From Utah to the Mancos Valley in 1882, part 2

Monday, Dec. 5, 2016 4:43 PM
Shown in a 1961 photograph, Lee Ferry Fort was built in 1873 for protection against the Indians.
Crossing of the Fathers, photographed in 1961, is now under Lake Powell.

Part 1 about this incident published Nov. 7 in The Journal.By Mary L. Lamb

We were traveling along somewhere east of the present site of Cortez and headed for the Mancos.

We passed a ranch with a little house and stock corral. We had no idea what might be the explanation of what we had seen and heard, and being strangers in this country, we did not want to court trouble.

We first got acquainted with Grandma Weston and we cleared land for Andy Menefee at Mancos. Then we went to Durango and hauled freight by team to Rico. Finally we went to Rockwood, and we women camped while the men were freighting. We had a shelter of wagon sheets on poles. One night at our Rockwood camp, we heard a dreadful racket. For protection, I got up and placed Mr. Lamb’s needle gun beside my bed. Next morning, Mother laughed when she saw the gun. You fixed it nice and handy for them, didn’t you, Daughter? she said to me. I had placed the breech of the gun out so it would have been handier for an intruder than for me.

From Rockwood we went to the Gila River in Arizona, where my sister lived. We remained until 1888 and lived at Pima.

On the road down, we were held up near Camp Apache because of Indian trouble. On arrival, we developed malaria and had it for six months. One day I would have a chill and Mr. Lamb would wait on me. The next day, he would have a chill and I would take care of him. We got over the malaria. We liked the country but decided we liked Mancos better than any place. We came back and homesteaded.

We brought my sister Olive Norton with us. Halls remained in Arizona; the other relatives, including Mother, returned to Utah. We have lived at Mancos ever since.

Mr. Lamb and I had 11 children. Ruby, deceased, Sadie Mrs. Roy Parker of California, the daughter who was born on the way here. Ammon, Walter, Minnie Wheeler, Leona Wheeler, all of the Mancos country at present; two other grown daughters and one baby girl who are dead. Edmund Clyde, who was buried at sea during the war, and Kenneth, a boy of 19 who died after a three-day illness nine months after Edmund was buried at sea.

I went to France with the other Gold Star mothers on the 1931 pilgrimage.

Our home is near Mancos, but this is not our original homestead. We have taken a little girl, Julia Heinz, whose father was tramping through the country and had no home for her. We will put her in school this fall (1934).

My mother was a practical doctor. She never had another medical attendant for her family and she had 12 children. I became a practical doctor myself when I realized the need. Aunt Hannah Perkins used to be the doctor woman here. She was an Ellis by her first marriage, and has two sons living here. There was a Dr. Winters at Parrott City, a wonderful doctor, and he came over when needed. He died a drunkard, dope fiend and a pauper. Once a Swede had a terrible injured hand, which all others thought he must lose, but Dr. Winters, then in his last days, saved it.

For a while I was the only doctor on the Mancos, and I have ushered hundreds of babies into the world. After Dr. Trotter came, I worked with him and nursed at his hospital.

When Wylie Sheek’s baby was accidentally drowned, they sent for me because I knew them well and had helped them before. They had sent for the coroner but he was away on a similar case elsewhere, and the deputy had to be sent for. The little thing was black from standing on its head in the water and I worked with it and got it to looking better. I had them get some ice, and I packed the little body in it for them. I knew they couldn’t afford the expense of a regulation funeral by the undertaker. I told them that, if they liked, I would explain to the coroner, who was the undertaker and that some of us could help with the baby ourselves. The parents told me to go ahead.

Archie Hays made the casket, and I helped to trim it. We got white terry cloth that gives the effect of velvet and covered the outside. The tacks we used were entirely covered. We padded the inside well with cotton and covered it with soft shirred white nainsook. We tacked the lining on with white-headed tacks and used finishing braid and lace to edge the top. We made a pillow with lace. It looked very dainty when it was finished. It did not cost more than $10. With the little casket neighbors helped to make and the wreath of flowers from flower gardens, the little baby had as lovely a setting as could be wished. My people owned Lee’s Ferry at one time. When I went out to the dedication of the bridge in 1930, it was the first time I had seen the place since I was a child. My husband says the so-called “Hole-in the- Rock” was between Lee’s Ferry and Hall’s Ferry. There was a road that way at one time but when we came, the road to Hall’s Ferry was once known as the “Crossing of the Fathers” where the priests crossed the river in ancient days. There were big ruins there and the Fathers lived in the ruins one winter in 16-something. The date was marked up in the ruin.

June Head is the historian of the Montezuma County Historical Society and can be contacted at 565-3880.