Huerfano County, Colorado
Oral Interviews

NOTICE All data and photos on this website are Copyrighted by Karen Mitchell. Duplication of this data or photos is strictly forbidden without legal written permission by the Copyright holder.
Margaret Kelmes

Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Dick Chenault
Date of Interview - 11-16-1979
Interviewed by - Sandra Cason

Margaret Kelmes
Date of birth - 8-24-1885
Parents - Charles Agnes and Mary Krier
Maternal grandparents - Nicholas Krier and Margaret Krier
Family origin - Belgium
Date of family arrival in County - 1888
Location of first family settlement - La Veta
Kinship ties - first cousin Paul Krier; Lenar Dissler married to nephew; nephew Charles Agnes; sister Virginia Dissler

SC: Did you move here when you were young?

MK: We bought this house when we were first married and we have been living here ever since?

SC: What year was that?

MK: Oh, my dear, don't ask me the year. Well, it was before my first son was born and he was 69 this October.

SC: My, you don't look that old yourself.

MK: Guess how old I am? I am 94.

SC: Amazing. Have you lived in Walsenburg all your life?

MK: Well, my folks came from Belgium. I was three years old when my folks came. We first come to La Veta. My folks did. I had an Uncle living there and then we moved to Walsenburg because at the time there were no... my father was a shoemaker. He made shoes. Him and an uncle of mine both made shoes. They came here and at that time you couldn't buy shoes like you can today. Am I being... because I don't like the...

SC: I know, it is a little awkward. Maybe we could set it aside so it doesn't show so much.

MK: Is everything I say going in there?

SC: It all gets recorded but we can type you up a copy of what's being recorded and if there's anything you don't want in you can take it out.

MK: Yes, because sometimes you say things...

SC: Yes, we can send you a copy of the transcript and you can change it as you wish. So you came when you were 3. How did your uncle happen to come here?

MK: Well, that I can't say for sure. I don't know just what brought him here to La Veta. You know years ago you didn't ask those questions. Now there's a lot of things that you think why didn't I find out this or that.

SC: You didn't think of it when you were young.

MK: He was the first one that came and he'd been there a good many years and then he came to Walsenburg.

SC: What was your maiden name?

MK: Agnes. That's my dad's name.

SC: There used to he an Agnes Trading Company.

MK: That was in Gardner. That was my brother. I had two brothers and the sister.

SC: Mrs. Dissler is your sister.

MK: I'm the oldest and she's the youngest and my brothers were between us.

SC: What was your brother's names?

MK: One was Nick and the other was Bill. They both passed away.

SC: So you grew up in La Veta.

MK: Not only there. I don't know how long we were there. There was two uncles I had. One was in La Veta and the other one had the Krier's store here. You've heard of Krier's maybe, too. All three were shoemakers. So it was too many for La Veta. It was a small place. So my father and one uncle came here and started making shoes here in Walsenburg and the other stayed in La Veta and that was what he was doing, too. So we came here. I don't think we were there maybe a year, I don't know. Not very long and we came here to Walsenburg. Both of us, my uncle Pete and my folks.

SC: What were your parent's names?

MK: Well, my father was Charles Agnes and my mother was Mary Agnes.

And then they stayed together for awhile and then they separated, too, my dad and my uncle and each one kind of went for themselves. They took merchandise. You know a salesman came around and they started little stores of their own. Later on they got more and more into clothes and my dad went into clothing and so did my uncle and Walsenburg kept growing and they needed it. There were quite a few mines around here and they worked pretty good at the time. So they each had their own place.

SC: Where was your home?

MK: We lived on 6th Street down there where the welfare is. Uncle Pete and us had a house right together and we had a place where the welfare and Otero bank is. That is where we first lived. Well, I don't know if we first lived there. I don't remember and as I say we forgot to ask questions. It never came up until how people are wanting to know about where all they lived. I don't know how many years we lived in these two houses. For a good many years. As Walsenburg grew, then you got your own place. So we had that for many years. Then we got a house on 6th street, a two story house that is still standing there. My brother took it over after my folks... Well, they moved then, buying a little house down below on 6th Street. They didn't need that big home any more. And so one of my brothers moved into the big house on 6th Street. A And my folks and my sister lived right there by each other. My folks have both passed away. My mother was 102 when she passed away. My father was 10 years younger than her and he passed away in his 80's. And my husband... When we first got married we were a year living on 6th Street next to my folks at the time, and then we bought this house and we've been living in this house ever since.

SC: Did you have children?

MK: Yes, I have three boys. There's my plaque that I got last year on my birthday last year. One of my grandsons made that plaque. It has us in it and then the three boys that we have and then the grandchildren and then the great grandchildren. And we were married in 1909 and it was last year when they gave me the plaque.

SC: Where were you married?

MK: Here in Walsenburg.

SC: Were you married at home?

MK: St. Mary's Church. Father Bertran married us.

SC: Could you describe your wedding a little bit?

MK: Well, it wasn't much of a . ... we didn't have a big affair. We got married at early morning mass and we had a little breakfast, My folks had a little breakfast. The family came. Then we went on our honeymoon. We went to Canada.

SC: That must have been quite a trip at that time. How did you travel?

MK: We went on the train. My husband's brother, he was a priest. And we went out there to Canada where he was. He wanted us to come there so we went there. I don't remember how long we were there anymore. I imagine a week or two. I don't remember. It was called International Falls, where he was. He was the . . . he was a missionary priest and they were teaching the Indian boys. They had a big farm there and they were teaching the Indian boys to farm and they had sisters that were teaching the Indian girls how to do housework on this place... reservation. Well, it wasn't a reservation. It was a place. England was the one that was teaching, that had these children.

SC: Where was your husband from?

MK: Both of them were from the same place, in Belgium, and his folks and my folks knew each other over there. It was funny to come out here, and we had been out there, my mother and my sister, had been out there in the home where they were. My mother had 2 sisters in Rheims, France, you have heard of that, and she had two sisters out there and we were visiting them more but we did go down to her home village and visit there, some of the people. But I didn't meet my husband at the time until he came out here, so...

SC: Was your husband in business here in Walsenburg?

MK: Oh, yes. He was in the clothing business a good many years and then he had a store in Aspen, Colorado, and one of my sons run it and he is living in Aspen. The other one lives in New Jersey and the youngest one lives in Pueblo. He is working in the K and G stores in the Mall. We were in business here when times were very good and we had poorer times, too. I don't remember just how many years, now. I tell you, I am very poor about remembering years and dates. Some people remember all those things.

SC: Dates are not too important. What was it like growing up here in Walsenburg? How was it different than it is now?

MK: Oh, a lot of things. People were different. People... there weren't so many people and you just kind of got in with your own, people of your own age. We children did. And I remember the first little school that I went to. It was only one little schoolroom. I don't remember just how many children we had. We were all together.

SC: Where was that school?

MK: That was down on, well, that was Sixth Street. Across... where they have that new bank now, across the street from that new bank. Of course none of those buildings that are there now were there at that time. There was, oh, it was a small school house and I think a teacher that I can remember was a Mrs. Bowman. I have the picture of that school. Of the children there. I still think I have it. I had it somewhere around. That was our first school.

SC: Did the children have games that they played in particular?

MK: No, I don't remember, I guess they played things like hide and seek. And some of those kind of games. Then I think the next school was the Washington School. That's as far back as I can remember.

SC: Were there special celebrations on holidays?

MK: Well, I guess there were. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years.

SC: Was Christmas then like it is now?

MK: As much as I can remember, yes, it was. Although we never, my folks well, we went to church on Christmas and everything like that and they gave us toys and things but we didn't get things like kids do today. I remember we were happy when we got oranges and a little candy and one present or something like that. Not like children do today. They get too much today. We were very happy when we got a little oranges and candy. Maybe candy and pop or something. Not like today. Today we don't think anything of getting candy or oranges. That's nothing to children anymore. But at that time we were happy when we got those things.

SC: Did the children have chores they had to do in your family?

MK: Well, sure, some families. Everyone had to do something or other. At that time we had to go outside to get our water. We had all that, outside toilets and most of the time I remember my folks had a cow and had to milk that. We had a horse and buggy. We didn't have no automobiles then.

SC: What would you do for entertainment in the old days?

MK: Well, they did have dances and shows up above the Black and White Market there. That was the opera house. The upstairs there. And downstairs there was a saloon. At that time they were all saloons is what they had down there. They had... whatever they had would be up there.

SC: Did you go to dances?

MK: No, I never did go very much. I never cared much about dancing and I wasn't so much about... I was kind of quiet and wasn't too much.. I remember we went once in a while, but there were a lot of folks that go a lot. That's natural. Some go a lot and others don't and I never went very much. My folks were kind of strict with us. Course when my sister got older she was more.. Well, things were more getting out and around. But as I said, my folks were strict with us. They didn't let us chase around.

SC: Did you work in your folks store at all?

MK: Well, I did do some of the book work for my dad. I was never a very good clerk. I was nervous and if people said no they didn't want it then I didn't want to go and... so I didn't do that much.

SC: When were the good times with the business?

MK: Well, let's see, when the mines were working. Then of course there was the Depression and that wasn't so good. Good and bad times. My husband had a big store on the corner that is now the Candlelight. At one time he had a big store there. Then when the depression came he went into a smaller place and then we were in the middle, right there where the Alpine Rose is. That was our store for many years. We had a store there. Ladies and men's ready to wear. My husband kept very good things until the Penney's came into town and then they had to go get cheaper stuff because Penney's went down. You know everything went down. But my husband kept a good brand of stuff for years.

SC: What was the name of the store?

MK: Kelmes Store. Kelmes Clothing Store.

SC: Were you or your family involved in any clubs here or fraternal orders?

MK: No. There weren't so many as there are today. There are all kinds of clubs. I do belong to the Tabernacle Society. And I belong to the Catholic Daughters. My husband wasn't very much of a mixer like that. He always liked to stay home and be home with the family. With his boys in the home. When he was in the store at that time, we didn't have a secretary so he did all his own book work and that would keep him busy. So we didn't go too much. We were more of a homebody.

SC: Did you have hobbies that you did? I see some crochet work.

MK: Oh, yes, I did a lot of crochet. I did netting.

PM: Would you like to show her your tablecloth. (Pat Martinez is helping Mrs. Kelmes, who has hurt her knee.)

MK: Oh, sure get it out.

PM: I am fascinated with this. I would love to learn to do something like this. You remember the lace panels that used to be in the windows? Look at this.

MK: My mother made the netting. And then I filled it in myself.

SC: Is it like knotted at the corners?

PM: Yes, like darning.

MK: It was a special needle.

PM: She said it wasn't a crochet hook. A special needle.

SC: It is really beautiful. Did it take a long time to make this?

MK: Oh, off and on. My mother made the netting. She made one for me and one for my sister. And then I embroidered it all in.

SC: I can see it is sort of woven in. The netting is amazing. Sort of tied.

PM: Just imagine making your own lace panels.

MK: Yes, I have done that.

PM: You see the little pillow on the back of her.

MK: Yes, I made that.

PM: And the little inserts on the tablecloth.

PM: I was telling mother I would love to learn how they did this and make a bed spread with the matching lace panels for the bedroom.

MK: That would take a long time.

PM: I like the work with the colored flowers.

MK: Yes, I have the needle in a box there.

PM: You do? I know where there is a book on instructions for that netting. I have to look but I gave it to a friend of mine.

MK: You can take it off anything. You can make whatever design you want.

SC: Was the church active in the community?

MK: Oh, yes, yes. We used to have, once a year at least, a big supper and there was other doings like all churches have, like Christmas and all that.

SC: Was this the church that used to have the international dinners?

MK: Yes, for a good many years we had different ones. It was generally three or four nights. One night it was Slavish, another night it would be the Spanish, I forget what all. But we had three of four different nights.

SC: How did the town look different?

MK: Oh, we didn't have no sidewalks or anything like that and not near as many houses as we have today. And down there most of them went as far as the crick. And all around here when we were first moved in it was mostly all alfalfa and it was a gate there that you had to open to go down below. A gate when we first bought this place. And that's why we are called Atencio Subdivision because they called this whole part down here Atencio Subdivision when we got this house.

SC: I see you have this big fence in front of your house. Was that there when you bought the house.

MK: Oh, no. My husband was a mechanic. From Europe, that's what he was, when he came here. So he got this big fence up there. When we bought this house...

SC: So you were talking about how different the house was?

MK: Oh, yes, altogether different. We've done a lot of remodeling in this house since we've been here. It's a brick house and we stuccoed it on the outside. So many things that we did. Made a nice bathroom on it here. Then we put on the front porch and the back porch. They weren't on. There was a little back porch, smaller porch and we put it over there. Had it there for the kids. Our grandchildren used to play over there. The girls especially when they were small. They used to play and play out there.

SC: What kind of heat did you have when you first moved in?

MK: Well, the first heat we had was coal and had a furnace with coal and I guess when we first moved here we had just a wood and coal range. Then we put in the furnace with coal and then we put in an oil furnace for a good many years and then when they brought the gas in then I had the gas put in.

SC: Is housekeeping very different now than it was then?

MK: Oh, yes. At that time we used to have a washboard, no machine to wash. And now you have machines and you have the tank down there in the basement for your water. I remember having a little old lady that always came and washed on a washboard. It was a lot different than today. And at that time we used to visit each other. And today we never have time to visit with all these modern fixtures, we just hardly ever have time to visit the next door neighbor. You are just always so busy.

SC: When you were married and living in this house at first did you do all the cooking and housework yourself?

MK: Oh, yes. I'd do it right now, but I fel1 and hurt my leg. I always washed on Monday and ironed on Tuesday. Course that was since the boys are gone. When they were around there was more to do than when my husband and I were alone and I could do that. I was always very particular with things so nobody could ever do too good to suit me. Anyhow I always felt able to do it. I could always, always take care of my work myself. I did get somebody to help when it was a regular big housecleaning.

SC: How did neighbors get along in the early days here?

MK: Well, it just all depends. Some neighbors are nice and some are not, but we always had a nice neighborhood around here. We always seemed to get along all right with each other. And still today we get along with each other. Nobody visits too much any more. And so we get along. Each one takes care of their own affairs. When anything, anybody is sick or anything, we go and visit each other. Our neighborhood has always been a pretty nice neighborhood.

SC: What kind of medical care was there?

MK: Well, we never had so many doctors as we have today and we didn't have a hospital for a good many years. I only remember having a few doctors.

SC: Did people use home remedies more then?

MK: Yes, they did. Because we didn't have many doctors. I guess a couple of doctors and with the mines and everything there was a lot of work. The doctors were kept pretty busy. As I say I am poor on remembering when times were. I remember that we had a Dr. Chapman and a Dr. Mathews. And a Dr. Newman. And the Lammes. They had the hospital down there. Before them, well, just, I remember a Dr. Topp because he was my doctor when two of my children were born. So I remember him. And other doctors I just don't remember.

SC: Do you remember home remedies that were used in the old days, before they had modern drugs?

MK: When we had a cold we always used to take and put out water and put a lemon in it and honey and a little whiskey and we used to drink that. And they used to rub our necks with Vicks or something like that and put poultices on your back if your back hurt. And we didn't take very many medicines. At least I know my mother didn't give us very many medicines. I think that another thing that we used to do when they had the chicken pox or anything like that we'd make them stay in the bed. And today people are letting them go out and I don't think that's very good. I hear of different one having earaches and I think that's the trouble, they just let the children go out too early. Keep them in the house a few days and they were all right. Kept them warm and chicken pox or something like that would come out and they were able to come out and they were all right and never had anything after. We did have scarlet fever one year, one of my boys, brought it home, I guess, I don't know. Guess they had it in school. Well, we kept him separated. Had him in one of the rooms and separated from the other children and in a little while it was gone. It was only scarlet fever but you know you had to keep them separated. So we got over and there never was any bad effects afterwards from it.

SC: Do you remember any stories about Indians around here?

MK: No, I don't remember that we had any Indians around here. I don't remember anything about Indians around here.

SC: Do you remember any incidents that happened during the strikes?

MK: Well some, but I don't remember too much. I remember they had tent people, the miners had a tent colony down here below us, but that was ended in a few days. I remember there was a strike up at the camp up here and I think someone was killed and I don't know who it really was anymore. I've forgotten who was killed. Then at Ludlow they had a strike, too. But that's a little way away from here, on the road to Trinidad, and I don't know too mach about that anymore.

I was wishng my sister would come. Some of the things that I don't remember she might remember. And she had planned coming but this party, a birthday party came up. So...

SC: Did you raise your own food here?

MK: Oh, yes. My husband is a good gardener. He used to raise all kinds of vegetables. We have this big place so we had all kinds of vegetables, that was his recreation. That was what he loved. Working in his garden. He raised all kinds of fruit; I mean we have all kinds of fruit trees, too, and grapes. We had a lot of grapes and all kinds of... well, that was his recreation. As soon as he got home from his store, out there he would go to his garden to take care of it. And he was a very fast worker. And did a good job of it.

This year my fruit trees had so many blossoms on them, so loaded. And early in the spring a frost came and we didn't get an apple off one of our trees. There wasn't one apple. And we had green grapes. A few plums were on the tree. And other trees that I have different plums, they didn't have any on this year. The pear tree had a few pears on it, but the apples just didn't have any. One apple tree had a few on it, but they fell off.

SC: Did you used to go into the country for outings?

MK: We went to Sulphur Springs for a number of years. I had hay fever so bad and we'd go up there to Sulphur Springs. It was always better when I went up there. But we had enough outing here in the yard.

SC: Yes, you have a big yard here.

MK: And when you are in business you have to stick to it or you don't make, do anything. So we never went out much. We always had good cars. My husband liked good cars. He had the first Lincoln in this town. We'd go out on Sundays. But we had so much to do that we didn't.., and I never learned to drive. I was a coward. I was afraid to drive. I never learned. My sister drives. Lucky that she does so we can go shopping whenever we want to, or Sundays we can go for a drive. But we don't drive out of town very much. See, just drive around here.

SC: That's about the questions I had. Do you have any stories you'd like to us

MK: No.

SC: What would you say are the main changes over the years?

MK: Well, there are so many. I don't know what the main change would really be. Of course schools have gotten much bigger. And I guess there is a lot of change in the schools from what it was years ago. The town has changed. You have to change with the years. There are changes going on all the time. Used to be you didn't have to be so afraid to go away from home and have your doors not locked. Today you've got to do that. You've got to lock all your doors and you have to be scared even then. Not like it used to be. That's a big change.

SC: Has anyone you know been robbed here? Several people have mentioned that.

MK: You hear of people all the time being robbed, but I don't know of anyone just now. But you can find it everyday in the paper. Break into cars or do something like that.

SC: Did there used to be violence here when you were a little girl?

MK: I don't think so. Once in a while there were some that were. . . Well, some are mean anytime. I don' t know what we had too much violence. As I say, we could go out and didn't have the door locked. But today I am awful careful of my doors. If I am in the front I lock the back door and if I am in the back I lock the front door.

SC: You don't drive a car, but did you drive a horse and buggy?

MK: Oh, yes. I wasn't afraid of that, and I used to ride horseback at one time. There was two or three of us. We had gentle horses and we would go riding.

SC: Did you know Mrs. Kirkpatrick? She said she had a horse.

MK: Oh, yes, I know her from when I was a child. Did you know her?

SC: We talked to her last week. She went to Denver, you know. And we saw her just a couple of days before she left. She hurt her hip.

MK: I haven't seen her in a long time. I didn't know about that. Was that recent?

SC: Yes, I think within the last couple of months. And she went to stay with her daughter in Denver.

MK: Yes, I knew that.

SC: Yes, but she said she used to ride when she was young. And she shocked everyone because she would ride a regular saddle.

MK: Oh, yes. Well, I think that we did, too. I think I rode a regular saddle. I don't know those side saddles. I think I was a little afraid of them. But we had one of those regular saddles. And of course having boys, they like to ride, my two brothers, and so we had a regular saddle. We had a very gentle horse. And did you see Mrs. Mazzone? She's the one that's having the birthday party. Her sister, I don't know if she rode, Mrs. Mazzone, but her sister used to teach out here in a little school out there on that road out there. I know I rode with her and I don't remember who else. Seems to me there was three of us that used to ride.

SC: Did you used to do canning?

MK: Oh, yes. All kinds of canning. When the peaches were ripe we canned the. . . . . . .

End of transcript

Back to the Oral Interviews Main Page

Return to the Huerfano County Home Page
© Karen Mitchell