Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

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Lee Sharp

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Dick Chenault
Date of Interview - August 17, 1979

My grandfather, William Thomas (Tom) Sharp originally came here in 1868. He homesteaded 160 acres and built a house below the hill. It was a log house with four rooms. It was also the original trading post. One room was used for trading furs with the Indians. Chief Ouray had his winter headquarters down along the river by the trees.

It used to take five days to get to Pueblo for mail and supplies. My grandfather would bring back tobacco, coffee, and other things to trade with the Indians. He would trade ammunition for their guns with them when they got guns later on. Ouray would set up camp on top of the hill and watch out for Grandma and the kids while my grandfather would go to Pueblo. They had two girls and a boy: William A., Elizabeth, and then Emily.

I moved over here in 1927 or 1928, and they (my aunts) moved to Pueblo and never came back here. Neither of them married, and they stayed together.

Granddad fought in the Civil War and was wounded. He went to Washington State and then came back to Cheyenne, Wyoming. He cut poles for the Union Pacific. He was the first Under-sheriff in Cheyenne.

He was on his way to Texas when he met Chief Ouray over by the Huerfano Butte. Chief Ouray warned him of Indian troubles in Trinidad. He came here to wait until things quieted down. He liked it so well here that he never went on to Texas.

My dad found 26 sticks of dynamite upstairs in the old smokehouse. He decided to destroy it before us kids found it. He shot it off on the fence post, and that is the reason for the brace on the second story of that house. We broke 13 (?) windows in the house.

The stagecoach never came through here. It ran from the Huerfano Butte to Badito to Yellowstone, over Sheep Mountain and up Pass Creek to La Veta Pass, and on over where Highway 160 runs to Fort Garland. There was no Alamosa then. There just is no truth to the story that this house on the hill was a stagecoach stop I just don't know where Jeanette Thach got that idea. Jeanette used to sit in front of me in high school I used to dip her long hair in inkwell. She was a real beauty. But I don't know where she dreamed up the story about that being a stagecoach stop.

Tom Tobin was a friend of my grandfather's. There was a famous group of outlaws called the Espinoza Brothers. There was a $5,000 reward offered for them by the government. Tom Tobin decided to go get those guys. They used to rob the stages going over La Veta Pass all the time. They would steal everybody's money, and they would shoot all the passengers, women and children included. Lots of people offered to help Tom Tobin, but he wanted to go after them all by himself. He snuck up on them where they were camped and ambushed them. In the morning, one went to get their horses, one went to get water, and one started the fire. Tom killed the one that started the fire first. Then when the one came back with the water, he shot him, and then he shot the one that had gone to get the horses. He cut off their heads and put them in a gunny sack and took them to Fort Garland. He poured them out on the steps and said, “There's your damned Espinosas.” He turned down the reward.

There may have been four of the Espinosas. One may have been killed in Colorado Springs in a fracas. They never showed anybody any mercy.

My granddad had the trading post until Ouray and his bunch left. He would judge the horse races. Everybody said that he was always fair. He had the Buzzard's Roost Ranch where the Maces live now. He built the two story white house on the hill there. He never had anything to do with this other place on the hill until my father got married. Then he bought that place for him rather than dividing up his ranch. So he never lived there and never had anything to do with that place. His place was the Buzzard's Roost Ranch. It got its name from the Buzzards that used to roost down along the river. He sold the school-house area to Joe Bergamo and bought the other place for my dad. Mrs. Bergamo is living in Walsenburg. Her daughter runs the Senior Citizens meals, and she helps her, or is down there with her a lot of the time.

My dad used to have a picture of him sitting on Chief Ouray's lap. Chief Ouray used to be here a lot of the time, but he had other headquarters and spent time in other places. We used to have a garden by the orchard down by the river. We used to find lots of arrowheads down there when the river would flood or when the winds blew a lot. We raised all our own potatoes.

We always planted them on Good Friday. We never had a potato failure if we planted them at that time. One year we moved five inches of snow to plant them on that date, and they were wonderful potatoes that year. We had a variety of apples, plums, pears, strawberries, gooseberries and currants. My dad painted the trees with whitewash. We never saw any wormy apples. We had Jonathans, Ben Davis, Rainbow (or Rambeau), Yellow Transparents, Strawberry Apples, Wealthies. The Ben Davis apples would keep all winter long. The Rainbows were a yellow apple. Some of the apples in your orchard are Strawberry Apples. We had three different kinds of plums. We had a large and a small pinks plum. We grew asparagus, and we had rhubarb around the ditches. We had some kind of ever-bearing strawberries. The chipmunks and the birds would go after them, and we used rabbit wire over them to protect them. Our irrigation ditch was 100 yards from the garden. I remember one year we put up 634 quarts of fruits and vegetables out of that garden of ours.

We dug ditches in the garden and lined them with straw. Then we would put our potatoes, apples, carrots, turnips, and rutabagas in the ditches. We would cover the ditches all over with straw and let it freeze. Then we would dig them out all winter long to use.

We had a milk house with a spring running through it. We kept butter and milk fresh there. We had an ice house back of the Trading Post in a 12 by 14 foot room. We used to put up fifteen tons of ice. We would pack it in sawdust, and it would keep all year long. We got ice out of the lake at the Montez place. That was back from the Kettlecamp house. I think that lake has dried up now.

That Al Griffith can lie faster than he can run. I was one of the best friends he had. I'd just as soon hit him as anything else if I see him.

My granddad made his money on his horses and later on his cattle. He shipped thoroughbred mares and stallions here. One time he paid $1,400 to ship a stallion here from England. Later he went to cattle after the demand for horses slacked off. He had white-face Herefords. He wasn't the first to bring them in here. Others had them also. He used to have about 350 head of cattle a year.

We used to raise early corn and tomatoes. We would start the tomatoes in the house and set them out.

Captain Dues originally built the old house on the hill that my grandad bought for my father when he got married.

(End of transcript)

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