Looking Back Which came first: the chicken or the chicken ordinance?

Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 12:27 AM
chickens at the Star Electric Hatchery on South Maple.
The yard of the hatchery.

From the Cortez Sentinel, March 21, 1929


Notice is hereby given that henceforth chickens must be kept on the premises of the owner. Allowing chickens to run at large is a violation of the law and cannot be permitted particularly during the gardening season.


This year, when the City of Cortez enacted an ordinance allowing individual residents to raise a few chickens within city limits, its guidelines allowed for just six hens, no roosters, with cleanliness and proximity to neighbors to be observed.

This brought to mind one of the early businesses in Cortez town, the Star Electric Hatchery, operated in the 1920s and 1930s by Charles S. Minter and his wife, Euphemia. According to Walter Ertel, lifetime Cortez resident, the hatchery was located one block south of today’s Notah Dineh Trading Company, on the southeast corner of Maple and First streets, facing south. Part of the building contained living quarters for the Minters, he recalled, which corresponds to their Maple Street location on the 1930 U.S. census.

The Minters didn’t need the Cortez town marshal to remind them of their responsibilities as chicken producers. They had a secure hatchery and poultry yard in what was then called the south part of town. In 1930, they had just purchased a brooder with a capacity of 900 chicks and were preparing to show a film, “Early Care of Baby Chicks,” at the town movie theater. Their business depended upon avoiding fowl circumstances. After all, they were both respected town residents with a combined tenure of nearly one hundred years by their deaths in 1939.

Charles Sumner Minter was born in Ohio in 1857 and came to Colorado via Pennsylvania and Kansas. In 1885, he was in Arapahoe County, coming to Cortez and making his living as a blacksmith on South Market in the 1890s. He detoured to Goldfields, Teller County, Colo., by 1899, working there as a mine blacksmith, while G.W. Bowdish operated from Minter’s old Cortez shop. In 1908 Minter reclaimed his old stand on South Market and resumed his blacksmithing and horseshoeing trade, bringing in well-known farmer and businessman Dan Tschop to handle the coach, wagon and woodworking side. By 1918, Minter was also the agent for Cleveland tractors and Vulcan plows. The actual date of his retirement from blacksmithing is unknown, but Dan Tschop’s son Paul was said to have taken over from his dad after WWI. By at least 1929, Minter and his wife were running their hatchery.

Euphemia Minter, whose maiden name could have been Dalrymple, was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1850, and came to America about 1881. By 1885, she had met and married James Morrison, who emigrated from Old Meldrum, Scotland, in 1870 and was naturalized in 1886 in San Juan County, Colo.

Euphemia later told Cortez friends about a harrowing wagon trip over Mancos Hill and living for a time near Crow Canyon, where native peoples still came visiting. She and James Morrison operated a general merchandise store on Main Street in Cortez until his death in 1912. Earlier that year they had fulfilled a long-held dream of visiting their old Scottish homeland.

Charles Minter, a widower whose wife, Ala “Allie May” Minter, died suddenly in 1913, and the widow Euphemia Morrison, were married in Cortez in 1915. In 1930, they were living on South Maple Street, where they both died six weeks apart in 1939. Charles Minter still operated their hatchery and cared for Euphemia throughout their illnesses. They are each buried next to their former spouses in the Cortez Cemetery.

Story written by June Head, historian, Montezuma County Historical Society, 565-3880, and board member Joyce Lawrence, 882-2636. For additions or corrections, please contact the writers.