The history of the pioneers of the Mancos Valley

Thursday, March 9, 2017 11:11 AM
Andy Menefee cabin near Mancos.

Read at the Old Timers Reunion by Mrs. Thomas Rickner, at Mancos, Sept. 1910.In 1873 John Moss, with pick, pan and shovel strapped upon the back of his faithful donkey, was the first who started out to seek the hidden treasure in the LaPlata Mountains. He made a treaty with the Indians, they allowing him land twenty-five miles square, in which to carry on his mining. The same year came the cowboy and he found abundant grass and water, and a large area of land for his cattle to graze upon. He decided to remain and after this the boys continued to come and soon a small settlement was established on the Mancos and Dolores rivers.

In 1877 Mr. McGrew traded a cow to Mrs. Newmire, who lived near Silverton, for a cat. He carried this cat to Mancos on horseback, and sent Alex Ptolemy back with the cow. The Menefees brought a cat with them from Nevada and these cats were loaned to the neighbors to exterminate the mice.

In the winter of ’77 Andy Menefee made a trip out in Utah which took about three months, and when he came back he had six chickens and two pigs and some provisions.

In 1878, R. T. McGrew built his first cabin on Chicken Creek. The Indians had been the only thing the people feared, especially at night, but they soon feared something else or at least R. T. McGrew was the first to relate his experiences. He had spent the day at the Bradford home and about eleven o’clock he went home only to find that no one had milked his cows which he proceeded to do. While milking he heard his dog Shep barking near the cabin. Looking toward his cabin he saw a bear standing in the doorway. He called to Shep, “Get him out of there”. When Shep took hold of him from behind the bear turned and came toward the corral. The bear climbed upon the fence with his forepaws. Shep would bite and bear would get down, then up came the bear again and Shep would pull him down until the bear got tired of this and walking around to a little gate he went in the corral on one side and Mr. McGrew out the other on a run and the bear came too, and away they went Mr. McGrew, bear and Shep, and thus they reached the house. The door was closed in the bear’s face, which he did not like a bit and after growling a little went off perfectly disgusted. When Mr. McGrew thought, ”You old rascal I’ll just shoot you dead.” Then pop went the gun and no sooner said than back came the bear. Mr. McGrew had a good supply of sacked wheat in the cabin, and with this he secured the door by stacking these sacks of wheat one on top of the other until he had them all against the door, while Mr. Bear was going round and round the house muttering and growling. Mr. McGrew told Shep to take him away and for some time Shep and the bear had one round after another, but finally the bear left on the run with Shep after him, they went out of hearing. Then Mr. McGrew retired, not to awake until late the next day.

A few days afterwards he was at Mr. Ratliff’s. They told him about what a time they had on the same night. Now Manse Reid had a black cow that never stopped at a fence when she came to a cornfield, and Mr. Ratliff knew this by experience, and when he heard his pigs squealing he thought that it was the cow coming into his corn patch near the house so he got out of bed as did his wife and went outdoors. They saw it was not the cow but a bear coming in their direction. Mrs. Ratliff got inside in time to partly close the door when Mr. Ratliff hit the opening and the bear stuck the door facing. Mr. Ratliff then barred the door and the bear amused himself by frightening Mr. Ratliff’s pigs out of their slumber.

The next is Andy Menefee while hunting horses early one morning came upon a mother bear and two cubs. The wind was blowing directly in their faces and Mrs. Bear had not seen Mr. Menefee until there came a turn in the road when she saw him. She started to run at full speed, and Mr. Menefee thought perhaps he could get someone to hear him and come to his assistance by making a great noise and this he proceeded to do. It was a custom for him to take a four horse whip with him to drive the horses with. By cracking the whip and calling at the top of his voice and riding full speed he was close behind Mrs. Bear. She became so frightened she ran so much faster than the cubs, that they took flight and climbed a tree. By this time they were near Mr. Menefee’s cabin. The dogs and the members of his household had heard him and knew that he wanted help so Nat Kilbourn started out to Mr. Menefee, who told him to bring a gun. When Nat got out there with the gun one cub had run off but he shot and killed the other while in the tree.

The complete article by Mrs. Rickner may be found in Volume I of the society’s “ Great Sage Plain to Timberline –Our Pioneer Ancestors.” The next article of past history will appear in The Journal on Friday, April 7.June Head is Historian of the Montezuma County Historical Society and can be contacted for comments or corrections at 970-565-3880.