Eleven of us came to Telluride in 1882

Thursday, March 9, 2017 6:17 PM
The mule freight team may be an A.G. Dunning outfit in Rico in 1890s. Dunning is June Head's great-grandfather.

I was born in Venango County, Pennsylvania on 22th October 1862. In 1882, I came to Telluride, Colorado with my cousins.

There were eleven of us in the party, and we intended to make Colorado our home. My cousin’s husband had mining claims in Telluride region, and we ran a confectionery store and boarding house.

When we came to Telluride, it was a relatively new camp. There might have been about 25 families living there.

But the miners from the camps in the basin around came in on Saturday nights and celebrated. There were 13 saloons and two grocery stores in town at the time. Mule teams brought all the freight from the nearest railroad point, which was then Montrose. The first funeral I attended was in a room sometimes used for a courtroom and located above the dance hall. As the principal character had died of smallpox, they left him outside in the wagon while his funeral was going on.

We had quite a trip from Montrose to Telluride. We hired a man with a buckboard to take us sightseeing in Montrose, and I got alkali mud on my dress and ruined that before we started. There was a train of freight mule teams stuck in the mud on the road ahead of us and we could not get around them. We had to stay all night at the Dallas where Ridgway now is. Usually six mules were used to a wagon on that haul, but they finally got the wagons through by hooking 16 mules to a wagon to pull out of the mud hole there.

In 1884, I went with my cousin to Rico, where we took over a mine boarding house. At that time Rico was pretty prosperous and probably had some 50 families living there as well as the miners. The boarding house we had was at the CHC mine in the hills.

When I first met Mr. Dunham, he was taking care of a horse herd. When he first came to Rico in 1881, he worked in the mines. But everyone had a saddle horse for summer use, and in the winter, they all sent their mounts out to winter range. Mr. Dunham and his half-brother William Dawson took such horses together with those they owned to the winter range on the Disappointment.

Mr. Dunham and I were married in 1885. He took up a ranch there on the Disappointment and built a two-room house.

We had to get our winter stock of supplies from Durango, over 100 miles away. One could not well get on without flour and coal oil at least.

As a bride there I had the first real bedroom furniture in the whole country. The bureau and washstand were of the marble-topped variety.

When spring came, I could not stay down there because the water was so bad. It was too much to try to haul that bedroom furniture about; so we traded it for two cows with calves. That was our first start in the cattle business right there.

Then we went back to Rico and remained for two years, during which Mr. Dunham mined some and ran a livery stable.

After a visit to our people back east, we moved down to Lone Dome on the Dolores River. Mr. Dunham traded his horses for a ranch there. This was a place homesteaded by a brother of Jesse Robinson of Bear Creek. We lived there for 10 years and had milk cows and raised quite a little bunch of cattle, over 100 head. But we got our cattle little by little by trading natural increase, etc.

We then lived on the South place on the river near Dolores for 10 more years. Then we bought the Moriarty place at Stoner, where we remained until we bought the Lester King place in the upper Montezuma Valley.

Three years later, we moved to Dolores, where we have been ever since and Mr. Dunham uses it for a base from which to look after his interests for he has not retired.

We saw a good deal of the Indians in our first years here, but we had not the least trouble with them at any time. However, in the early days, Mr. Dunham used to ride at night so as to escape their attention. One night he knew there was an Indian camp near and he meant to make a detour to avoid it. He took a steep trail to the top of a hill and was greeted at the top by some of the Indians he was trying to avoid. They took hold of his horse’s bridle and detained him while Goodman, a sort of leader among the Indians, made him tell where he was going and why. He assured the Indians that he was alone, and presently they let him go on unmolested, but he and two other Indians came with him. Goodman used to visit us as a friend afterward.

Excerpts from Anna Florence Robison’s interview with Mrs. Dunham, July 28, 1934. Part 2 will continue in the May 1 issue of The Cortez Journal. June Head is the Historian from the Montezuma County Historical Society and may be reached for questions, comments or corrections at 970-565-3880.