, and then after Aguerres there was Antonio and then was Conder.

Q: Could you tell me about the 2nd World War? Was there a lot of people from here that had to go to that war? Did you have to go yourself?

GA: No, I did not have to go to the World War.

Q: What about your brothers?

GA: No, my brothers neither.

Q: When do you think that every thing began to change around here?

GA: I would say that things began to change around 1935.

Q: What changed?

GA: For example in the ranches that is the time when they began to bring in machinery. But you use to harvest and so on and the regulations governing the water began to change at that time, before then water was free. Those who had a right would and those who didn't would use it also.

Q: So you think that the war had an affect on the people around here to?

GA: I don't know.

Q: Do you remember what kind of businesses the people had around here?

GA: There was Adam's they had a business here in Gardner. There was was the Hopson's, Bill Hopson and John Hopson. After Charly Hopson it was bought by Benson.

Q: I heard that there was one business run by Jesse James.

GA: No sir, that was another store, that was a store, that was where the school is at.

Q: What kind of store was it?

GA: It was a large store. It use to belong to Staysy.

Q: Was he the teacher also?

GA: No. Joe Staysy who was a school teacher, was the son of the store owner and then after Staysy the store was run by that Jesse James. And then after it burned.

Q: How did they use to treat the people at this store?

GA: Very well. When Staysy and the people who followed ran it were there people use to go and if they did not have any money they would give them credit.

Q: And how did people pay?

GA: Most people had animals and when they sold their animals they would pay. And other people use to go to other places and work like my father when he use to go shear sheep. When they returned from work they use to pay their bills.

Q: Did you ever hear about people that were so much in debt that they had to sell their places?

GA: I don't remember of any one ever having to sell their property to pay their debts. Like me, when I arrived here I saw that I could not make much but I was not in debt. I did not owe to any one and it was the same for many others.

Q: And what do you think now, would you like to live here?

GA: No, because this place does not produce anything.

Q: Is that why you sold?

GA: I would like to return if there was a place that had water but as it is now I can not make any use of that.

Q: What do you remember about the politico of your time?

GA: There were several of them, my father was one. They use to work in politics when a candidate would run if they know some one they would help with their campaign.

Q: What did your father use to do?

GA: My father use to go out and visit people and explain to them and campaign for the candidates.

Q: Was your father a democrat?

GA: Yes, he was a democrat.

Q: Were there a lot of republicans here?

GA: Yes, there was about half and half. My father was like that he was a democrat but he use to vote for whom ever was the best. They use to not vote a straight democratic ticket. It was not like today where people vote for democrats regardless if they know him or not.

Q: If things were like you say, half were republican and half were democrat how is it that all the county became democrat?

GA: Because the Republican Party when it was run by the Montez. He was the one who ran all the Republican Party and what he use to order that is what use to be done. He would select the candidate. He was the political boss. He was a rich man. And then the people began to change from one party to another.

Q: Were any of the republicans big ranchers? Like the Giblone's? Correction the name was Diad's.

Q: Did you ever work for any of these ranchers?

GA: Yes. I worked in the hay. I would take a contract I use to work for the Cordova's.

Q: And what was your pay at time?

GA: In those times it was a dollar, a dollar and half. And it kept on rising with time.

Q: When you worked with this man Cordova, was it the same pay as with the Diad's?

GA: Cordova use to get the contract from the Diad's and then Cordova use to hire other people to work for him. The Cordova's were the contractors.

Q: How many men use to work for Cordova?

GA: No less then twenty.

Q: Would the people go to work and then return to their houses?

GA: Most of the people around here some people who had ranches and didn't have much to do they use to work in the hay during those times. Some would go to work on horses and others on foot if it was close. I worked for the Diad's during sheep time and I use to go on horse. And I worked here at this ranch which is Macalpines today. I use to come work there. I use to walk at times.

Q: And what kind of work would you do?

GA: I use to irrigate and plant.

Q: How did the workers get along with the farmer?

GA: Well, very well. With the people that I worked with I never say any discrimination.

Q: When the Americans had their celebrations, their social events, how were things then?

GA: On those occasions, there was discrimination because they would not allow any Mexicans. I myself never tried to go to one of those events. What happened is I think is that some people would go to those festivals when they were drunk and they would create disturbances. The only time the Mexicans and the Americans would get together was for political events but dances and this other kind of things they use to not mix. In West Cliff, I use to go to the dances. They did not discriminate there.

Q: Did a lot of people from around here go to work in West Cliff?

GA: Yes, mostly youth. Myself, Beny Garcia, some other Garcia's, the Valdez's, Revera. Many use to go work over there.

Q: Why did people go to work in West Cliff? Was there more work over there?

GA: I think it was because they paid more in West Cliff.

Q: Was there more work in West Cliff?

GA: Yes there was more work in West Cliff. The ranches were bigger there. Here the only big ranches were those of the Deads and that of Ed Wilson. And work did not last very long there. And then there was a place that belonged to Cardwell.

Q: How did the people around here get around? For instance the people from Rito and Gillina?

GA: During those times the people for instance for the day of Santiago use to go in buggies. So many people did not know each other because there was not much moving around. For instance I did not get to know the people until now recently.

Q: Did you ever walk over there to the Tieras Amarlles?

GA: I did not work there but I worked for someone who owned land there. And we use to take the cattle over there.

Q: Did you work for Alton Tirey?

GA: I work with _____ before I went over there.

Q: Did he have a lot of workers?

GA: No he only had me. When I began to work it was not when I was not able to raise enough grain and enough hay for the animals. And I had to start working so I started to do the work on my ranch and the work on his ranch with his machinery.

Q: Can you tell me about your family when you got married?

GA: When I got married, I got married into the Gallegos family. And another one of _ ____ _____.

Q: What is your wife's name?

GA: Rosita, Rosa

Q: Where did you live? To wife. Where did you live here in Redwing?

GA: My dad was here from Walsen.

Q: Where did you meet?

GA: We meet here in the dances.

Q: Or was it in school?

GA: No we never met in school. We were never in school together at the same time.

Q: How many children did you have?

GA: Six.

Q: And what are their names?

GA: The first one is Hilberto, Tomas, Edman, the fourth one is names Leroy, Abail and Diana.

Q: Do you only have one daughter?

GA: Yes.

Q: Are they all here in the state?

GA: They are all in Boulder.

Q: Did they all marry girls from over there?

GA: Tomas is married.

Q: When did you leave from Boulder.

GA: In 1960.

Q: Have things around here changed a lot since you left?

GA: Yes very much. Here in Walsen when I use to go to the Post Office people from everywhere use to gather around and meet and discuss and now you don't see any thing. It is kind of sad.

Q: Is there something else you want to tell us about your life story?

GA: I don't know what else to tell you.

Q: If you could give advice to the young people what would you say?

GA: What do you mean? Oh ____ thing about the way you have lived. I can not give them any advice because during the time at the time that I lived things were very different than what they are today. Things are very different than what they use to be and today they have machinery and everything. I can not give any advice because I can not tell them to do this or that with horses and so on. Our family is all married now, and we can not interfere in their lives. If they would have asked me ask for this or that woman so that they could get married it would be a different story. It would be this and that about this people you see and if it were to her advantage ok. And if not ok it would be up to him to take the advantage.

Q: Thank you very much. I am very grateful what you have told me.

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