LIFE HISTORY OF SARAH ANN (MILNER) SMITH, 1844-1939,
as related by her to her son, Eugene Smith,
at various periods of her life, and as recorded by her in numerous stories, excerpts and brief biographical sketches now in her son's possession.
Pioneer Buckhorn Valley
There now remained of the prosperous Milner family of nine who migrated from Canada to the United States in 1858 but three members, all in reduced circumstances. These were: Samuel, the eldest, living in Loveland, Colorado, and making a living for his young wife and brood of four young sons, working as a brick mason and plasterer; Benjiman, the youngest, married and living on his new Buckhorn stock ranch; and myself with my three children newly moved to a homestead adjoining Ben's.
Ben's herds of horses and cattle were but a fraction of the number owned and run on the Milner ridge and surrounding hog-backs at the time of the ownership of the Redstone ranch in the seventies by his father, himself and brothers James and Joseph.
It was my purpose to go into the dairying business, and to this end I began investing my capital in dairy cows. In the spring, before finishing my school term in Loveland, I hired brother Ben to remodel and reshingle the old cabin on the forty, and to add a room on one end, and to build a lean-to of two small rooms at the back. Then I hired brother Sam to build a brick chimney, and to plaster the main rooms. When completed it was the first plastered house on the creek to my knowledge, excepting the heavy walled, low stone structure erected in the early days by the Milners on the Redstone. But withall it was a very modest little cabin home.
The Buckhorn and Redstone valleys at that time were in an extremely backward condition, with only a few small ditches and little land under cultivation. The whole region had been used in the past mainly as a cattle and sheep range by about a half dozen owners. The main population was a very backward class of people from still backward pioneer regions on the Middle East and South. All of these people were making a very precarious living hauling out pole timber from a large area of fire-killed lodgepole pine timber or freighting green lumber from the several saw-mills then operating in the mountains to the west of Buckhorn creek. The area of pole timber on public lands was also some ten miles to the west of the creek and generally referred to as the "Pole Patch." No attempt was being made at the time to regulate timber cutting on public lands in the region, nor to collect payment for the timber harvested from them. There were no roads into the timbered country excepting such rude trails up the steep and rugged slopes as the timber cutters themselves were able to gouge out of the hillsides. Timber was very low in price (a large load requiring a camping trip of several days to obtain brought only ten or fifteen dollars in the outside valleys). Wear and tear on wagons and harness was great, and ice and snow added greatly to teamsters' difficulties. Rubber footwear was an almost unknown luxury, the teamsters resorting to such expedients as wiring feed sacks about their feet in snowy weather.
The homes of the teamster population were either "dugouts' ‘-single-room cabins dug partly under ground for warmth-or rough lumber structures of poor construction protected from wind and weather only by a single layer of tarred paper for roofing, and thin building paper for walls. The dug-outs usually had a fireplace at the back, but the frame structures often had only a kitchen range for cooking and heating purposes. The best of them usually had a "box- stove" for heating with wood. My brother's home was of the latter class; built by the man from whom he purchased a "squatter's right," ‘Iz" Brooks, for whom a nearby canyon was named. For the heating of my own new home I also purchased a box-stove, and bought for my boys a cross-cut saw of the two-man type with which to cut firewood from the many large dead cottonwood logs on the bottom land. The old logs were very tough to split, and kept the young and inexperienced lads very busy-and tired-in severe weather, supplying both stoves in addition to looking after the fowls and livestock. There was no one to whom to appeal for assistance. My brother was just getting his own ranch established and had his own fuel to prepare daily. He had never been a rugged man after his attack of mountain fever while at the stage station on St. Vrain's creek. For months after he got up he was barely able to ride about on a gentle pony. It was claimed at that time that one of his lungs was entirely destroyed by tuberculosis, and that the other was badly affected. Whether the army doctors who made this pronouncement were correct in their judgement or not, certain it is that for the remainder of his life he was racked day and night by a bad cough, often being compelled to sit up in bed for hours at night to ease it. That he was able to care for his large family (he had five children) was due only to his grit, and his wife's able assistance.
So it was a case of "root-hog-or-die" with us after we moved onto our homestead. The first summer Eugene went back to work at fifty cents per day for a market gardner, (Mr. Phillips who started the commercial berry business around Loveland.) He had worked there two summers before. He lived with brother Sam's family until July when he came home bringing all his wages to invest in things needed in starting a ranch.
I had purchased several fresh cows, and these we ranged out on the open range day times. Open glades and unfenced ridges were on either side of our forty. Like the timber, there was no restriction on the grass on public lands. But out on the range our cows were in competition with a large herd of sheep owned on the old Milner ranch on nearby Redstone creek by Trowbridge and McWhorter, also with wandering bands of range cattle owned by Frank Bartholf on upper Redstone creek, as well as cattle owned by Hays brothers and others in Loveland. Yet all through the fore part of the summer our cows came in with full udders- sometimes with such full paunches of the rich range grasses as to be unable to lie down without smothering until cuds had been chewed for a while-to distribute the load to other stomachs.
To prevent caked bags and loss of flow, or perhaps ruination of udders, it was imperative that the cows be hunted-up, and brought in each night without fail, regardless of wind, weather or darkness. With miles of open range over which to wander, the cows often were miles from home by four o'clock when our cowboy, usually Eugene, started out to look for them. A large cowbell was strapped to the neck of one of them. Yet even with this aid it was often impossible to determine in which direction the cows had wandered after reaching the open glade in the morning out of sight and sound from the house. If a wrong guess were made at the start of the hunt it might be long after dark when boy and herd reached the milking corral. Then it was up to everyone to get busy at the milking. Even the weary cowboy must help on this. It was the days of the first electric street lights in the local towns; and our several kerosene lanterns hanging in the trees in our milking corral caused the local wits to dubb them ‘Smith's electric lights."
Sometimes heavy thunder-storms or hailstorms were in progress, or gathering when "cow time" arrived in the afternoon. But there was no such thing as postponing the start after the cows, and I often worried considerably about my boy's absence in the storm. Several times cloud-bursts had filled the creek channel, which must be crossed, with a raging torrent of water while the boy was gone, and the herd must be held on the further bank, sometimes for hours, until the flash flood had passed. But my long life of adventuring in the West had taught me to hide my fears and feelings from others; especially from children; and as we were now committed to the dairy business as our only possible means of making a living on our little ranch, as yet unwatered and uncultivated, there seemed nothing to do but accept the attendant hardships and dangers as pioneers everywhere have had to do.
Excepting for the glade through which Buckhorn creek flowed the region was as yet an unsettled wilderness. Eastward for several miles stretched a series of wide glades paralleling the Buckhorn glade, and separated by the high, sharp spined ridges known as hog-backs. Also the great wild Milner ridge rising beyond the first glade to the east. To the west was another wide glade beyond the hog-back range and paralleling the very high, timbered mountain range known as Green Ridge. Over all this area wild animals still roamed uninhibited-coyotes, bears, lynxes and Mountain lions. Rarely, if ever, wantonly attacking human beings, they still constituted a certain amount of hazard for inexperienced youngsters meeting them on foot when accompanied by their young. There was also danger of horses becoming unmanageable at sight of them and throwing their riders. Rattlesnakes were plentiful and constituted a real danger. Warned by their sharp buzzings, humans usually escaped, though not always. We had several very narrow escapes when the snakes struck without being heard. Several of our cows came home with heads badly swollen and eyes nearly closed. Their great bodies usually absorbed the poison before it proved fatal. But our little shepherd dog, Chris, Eugene's almost constant companion, succumbed, leaving the three youngsters disconsolate. Eugene missed his help sadly when rounding up our twenty cows off the steep hillsides.
Once, when out afoot hunting the cows in the late evening, Eugene met a very large lion on the Milner ridge. Though it offered him no harm, it frightened him quite badly. Of a naturally very nervous temperament, it imposed a great strain on him to return to the locality at various times afterwards. But he never failed to go when necessary, nor asked his brother to accompany him. He did, however, carry a long knife in a scabbard for many days afterwards. We had no firearms of any kind.
The presence of this large, and apparently old, lion had been reported on Milner peak at numerous times after we came on our ranch. He was reported to have slain a small pony at the foot of the mountain, and to have dragged it for several rods. (The mountain lion frequently attacks colts and occasionally a grown horse, but rarely kills calves or larger cattle. Trowbridge and McWhorter had more or less trouble with the Milner mountain lions killing their sheep. Though the sheep were always corralled at night within solid, ten-foot high walls, topped by long, out-reaching arms carrying closely set strands of barbed wire, the big cats several times raided the pen at night, leaving numerous dead sheep behind when they left.-E. B. S.)
For a time a small lion stayed in the hogbacks nearer the ranch. Once it attacked a yearling colt barely out of sight from the house to the west. Apparently leaped upon while lying down the colt, though bitten in the back and deeply scratched across the breast, had escaped and came racing home, screaming like a frightened child. Later the lion apparently appeared in our corral near the house at night, frightening the horses and cows so badly as to cause them to wreck the corral and scatter all over the valley for a mile or more in every direction. A yearling, on seeing the light from an open door when my sons struck a light to investigate, bolted into their bedroom. Once Eugene sighted the lion in daylight, sneaking along behind a grassy bank. Not until he saw its tail did he realize it was not a lynx, which have stubby tails.
The lynxes and coyotes were very bold, sometimes racing into our yard to grab a chicken and escape before we realized their presence. Coyotes were extremely wary about coming inside a picket or woven fence, and so could be fenced out. But the lynxes, cat fashion, climbed over on the fence posts. Turkeys, when free to roam, always roosted in trees or on buildings at night. When one was taken in the night the flock always found a new roosting place the following night. But the lynxes always found them and eventually got the last bird. Once, when the last of a large brood, a very large gobbler, took refuge on top of the brick house chimney, we did not disturb him, as Thanksgiving was near, and we thought to save him for our dinner by allowing him to roost there for the few remaining days. However, we were awakened during the night by the lynx dragging the turkey off the chimney top and down over the shingles to the ground by the boys' bedroom door. The little dog who always slept there at once started heckling the lynx, which, weighted with the fifteen-pound bird, made rather slow progress across the garden. Edward leaped out of bed and followed. At the corner of the garden the burdened lynx fell into a wide drain ditch, with the dog and then the boy on top. Here the big cat abandoned his prize. The boy returned triumphantly with the turkey, minus its head.
Once when traveling afoot up a small blind canyon on Milner mountain in search of stock water, the same boy and dog scared up a lynx. Pursued by the dog the lynx endeavored to escape up the canyon wall. It fell back on top of the dog, and at once began tearing at him. The boy courageously seized a heavy club and struck the cat to save his dog. The lynx made another endeavor to climb the wall and this time fell back onto the boy. After tearing the clothes nearly off him he made his escape down the canyon. I put the shredded garments into my carpet rags. Miraculously the boy escaped with a few shallow scratches.
One season, warned by the loss of our turkeys the previous season, we penned our flock of some thirty birds in a slatted cage built in the end of a shed. A lynx had already started work on them the night before we put them in the pen. High roosts were provided in the pen. The first night the lynx found them, and climbing up the slatted wall, pulled a turkey's head through and bit it off. He then reached through a rather wide space at the bottom and pulled the fallen bird out, as we plainly saw in the morning by location of blood and feathers.
The following evening we set a steel trap on the floor just outside of the pen. In the morning there was hair between the jaws of the trap, a headless turkey on the pen floor just out of reach of the cat-and no lynx. (He failed to return.)
In the fall bears came down from the higher hills to feast on wild plums, hiding daytimes in the extensive thickets of large plum trees. Several were killed by local hunters. One night a cub, apparently orphaned in this way, came to our back gate to drink from a pan of milk put out for the dog. Enraged the little fellow attacked the cub, and got badly mauled.
Courageously attacking every wild animal encountered he was already considerably disfigured at the time he attacked the coiled rattlesnake from the bite of which lie died. (A wounded and cornered lynx with a single stroke of terrible front claws tore an ear completely away, together with a large patch of skin from a cheek, barely missing an eye.)
Probably the little dog would have survived the encounter with the snake had it not been that he was miles from water when bitten. For all domestic animals, both large and small seem instinctively to seek for water holes, where they lie in the mud on the bottom, the water cooling their fever, and the mud seeming to draw the poison out.
These occurrences, however, are the common experiences of dwellers in pioneer regions, and to be taken as a matter of course.
After we began producing butter in quantity my problem was to find a market for it at a price to assure us a living. Loveland, our nearest market town, was a mere rustic village with a milk cow and flock of fowls in every back yard. Merchants there who took butter in trade were forced to dump it all as ungraded stuff on the Denver renovating plants at ten cents per pound, as they had no way of grading the mixed lots that came in from many sources.
Remembering the ready markets for every sort of produce in the mining towns of earlier days I made a trip to Boulder, Colorado, just then experiencing a mild revival of silver mining after the passing of the free-coinage-of-silver act. Here I made a deal with a merchant to pay me twenty cents per pound for all my output, providing I moulded the butter into rectangular bricks instead of the old round ones, and wrapped it in the new parchment paper instead of the old-style cloth wrapper. This made it possible to pack the butter in thirty-pound shipping chests, with central ice compartment. These I was to ship by express weekly. He was to sell groceries to me at wholesale prices. The chests were to be returned to me filled with the groceries, he to pay expressage both ways. We were now able to fill and ship two chests weekly.
These things were all new and novel to me, as they were to all my neighbors, who had prophesied failure for me when I proposed making a living out of milk cows.
But with the drying up of the range grasses in August our butter yield went way down. We had as yet no irrigated land, and no means of freighting in feed for the cows. About this time, through the good offices of John Seaman, Loveland postmaster, I was granted a pension of eight dollars per month for my husband's services under Chivington during the Indian troubles of the sixties. Then I was offered a position to teach the local school at forty dollars per month. This offer I accepted as my teacher's certificate was still in force.
When I entered upon my new duties in September I found the same crude surroundings I had found when starting to teach school on Big Thompson creek nearly twenty years previously. In fact I was astonished to find in the unplastered, rough lumber school building, the old dictionary and teacher's chair purchased for my school in the old log schoolhouse on the Thompson with funds received for our entertainment presented to the soldiers and citizens of Fort Collins. Slab benches supported on pegs set into augur holes bored into their ends looked so familiar as to cause me to wonder whether they too had not been passed along to the Buckhorn school together with the chair and dictionary when the fine new school building had been constructed on the Thompson the year following my marriage. The one long desk at which writing classes took turns also had a familiar look. (Have recently learned that this desk of pine board was made locally by Mr. Buffum.-E. S.)
Be that as it may, the one thing that made the situation worse for the teacher than the earlier experience was the far more backward condition of most of my pupils here; several grown girls and boys were barely able to read and write, while the English language was a total mystery to them. Most of the parents were almost as illiterate as the Texas people among whom I had lived during my five years on the Arkansas river. The old building in which the school was housed, while unplastered and draughty, was as good as most of the homes from which the children came. Heated by a very large box stove, with cottonwood cordwood as fuel, it was not entirely uncomfortable in ordinary weather. All janitor work, including care and fueling of the stove, was expected of the teacher, personally, unless she was able to induce some of the older pupils to assist her. Drinking water was brought from the nearby creek a pail at a time. In this chore the older girls assisted; but as the rule in the pioneer homes from which most of the pupils came was for the woman to perform all chores about the home, both inside and out, often including cutting of all the wood used both for cooking and heating, the older boys naturally felt it degrading for them to perform any chores about the school building. No boys from better class homes were attending school at that time. My young daughter attended, and my son, Eugene, when he could be spared from the work of fencing and clearing the ranch. At such times as he attended, he of course relieved me of all heavy chores about the school. And as the school was a considerable distance from our home, he always walked while I rode our mare, which he then returned to the ranch and brought back for me to ride home in the evening. (I was still making butter in the evenings.)
Of course I had all the cooking and sewing to do for our little family of four; though my daughter, young as she was, soon learned most household tasks, and greatly assisted me in everything excepting sewing. I was still making all our own dresses and undergarments, as well as all the boys' shirts and undergarments.
At first all milk was set for cream raising in the old-fashioned shallow milk pans; deep setting not having been devised as yet. The large quarries at Arkins were opened the spring we came on the ranch. Several hundred men were employed-all new immigrants from Germany, Sweden, Italy and elsewhere in Europe. Most of the men were from the farms, and seemed greatly to miss the fresh dairy products to which they had been accustomed. When some of them discovered our little dairy ranch and requested sweet milk by the glass, they started quite a run on our output. Coming after working hours in the evening in quite large groups and seating themselves on a convenient ditch bank they kept me bringing pans of milk out and stirring the cream in before serving, until dark. At five cents per glass it paid much better than making butter from it; but left us short of skim milk for our calves. Some would call for glass after glass. One man said after drinking his sixth glass, "I can trink that chust like peer." During our second summer we found ready market for all our output of butter at the Arkins store and boarding house, eggs also.
A site for a better school house had been donated by a sheep ranch owner, G. W. Buffum, who sold out the year before my arrival on the creek. On deeding the land to the new owner, Mr. Buffum had executed a written agreement with him that if and when the citizens of the valley were prepared to construct a permanent schoolhouse on the site it should be deeded to the local school district, to remain district property so long as a school should be maintained on the site. This site is only a short distance south of the site of the old building in which I taught my first term of school on Buckhorn creek. The old building was floored with rough, yellow pine boards full of pitchy knots that had resisted wear far better than the remainder of the board. Through what appeared to have been long years of use either as a residence or schoolhouse the surface of the boards between the knots had been worn almost through, leaving knots standing up all over the floor in rounded mounds nearly an inch in height. Walking about over the surface all day was quite tiring. Once a foot burst through a thin spot and the springy edges of the break closed back on my foot so tightly as to force me to unlace the shoe in order to remove my foot, then turn the shoe sole edgewise to remove the shoe.
But a movement was started, headed by James Catlett, a returned former resident, to raise a subscription of material, labor and money with which to build a better building on the donated site. Several more enterprising families had moved onto the creek the spring Mr. Catlett's family moved back, and among them sufficient funds of one sort and another were contributed to erect what at that time seemed quite a fine school building, sheeted with rough pine lumber outside but plastered, and floored with matched flooring. Three fair sized windows were placed on either side and two at the rear behind the seats, which were purchased from discarded stock in the Fort Collins schools. Altogether it was quite a remarkable feat for so backward a community.
On this I contributed both cash and work; my son Edward, who was handy with tools worked out my contribution of labor. The big box stove was moved over to heat the new building, which was used for all neighborhood gatherings for a great many years, or until a fairly commodious stone church building was erected nearby, partly by popular subscription a score of years later.
Another local enterprise in which Mr. Catlett figured largely was the digging of the Union ditch, which brought a wide strip of the valley's best bluff land under irrigation, Catlett's large acreage of good plow land being situated at the tail end of the canal. This brought our own main acreage of plowland under water. My son Eugene helped to dig a big share of the canal, thus largely paying for a sixth interest. Some team work on the lower end of the ditch as well as work on the flumes was contributed by son Edward.
My boys were now able to plant a considerable acreage of alfalfa and with a good supply of hay, we were enabled to operate our dairy of twenty cows the year around. With the deep-setting process for raising cream we often produced ten pounds of butter daily, or hauled our cream once a week to a creamery that had begun operations in Loveland.
An attack of erysipelias in my face finally forced me to give up school teaching. The boys took over all the milking and dairy work, and after my recovery continued to do all revenue-producing work. Our cows continued to be our main source of revenue until the Cleveland administration and the demonetization of silver. With the slackening of production from the rich and extensive gold mines of Colorado, the slack had been taken up by a boom in silver mining following the enactment of the free-coinage-of-silver act. The industry of the state soon came to be mainly dependent on silver. With its demonetization under Cleveland, and the closing down of most of the mines, the state, along with the remainder of the country, suffered a terrible depression. With the mining camps dead there was little market for dairy or poultry products__until then our only source of revenue.
With the crippling of our dairy business we turned to other things-chiefly stock-growing and grain-growing to try to make up the deficit. A neighbor who had become bankrupt in the cattle business had now lost his land to his creditors, principally the Loveland firm of Hersinger and Harter whose extension of credit had allowed me to resume the keeping of boarders after Edward's death, and to build the hotel, proceeds from the sale of which I had invested in my dairy herd here on Buckhorn creek. The land which had now come into their possession through foreclosure adjoined on one corner. They now offered to sell me the land on credit. The eighty acres cornering on my land had only about fifteen acres of farming land on it, most of the remainder steep, rough hogback land, valuable once as quarry land, but valuable now only as rough pasture land. For the once-booming quarry business had collapsed with the collapse of the silver mining boom, and the growing use of concrete as paving material. But the plow land was under the Union ditch, and nearly doubled our acreage of good land under that canal. A partly completed house stood on the property. There was also a quarter section of less choice land under another ditch in the west glade included in the deal.
While it seemed a poor time to go in debt to purchase land, need for more land to raise feed for a herd of stocker cattle caused me to decide to sell my little house and lots in Loveland to make a payment on the properties. I knew from past experience with the business firm that so long as we could keep up on our interest they would never foreclose on the property. And our only hope now appeared to be to get into the old Milner occupation of stock-growing. My son Edward, who now had come of legal age, was offered the privilege of placing a homestead filing on a quarter section of land in the Milner glade.
The quarter had been held by William Trowbridge, owner of a large herd of sheep on the old Milner ranch adjoining the quarter on the north. Trowbridge had allowed his own filing to lapse, and was desirous of having someone own the quarter who would not attempt to block his use of the Milner glade and mountain range.
Edward at once filed on the claim, and the two boys began to prepare to put a fence around it-quite an undertaking as there was none of the adjoining land on any side of it enclosed. (The law required owners of adjoining land to construct one-half the fence only where enclosures were being maintained along the line.) To obtain the necessary amount of wire they now hauled to Fort Collins a small crop of oats grown on my homestead the previous summer, and brought back spools of wire. Pitch-pine and cedar posts were cut and dragged down the exceedingly steep west face of Milner peak at no little labor and risk to life and limb. Digging so many post holes, many of them in very rocky ground, was also a very laborious task but at last was accomplished. Wire was unrolled entirely around the land ready for stretching and stapling.
But spring work on the ditches and fields had become imperative. Edward went to work on the latter jobs, and Eugene undertook to stretch and staple the wire alone. Working all day for several days with slicker on in a wet spring snowstorm he finished the job in time for ten acres of corn to be planted. (The homestead law required the sowing of at least that much crop in order to hold a claim.- E. S.)
The science of "summer tillage" of non-irrigated land for the production of crops each alternate year had not yet been originated and "dry" farming was little practiced. Still, if a planting of corn failed to make good ears, the stalks harvested for roughage were always useful to owners of cattle in winter storms. And we were now committed to the stock business for good or ill.
My entire capital of three thousand dollars realized from the sale of my hotel was now invested in cattle and work stock. We had now disposed of our dairy-bred bull and were crossing our remaining dairy cows with stocker breeds in an attempt to create a stocker herd. But we were not very successful until we changed from Shorthorn to Angus breed, which seemed to improve both color and quality much better. In this we were greatly helped by our good friend and Angus breeder on the Big Thompson, P. H. Boothroyd, Sr., who purchased a number of our dairy-bred heifers to stock a dairy ranch for a tenant. (This enabled us to invest in two full-blooded Angus breeding bulls, which were the foundation of the several hundred head of high-grade Angus cattle run on our ranches of recent years.-E. S.)
When I moved onto my homestead, there existed in the valley a very well attended Sunday School started some years previously by the pioneer Carter family. The meeting place was the pioneer log cabin of the Rev. George Trowbridge, a Methodist circuit rider who preached in his cabin to the Buckhorn people each third Sunday. To make room for the long plank seats supported on blocks sawed from tree trunks it was necessary to carry Mr. Trowbridge's bed out into the yard during services. Printed lesson helps were not at first used. I was soon placed in charge of the young children-the task I seemed slated to perform in every community in which I found myself. Following some of the practices I learned so long ago in Rockford, Illinois, I at once organized a "cradle roll" in which each new infant in the neighborhood was enrolled wherever the consent of the parents could be obtained. For the little ones old enough to attend I had the little songs I had used in other places, as well as new ones I was able to learn through the ability to read music also acquired in my girlhood in Rockford and Chicago.
(My mother carried on this work on Buckhorn creek almost to the end of her life. She died at ninety-four years. -E. S.)
When our first schoolhouse at Buffum canyon was built by popular subscription we began holding church and Sunday School as well as all other neighborhood gatherings in it. Ministers of almost all denominations held services there occasionally, and at times regularly, but our Sunday School was made interdenominational by popular vote and carried on steadily for many years in the schoolhouse.
Finally the Presbyterian organization at Fort Collins, Colorado, sent their missionary preacher, Rev. Moore of Fossil Creek to supply us in rotation with other preaching points, and a movement was begun to organize a church here. It was then through the efforts of Rev. Moore and Rev. Schureman, Sunday School missionary of the same denomination, that the movement to construct a suitable church building was started. Money from the building fund of the national Presbyterian organization was to be matched by funds raised locally.
To help strengthen the local organization I called for my church letter in the Methodist organization of Loveland, Colorado, in which I had held membership since 1867, and was enrolled in the Presbyterian church here. Into the building of the church I entered wholeheartedly and aided in every way possible in the work of building the structure. My three children were all enrolled here. Much of the work and material for the construction was by local donation; most of the people of the neighborhood, whether members of the church or not, joined in the work. Owners of mountain sawmills donated rough lumber for framing and sheathing. Walls were built of the native white sandstone. A neatly sawed and inscribed block of the red sandstone from the Belvue quarries was donated by a quarry company there.
My son Edward, along with other members of the church, donated many days of work, and overseeing of the contracted stone work. Rev. Moore performed many days of labor on the structure, making our home his headquarters.
Helping to plan and further the work of building this church was to prove to be my last really constructive effort. After having been forced to take the leadership in family affairs for so many years it seemed good to be permitted to relax and turn responsibility over to my sons, who by now were striking out on their own initiative to enlarge our holdings of land and cattle.
All the nearby rangeland still owned by the national government over which the free ranging of stock had been permitted was now included in a national forest. Permits must now be obtained to run stock on the forest, and payment made therefore. Blundering and inefficiency in administering forest affairs generally by local officials soon made forest grazing rights practically worthless and necessitated acquirement of considerable acreages of deeded land on which to run our now considerably increased herds.
To meet the emergency, "Smith Brothers" as the firm was now styled, purchased a block of deeded homesteads in the Crystal mountain region on which to range the several hundred head of Angus cattle we now owned, in the summer season, and a like amount in the foothills for winter pasturing. This put us deeply in debt to the Federal Land Bank; but vastly improved the quality of our saleable increase. Had it not been for the planned deflation brought about at the instigation of Federal Reserve Bank officials following the first World War we would have soon been in easy circumstances.
At this critical moment, however, the local bank through which we had financed our business since the start many years before, closed its doors. Forced to sell several hundred head of cattle at the lowest price in years left us with such a deficit that other banks refused to finance us and only by the closest management and economy were we able to hang onto our land while building up our herd again from the small herds of cows, at one time a bare dozen, which remained of my own individual brand. It was slow work, but we were none of us strangers to the hard work and economy necessary to win under such circumstances. My own contribution to the new start was in managing the ranch household along the same careful lines I had learned while building up my hotel business in Loveland nearly half a century before.
Soon after the first World War my sons married, and I relinquished household management to their wives. I was now past eighty and too broken in health and strength to assume even that responsibility longer.
But a second home had to be built and furnished which still further strained our credit, and Land Bank and local creditors became threatening. Affairs of the old local bank passed from the hands of our old friends, while jealous and unfriendly rivals for local range rights, secretly or openly, sought by every means possible to undermine our credit with the banks, and standing with the forest officials.
As a lone woman after Edward died I had many good and helpful friends. I also found there were people in the world who in a business deal would take every possible advantage of a helpless and inexperienced woman. And on entering the ranch business on Buckhorn creek I was to find both classes of neighbors. Fraudulent land claims and illegal fences on government land were used to prevent our little dairy herd from pasturing on public lands at a time when the dairy herd was our sole source of livelihood. Later the same parties with others used the same tactics to bar our stocker herd from public lands. And after the national forests were established, by perjured testimony to forestry officials, succeeded in getting our herds barred from the forests-for a time.
However, by this time my sons were grown and began fighting back, sometimes in personal encounters out on the range, sometimes in the courts, and sometimes in personal encounters with forestry officials. Our greatest difficulty lay in the proneness of forestry officials to accept and act upon the unsworn testimony, often mere tattle, of jealous and self-interested parties.
(It was a long fight against heavy odds, but in the end we were victorious. Perjured testimony and tattling were exposed and forest rights restored; illegal fences forced down, and lands used only as a bar to keep our herds from the public range acquired by us through purchase to be used as winter range. Credit with the Federal Land Bank, and with local banks was restored, and the long threat of foreclosure by both was ended with a gradual increase of our herds.- E.B.S.)