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Family History Stories Paraphrased
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Mrs. Nettie Locke
A Prospector's Experience
R. W. Isaacs
R. W. Isaccs II
Mr. Joe Prewitt

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Mrs. Nettie Locke
By Mrs. F. T. Simpson
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: San Juan
Surnames mentioned: Locke, Burr, Gordon, Mahany, Simpson, Mc Gordon, 

Mr. William Locke and his wife Nettie Locke, now some 80 years of age, with their children, on March 19, 1879 started from Cookle Burr Ranch near Florence, Colorado, to locate in the San Juan Basin, near the junction of the San Juan and Animas Rivers, New Mexico. They traveled in a four horse wagon and a hack drawn by two horses, and were just thirteen days on the road. They crossed Red Mountain and camped that night with a brother of Mr. Locke, who lived in that valley, and worked slowly over toward Alamosa. The night they made camp near that town they were so near a sheep camp that they took turns to keep guard all night to ward off Mexican sheep herders who were said to have made way with some campers not long before. They were known to be an ugly lot, hence their caution. Traveling on to their new location, they finally came into Largo Canyon, quite near their goal. They made their last camp in this Spanish American settlement and found these people most friendly. In seeking fresh eggs and milk from them, the fact that Mr. Locke spoke Spanish freely seemed to give them an open Sesame to their homes and Mrs. Locke well Mrs. Locke well remembers the friendliness extended to them in giving them the shelters their homes for the night, saying it was too cold for the baby to sleep outside. Also they gave good care to their tired horses, and started them off on the last leg of their journey well supplied with some of the beef they had just been butchering. This was in sharp contrast to the type of Spanish Mexicans encountered near Alamosa. It was but a short distance from Largo to the junction of the San Juan and Las Aminus rivers, and in a few days Mr. and Mrs. Locke were established in a three room house of pole construction, where the Farmington Fair Grounds are now located. This was an improvement on camping, to be sure, but Mrs. Locke was sorely disappointed that the rooms had no floors. I couldn't put the baby down down in the dirt. Mr. Locke found her in tears about it, so to console her he hastily covered one floor with hay and put a Navajo rug on the hay where the baby sat and played in cleanliness. 

This room had a fireplace in it for heating, the kitchen was heated by a cook stove which they had brought with them and of which they were justly proud. The third room had no heat. Before long They were able to floor one room, where the fire place was, for the baby to play in and soon after the floor of the kitchen was partially floored, that is the part that held the cook stove. This was not a very desirable location as it was too low and damp, especially in rainy weather, when it was almost a swamp, so, for this reason and because of an Indian scare they moved nearer to the town which was higher ground. Mrs. Locke exhibited a 12x12 photograph of what the town was in the very early days which was quite interesting. In the foreground to the right, was the much talked of 18x24 schoolhouse, then a one room structure, which is today a two story, nine roomed house, bearing no resemblance to the schoolhouse. To the left was a big open space, then a tent next to a small adobe building now gone altogether, but was the same location of the Bowman drug store where there was a holdup some time later and on the north side of Main Street could plainly be seen the long narrow roof of the first business block. The Markley Building, beyond the two small stores just east of it, all still standing . In the center background was the home of Mr. Oliver Mc Gordon, the man who named Farmington. This was the adobe house now owned and occupied by Mrs. Lorena Mahany, and the home of the Farmington Library.

Mr. McGordon was a man of uncertain temper, and one day, when in a rage, he shot and killed his wife and was hung for it. In the most distant north-west corner of the photograph could be seen the tall trees on the Markley Estate, nearly a mile away, now the home of R.T.F. Simpson. In the center or near foreground were a few people a-foot and on horse-back, and an open ditch with ice in it. There was nothing else in the picture except the wide open spaces, of very rough ground, some water or mud in the street edge with ice with considerable space given to a clear sky.

Mr. Locke set out his first fruit trees on June 2nd, 1880. This was the of what later became the largest orchard in the San Juan County. Mr. Locke's first alfalfa seed was a gift from the friendly Spanish Americans in Largo canyon. It was a tobacco sack full of seed and from this small quantity he, in later years he raised large quantities of Alfalfa.

From Four bee hives from Cannon City, Colorado, was started the bee-culture in the county, which soon became the property of Mrs. Locke. She learned to handle them and was never stung, and from these four hives she supplied many people of the valley with bees. And this she told with considerable pride. The orchards, alfalfa fields and the cleome or wild bee weed furnished plenty of pasture for the bees.

Mrs. Locke's chickens were such good layers there was considerable income from the eggs; especially in the winter when they were somewhat scarce, and one winter they brought her in a dollar a dozen, her one regret being they went to the White House Saloon. However, saloon or no saloon she could not resist that price. Mrs. Locke is the mother of 14 children, a little woman with pure white hair, soft voice, pleasing manner and clear memory, but so frail with the burden of her 80 or more years her strength gave out in less than an hour, therefore here ends the history she gave me of her first years in Farmington.

Prospector's Experience
By Mrs. W. C. Totty
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Socorro
Surnames mentioned: Sanderson, Keautzy, Slough

A man gets some queer ideas, in his head when he's out all alone in the mountains, said John Sanderson, half of them believe in ghosts, nine out of ten in signs and all of them in luck. My own experience has changed my views in a good many particulars, and for one thing, it has made me a firm believer in special providences. It didn't come about gradually but through as marvelous escape from an awful death as I believe ever falls to man!

I had a pet theory then that if you followed the creek's up high enough you would find a tremendous deposit of gold in decomposed quartz. I talked the thing up to Charlie Burk, another prospector and of mine, until he agreed to put up half of the outfit and join me in the search. We got a couple of burros, the necessary tools and started early in the spring.

The country in the Black Range is about as wild and desolate as any on earth, and it was a trip that nothing but faith and enthusiasm would prompt a man to attempt. It was one succession of gorges, gulches, and ditches , all strewn with granite boulders from the size of a man's hand to a four story block, and often we were obliged to leave the water course that we were following and make detours that took day's at the time.

The creek we followed was almost dry and we stopped frequently looking for placers. We found no very rich ones, but every where there was gold. Sometimes there would be lots of it in the bottom of the  tin cup after we had taken a drink, and sometimes, here is a curious thing, it would be floating on the surface. I will let some one who is better posted in science than I, tell why gold now and then floats, but I only know that little flakes of it do, and a lot of it is lost in sluice mining that way. As long as we found placers we knew that the main deposit was ahead, so we pushed along, tired enough but confident.

At last we came to a spot where the sand was barren for several day's journey, and then we begin to prospect the country around. To make a long story short we struck a ledge one morning with outcropping's that crumbled under my pick and showed quartz all streaked with yellow threads.

Charlie, I yelled out, all afire at once, we have struck it! But before we sunk a shaft we found something else that sent our hearts to our mouths. It was an old shaft, back a little and in a claim properly staked out that covered that very ledge. There was a notification according to law on one of the posts, that Peter Sumner and Joseph Keautzy had taken possession of the Big Six and done the legal assessment work. I sat right down and collapsed but Charlie went over the shaft and came back to tell me that it didn't cover half the amount necessary, under the law to hold the property for the year. We measured it and sure enough, it was down only about one-half the required distance so we took possession of the property, changed its name to The Treasury, and went to work.

We built ourselves a rough shanty, rigged up a windless and began to sink. In a few day's we were in a formation rich enough to make a mans head swim, and just getting better as we went down. We were both so excited that we begrudged the time to sleep and eat, and we neither of us meditated for an instant giving the claim up to anybody, assessment work, or no assessment work. What had become of the two men was a mystery. They had left no trace except the notification board and shaft, and it gave me the creeps now and then to think that they might be dead.

But we were not in a frame of mind to let sentiment interfere with business. I suppose we had been there a couple of weeks when provisions began to run short. We didn't want to both leave the claim at once so it was finally arranged that Charlie would go down the creek about fifty miles to a camp and get supplies. He took the two burros and started off. I calculated that it would take him a week to make a trip, and time hung heavy on my hands. I tried to work a little on the shaft. The formation we was very hard and we had rigged up a sort of a crossbar ladder. I would go down this, fill the bucket, climb to the surface and pull it up.

About noon of the second day after he left I was startled at what I thought was a man crossing a little gulch a half a mile away. I only had a view of it between two rocks, and whatever it was it passed so quickly that I was not sure. However, I waited for a couple of hours, and then seeing nothing further concluded I was mistaken and I went down into the shaft. I filled the bucket with very heavy ore climbed up and had it about half raised when a man came walking up the creek bed toward me. Then I knew that I was right before.

He was an ugly looking customer, big and brawny with a flat, Scandinavian face, and carried a Winchester on his arm. I had a little stick that I slipped into the windlass handle near the axle to keep it from turning backward and leaving the bucket just where it was suspended half way up. I started towards the cabin to get my arms. He covered me with his repeating rifle and ordered me to halt.

What are you doing on my claim? he said. I reckon you can see. I replied, pulling as good a face on it as I possibly could. Do you mean you jumped it, you cursed thief? No, I don't, there wasn't enough work on it to hold it, and it was as much mine as anybody's. You lie! He looked at me for over a minute with his wicked greenish eyes for a full minute, then he said: Did you ever pray?

Yes I faltered. Then pray now, I'll give you two minutes to do it. By that time my mind was clear enough to take in the whole situation, I had no doubt he intended to murder me then and there. With me out of the way there would be no one to testify to the insufficient work, and I would simply be regarded on history but when my death was told as claim jumper who had justly been dealt with. I felt my knees trembled and tried another trick.

If you kill me, I said my partner will be back and see that you hang for it. I'll fix your partner the same way, you claim-jumping cur. True enough nothing would be easier than to assassinate Burk on his return, and we had so jealously guarded the secret of our trip that no one would know where to search for us. We would simply disappear, as hundreds of prospector's do, never to be seen by man again, and speedily to be forgotten. I had no hope of mercy from the instant I looked into the man's cruel face. I felt with a sickening qualm and a wild drumming in my ears that my time had come.

Oh! For heavens sake don't murder me. I cried I will go. The man made no reply. For a moment my head swam, and then with a sudden return of vision that was excruciating in it's clearness, I saw him stoop slightly, rest the gun barrel over the windlass handle, and marked even the slight contraction of the eye-lid that always precedes a shot.

The next instant there was a crash, an explosion and a cry all mingled into one. I saw the man turning head over heels sown down the embankment, the Winchester flying through a cloud of smoke up into the air, and all the while I heard a loud, monotonous whirling noise that was like some gigantic clock running down. I did not realize it at the time but this is what happened.

When he rested his gun on the windlass he dropped his barrel right across the little stick I had thrust in to prevent it bumbling and knocked it out I suppose the bucket of ore weighed one-hundred fifty pounds, and the great iron handle swinging clear around with such terrific movement, that when it struck him square in the face, which it did, it lifted him off of his feet like a cannon ball. The gun was discharged by the shock but the bullet went nowhere near me. Before I regained my senses I heard the bucket hit the bottom with a smash?

When I picked up the man he was unconscious, but moaning a little, and the blood tricked on his ears, and his gun was broken. He lay at the cabin for a week or two and after Charlie returned we took him to Silver City. There Dr. Slough put his face in a sort of plaster of Paris cast but although the wound healed he was out of his head and eventually died. The night before he passed away he motioned for a little slate he used to write on for he couldn't speak. He was very weak, and it took him a long time but at last he scrawled, Who hit me? Before they could tell him he fainted away. I sold my half of the claim a short time after the accident, the mine played out in about a year.

R. W. Isaacs
By Genevieve Chapin
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Union
Surnames mentioned: Isaccs, Stubbs, Roberts, 

Among our prominent and efficient Old timers we now introduce Robert Wolfe Isaacs, a dealer in Hardware and Implements at Clayton , Union County, New Mexico. Mr. Isaacs, or Bob Isaacs, as be to familiarly and affectionately known here in the West, is a public spirited man, whose idea is that whatever benefits the community also, more or less directly, benefits him individually, and acts accordingly. He is the proprietor of a thriving business which, as he says, you could hardly kill with an axe. It came into his sole ownership in 1902 with a floor space of about 800 square feet, which by 1929 had increased to 1800 square feet.

Mr. Isaacs caused much shaking of older and more experienced business heads by buying his building and lots, which are on the corner of Main and First, and by a great many other progressive ideas introduced into his business. His slogan is, The House of Good Service, and he has conscientiously and consistently lived up to it thru' a long period of years.

When the Isaacs Hardware and Implement Store began its career in Clayton, the only farm tools used here were the breaker and the seven-inch plow, and a great excitement pervaded the little community when he introduced into it the first modern plow. At, that time, Mr. Isaacs states, Clayton was just a wide place in the road with a population of three or four hundred. As he says there was no parking problem then, by dropping the traces you could park parallel, angling, horizontally or vertically. In those days, trade reached out toward Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma and into New Mexico something like 135 miles ,the good old days of the wide open spaces, with drinks at fifteen cents each and no nickel cigars.

By 1929, the business had expanded until it employed eight full time men, and two High School boys, who were working their way through school. At present, the active work of the store is in charge of Mr. Isaacs' son, Young Bob, although, Mr. Isaacs himself is far from being the typical retired business man. So much for the growth of the business itself. But the man at the head of it is much more interesting himself than the business he founded.

Robert Wolfe Isaacs was born in 1859, in Australia, his parents having come there some time previously, from London. Here he lived during his earlier boyhood, returning in 1870 with his parents to London, the trip consuming sixteen weeks.

In 1871 the family again crossed the waters, this time to the United States, where they settled in Cincinnati. Here, as Mr. Isaacs says, engaged in the important retail branch of the newspaper trade, also selling some books at the same time. In 1892, Mr. Isaacs came West; locating at Trinidad, Colorado, where the family owned the old Phoenix Hotel. Mr. Issac's states that he landed in Trinidad with a capital of $35.00. Just about this time, in company with two older and more

experienced Westerners, Mr. Isaacs set out with team and wagon to prospect for gold in them thar hills. Their search lead them first to a lode prospect, where one of the old timers was sure there was a true fissure vein, that was located on or near the Richardson ranch about fifty miles Southwest of Dorsey Station on the Santa Fe.

But on arriving there, they found they had forgotten to bring caps and fuses for blasting, so our hero was dispatched to Trinidad to get them, one of the men taking him to the nearest Railroad Station, some 11 miles away, promising to meet him there on his return. After securing the necessary caps and fuses, Mr. Isaacs also remembered the very abbreviated state of the camp menu, to which he was not accustomed. So he worked on the sympathies of his sister till she contributed several pounds of dried fruit of different varieties, a whole cheese, and some bananas. These were disposed over his person, front and back, like a peddler's pack, and he set forth on his return journey.

Having traveled by train as far as possible, and seeing no evidence of anyone there with a conveyance to meet him, there was nothing for it but to start out afoot to cover the remaining distance. So off he went. A kindly disposed rancher picked him up and carried him by wagon a few miles, and, as night had already fallen, urged him to tarry at the ranch till morning before finishing his journey. But knowing his partners were anxious for the enforcements for their blasting operations, he plodded on, mile after weary mile, afoot and alone through the dark. The newly acquired boots, to which his tender feet were unaccustomed, made walking extremely difficult, not to say painful. And when the pangs of hunger assailed him, so nobly did he respond to their intimations that when he reached his destination, the cheese alone remained to embellish the too, meager menu of the mining camp.

Arriving at last at camp, footsore, worn and weary, but having taken almost a beeline from the railroad, what was his chagrin to find that one of the partners had left camp, as per promise, to meet him, but, it developed later, looking our modern conveniences of guide marks and highways, be had traveled miles in an exactly opposite direction from that he had intended to go, finally rounding up to spend the night with the same rancher with whom Mr. Isaacs had earlier refused shelter. Such is life.

Failing to get results from lode mining, they moved their base of operation to Big Nigger Gulch, opposite Elizabethtown, in the hopes, vein hopes! of getting results from placer mining. But, as Mr. Isaacs whimsically adds, all the gold in them thar hills remains there to this day, so far as that expedition is concerned, as they took none of it out. In his earlier life, Mr. Isaacs was greatly interested in athletics, being an instructor, amateur in boxing and calisthenics. Nor did his advancing years take any great toll of that interest. In later years, he made his hand on the golf course, with no mean results. 

In 1905 Bob Isaacs married Miss Mary Alice Stubbs, daughter of B.C. Stubbs, of Clayton, formerly of Georgia. And, as he expresses it, he's got the same wife yet! To them were born two children ,a daughter, who became Mrs. Finis Roberts, of Clayton, and a son, Young Bob, who is with his father in the Hardware business, carrying on the active management of it. Besides his hardware business, Mr. Isaacs has always found time for any service of community interest that came his way.

He is a writer of no mean ability, is healthfully interested in politics, serving for a time on the City Council ,and is a pioneer in the field of reforestation and water conservation ideas. He also agitated the question of establishing warehouses of Federal, State or Community ownership, for the benefit of the farmers. During the war, Mr. Isaacs was a very active agent for the sale of Thrift Stamps, and a staunch member of the Council of Defense for his community.

Asked a few years ago for the secret of his business success he used Mark Twain's twisted version of the old adage, Don't put all your eggs in one basket, which runs, Put all your eggs in one basket, but watch that basket! His business investments are all in Union County and Clayton. He believes that if a community has helped you to develop, you, in turn, should do your share to help the community to develop. Mr. Isaacs has been a very considerable factor in the growth and development of Union County and its County seat, and now, in his later years, numbers his friends by the scores. Such men are the bone and brawn of any community.

R. W. Isaacs II
By Genevieve Chapin
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: Union
Surnames mentioned: Issacs

Funeral services were held here today for R.W. Isaacs, prominent Clayton merchant and resident of Union County since 1898. A stroke caused Mr. Isaacs death Saturday night. He was 77. Prominent in funeral services were members of the Masonic, Odd Fellows and Woodman lodges of which he was a member. Mr. Isaacs was a delegate to one National Democratic convention and this year was an alternate.

Mr. Joe Prewitt
By Mrs. R. T. F. Simpson
Paraphrased by C. W. Barnum
Counties: San Juan
Surnames mentioned: Prewitt, Meedaam, Jack, Kountz, Allen, Brown, Pyatt, Cheeney, Miller, Blake, Barker, Markley

Mr. Prewitt came to Durange, Colorado, in 1861 ,and in May, 1882 he came to Farmington, which was his home for several years. At that time Farmington contained only about ten buildings, and all of them were made of a adobe, with dirt roofs. Not a shingle in the town. Well, he said, it was just as well and in some instances, better, for instance frequently, there would be a grouped of cowboys sitting in a saloon, and just for amusement, they would shoot through the roof with their six shooters, which would have made a regular sieve of a singled roof, but with a dirt roof it did but little harm, for the bullet could be seen to raise a little streak of dirt a few inches in the air, then the dirt in the roof would just settle back and the hole closed up.

Some of the old buildings are still in pretty good shape, especially the old Markley Building, where I was located when I first went to Farmington. The two old school houses were both adobe, but are now both encased in a sheathing of lumber. The second schoolhouse was really a church which was dedicated on Christmas day in 1883. The building was used for all kinds of meetings, except dances, it was never used for dances. There was a man named George Meedaam, who was Presiding Elder of the Methodist Church who opened a School For Higher Education in the building, but it did not continue.

The first fruit crop was harvested in 1883, but there was not more than a bushel or two of it all told. But the fruit crop was soon greatly increased, and before many years the fruit from The San Juan Valley was shipped by the train load across land and sea, and this fruit has made for its self a wide reputation for good fruit with fine flavor. At this early era Farmington had no shade trees But today the town can boast of many beauties and adds much to the attractiveness of the homes there.

Frank Allen's Grand Hotel was just a three rooms and west and north of Allen's place Schuyler Smith had a farm later bought by Blake which was broad and flat and unfenced and often on Sundays, when the cowboys of the town were out for a bit of fun, they raced their ponies across this flat and on through the town, shooting their guns into the air with a whoop stirring up both dust and noise.

Occasionally Indians indulged in the same pastime, till one day in the winter on 1884 to 1885, it had been fenced in by Dobe Jack who lived on the place. The fence, which they did not see in time to stop, was hit full force and all piled up in a heap, both horses and Indians, and that was the last of the Indians racing through the town. The Navajo frequently brought in a wild turkey or a saddle of venison, which they gladly sold for fifty cents.

In front of the present Avery Hotel to the south and west of it, was and is an acre or so of good flat ground-which had been sowed to winter wheat. In the spring it was fresh and green looking and a good feeding ground for wild geese which frequently furnished the inhabitants with a very palatable dinner of roast wild goose.

Making the trip to Durango at that time was quite an undertaking. The Animas River was crossed nine times, and there being only one bridge, it had to be forded just eight times. There was no road, was but a trail where some one else had driven, avoiding as best he could the roughest places, and winding around trees and big boulders, and you had to keep going to make it in two days. If it was muddy it took three or four days, and you couldn't make it at all if the snow was deep, while we make it in about an hour in any kind of weather. Well, they had regular stopping places on the road where we could get meals, but the best place of all was at the home of Mrs. Kountz, who served such good meals, that we made every effort to get there at meal time. The memory of them is still very vivid. She lived in that adobe house in Aztec still standing, but showing the age of its years, just between the bridge and a large garage as you enter the town going north. 

The mail arrived from Durango, by going first to Ft. Lewis, then to the Johnnie Pond Ranch on the La Plata, where the stage stayed over night, then to Pendelton, the Post Office on the La Plata, in the store of Dan Rhoads, Post Master, on to Aztec and across to Bloomfield, which was quite a town, and then down to Farmington. We got the mail twice a week, except when the water was high.

During the Stockton War, in the early eighties, and after Barker had been killed, as well as Fort Stockton, there occurred the killing of two men, one named Pyatt and one named George Brown, Pyatt being on the Stockton side and Brown on the other side. The shooting took place at a New Years dance when the two men met outside of the dance hall, both men shot and both men were killed, each killed the other, as they were both dead shots.

The first store in the town was Miller's, and the second was Cheeney's, in the Old Markley building, which was built by Cheeney, as well as the Old Palmer house, just north of the present Palmer home, and both were bought by Mr. Markley when he arrived. I was employed by Markley, and later went into the business with him. The demand for produce was good, in those days, and when sold, brought good prices potatoes 10 cents per pound. Hay $140.00 per ton at times. Everything hauled from Chuma. There was more water in the old Jan Juan in those days than there is now, and in the high waters during the spring the river took it's toll and many were drowned. On August 5th, 1881, the first regular train on the new Denver and Rio Grand R.R. rolled in to Durango and Farmington helped to celebrate the event, which was done in a big way, as it meant so much to both towns.

This was the beginning of the end of the old days. Yes, this was, but they were, in some ways, superior days. For people then were honest, and brave, and would go to any length to do the right thing. We never locked our doors, not even during a six weeks absence at a time. No stealing , stealing would not have been tolerated. People were always willing to extend their hospitality to the traveler. Even the Indians would do the same. I remember when my brother and I were lost on the reservation, some Indians took us in to a two roomed Hogan, and made us comfortable for the night with plenty of comforts and blankets and sheep skins to sleep on. They were generous, too with food no matter how hard it was for them to get it but it was better not to look too closely when they were preparing it. I have found that the Indians will treat you well, provided you go half way, and treat him rightly.