Chan’s family decides to pack up, move out of Rico country

Friday, March 2, 2012 11:35 PM

The following account was written by Robert H. Snyder (Bob). Incidents herein concern the lives of his grandfather (Chan) and his great-grandfather (Henry Edward) and their families. The account was written in longhand as Bob visited with people as they worked in the fields, as they roamed mountains, rode in automobiles, etc. — wherever they happened to be as they told about events. Most of the information in the writing has come from people, friends, and relatives who knew or were personally acquainted with the persons in the stories. Bob lived in the same household as Chan in the early days of Bob’s childhood — later in 1940 they were together an entire summer, camping and working mining claims in various parts of Colorado as well as some in Utah. Some experiences were written from this personal contact. A greater part of the material came through Bob’s father, Robert A. Snyder who was close to Chan most of his life. (This portion of the story was printed in the Dove Creek Press on Thursday, January 26, 1984 by the Dolores County Historical Society — Buz Grubbs, County Historian.)

Thursday, January 26, 1984 – Dove Creek Press

Chan was out with the cattle most everyday and was not able to be home much of the time so it was quite hard on Sarah and the children to take care of the place and look after things at home. The day came when it was decided that Chan and Sarah would need to move somewhere else since the children were getting older and would soon be ready to start to school. Much discussion took place as to when and where the best school opportunity for the boys would be. Years later as Mother Sarah explained it to Rob — she and Chan wanted to find somewhere where there was less violence and lawlessness than in this southwest Colorado country. So in time, it was decided that they might go to Idaho country and look around for a place to settle. Chan told his friends of their decision to leave and so many of them wished he would change his mind. Even Chief Wash offered to take the cattle down on Montezuma Creek in Utah and have his Indians take care of them through the winter. As he told Chan, “It wouldn’t cost you a cent.” However after much thoughtful consideration, Chan still decided to go ahead with plans for moving though many memories lingered of events, people and places which had influenced his life. Chan recalled one event which took place back on the Dolores River below Rico, near the present day Tenderfoot Creek. It seems that in the early days of the country, Tenderfoot Creek was known as Snyder gulch. While Chan and Rob, his brother, were camped there running cattle, a young man who was a distant relative from Wisconsin stayed with them for a while. The “Tenderfoot” (as he was called) was there part of one summer in the early 1880’s and as he was camped with Chan and Rob, was quite often the butt of jokes, which were played on him — sometimes by Rob or others who might visit the camp. The “Tenderfoot kid” wanted very much to kill a deer during his stay at camp; so Chan told him if he would get up early about daylight they could go out together and get one. The next morning they both rolled out at daylight and made a circle of the likely places where deer could be found. After a couple hours of looking they still hadn’t seen anything so went back to camp with the idea of going out again the next morning. The next morning they again went out about daylight searching some of the likely places but with the same result as the morning before — they didn’t see anything. So Chan said they would try it again the next day. On the third morning, Chan rolled out about daylight and called to the “Tenderfoot” to come along, but the kid said he didn’t want to go out that morning — he’d been out two times already, and hadn’t seen anything so this morning he was going to sleep in. Chan, already up and ready, decided to go it alone, so grabbed his rifle and headed out of camp making a circle of likely places. Not long after Chan had left, he came upon an opening through the trees where he saw three head of deer feeding. Feeling this the chance he had been waiting for, he moved into position where he could get a shot. The deer were standing quite close together, two being broadside, one behind the other. Chan pulled down on the nearest and fired — two deer jumped and went down. The third started to move away so Chan turned and shot again. This deer jumped and went down, also. After the excitement, Chan moved closer and was very much surprised to find all three of the deer laying dead as he had only fired two shots — all of the bullets he had taken with him that morning. He cleaned out the deer, went back to camp and told the tenderfoot of his hunt. The kid became very unhappy because he hadn’t gone out and kept saying, “Why didn’t you make me get up, why didn’t you make me get up.” The kid hoped he’d have a chance to go hunting again sometime.

As Chan was considering his move from the Rico country, he remembered another experience he had had with a fellow by the name of Alec Calhoon. The two of them had gone over to Telluride one evening to see what was going on — while there, they wandered into one of the gambling halls to get warm and see who was present. Alec Calhoon became interested in the Roulette game. The more he watched, the more interested he became, although he was not a gambling man, and had never gambled before in his life. He decided to get into the game, so taking out of his pocket a dollar or two he proceeded to put it on a number. To his surprise his number came up a winner after the dealer spun the wheel. The dealer shoved the winnings over to Alec, and Alec decided to put his winnings on another number and see what would happen. This he did and was surprised to win a second time. Alec kept on playing and continued to win almost every time until at last he broke the gambling house. Having not gambled before, Alec didn’t know what to think of the luck he’d had, but he felt pretty good so he and Chan decided to go to another gambling house or saloon across the street, which they did. In the second saloon, Alec began playing roulette with his winning streak still holding and it wasn’t long before he had broke the house and had quite a bunch of money on him. Feeling pretty good, not knowing for sure what to do next they went on down the street until they came to a third saloon and started playing again. After a couple of hours, to his astonishment and surprise, Alec found that he in his winnings had broken the third place also. He roughly estimated that in his winnings for the evening he had close to $25,000. When he realized this, he told Chan, “Come, let’s get out of here.” They moved out, caught their horses and headed back for Rico before anyone should try to rob Alec of his winnings. As the story goes, Alec used his winnings to buy cattle, and this cattle business he stayed with for many years.

These and other memories were with Chan as he considered and finally decided to leave the country. Even his good friend Chief Wash was unable to influence his decision. (Years later, a son of Chief Wash came over to visit Chan when he was living at his place west of Myton, Utah. This was probably in the early 1920s.) When the final decision was made to move, Chan sold his cattle to Alec Calhoon, one of the many friends he was leaving behind. Along with the cattle, the brand, an open “A” 3/4 box was also sold. The cattle numbered about 150 head. Chan held on to a number of horses, teams, as well as several head of saddle stock. Possibly he bought more horses such as Kit and Jim, also Duey and Prince. (An extra hard winter had influenced the decision to finally move — about 36 head of stock had died due to a fever caused from eating brush or something.)

During the final preparation for travel in the summer of 1904, Chan needed to acquire wagons, teams of horses as well as supplies and food for the journey. Chief Wash was still visiting quite often and was still hoping Chan would somehow change his mind and stay on. When Chan was ready to leave with his family, they had two wagons, about six head of work horses, a buckskin mare named Queen, and possibly other saddle horses or colts. As for money he had around $4,500 in gold coin which he received from sale of some uranium claims to a French outfit. As the story goes, he had sold nine claims at $500 each. These were the first claims, which were located in Southwest Colorado and the United States. This money was in $20 gold pieces, stored in a baking powder can and carried in the wagon.

When the time came for them to leave, they had two wagons hooked together pulled by six horses. These wagons were loaded with furniture etc.; the extra horses were led behind the rear wagon, also they had two or three dogs which went along. At this writing, we are not sure where Chan and the family started from, but it was probably Rico in the summer of 1904. After leaving they moved at a steady pace of about 20 miles per day, going by way of Dove Creek on to Monticello, Utah and north to Moab. During the first three days of travel from Dove Creek country, Chief Wash rode along with Chan to be near him and he somehow hoped that Chan would change his mind and turn back to the cattle country and hunting country they both knew so well. Chan continued on his way and on the evening of the third day at dusk, Chief Wash stopped — gazed long at his friend, then turned his horse around and started back to the south country they had departed from. Chan and the family continued on to Moab with the wagon which was loaded with supplies for the trip, furniture and the things they would need to start a new home. After arriving in Moab, Chan and the family visited with their families and friends, probably staying there for two or three weeks. Memories came back of events and happenings which took place in days gone by — like perhaps the time when Chan and the family were living down on the river near Slick Rock. A young man by the name of Creedy came out there from back east somewhere to stay with Chan, since the family of Creedy were friends of the Snyders. Creedy was about 18 or 19 years old and was in poor health; he was on a special food diet. However, after his arrival at the “cow camp,” he was told he would have to eat the same food as the other hands. Creedy proceeded to do so, and it wasn’t long before he began to put on weight and soon developed into a strong, husky young man due to the fresh air, good food and exercise. It seems that Creedy was great for throwing rocks across the river. Also, day after day, he would coil a rope and throw one end into the air. One day someone asked him why he did this and Creedy said, “If a person has enough faith — he can make the rope stay up in the air.” He looked at the puzzled faces of the men gathered about him and went on throwing the rope up into the air as he had been doing since his arrival out west.

To be continued next month in “Looking Back.”

This story appeared in Volume III of “Great Sage Plain to Timberline: Our Pioneer History,” published by the Montezuma County Historical Society. Currently the Historical Society has published four volumes, all of which are for sale at “Books” or “Let It Grow” stores in Cortez. All proceeds go to the Historical Society. Virginia Graham of the Montezuma Valley Historical Society is the co-editor of “Great Sage Plain to Timberline.”