Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The 1929 Prison Riot at the Colorado State Penitentiary



89 years ago today, on October 3, 1929, my great-great-grandmother's second husband, Ray Brown, was shot and killed in the 1929 Prison Riot at the Colorado State Penitentiary where he was a prison guard. 

Margaret Johnson Frankenbery married Ray Brown on November 24, 1925. She was 64 and he was 55. It was also his second marriage after being widowed. Ray Brown had lived in Cripple Creek for 15 years before moving to Canon City and being employed as a guard at the prison in 1922.

Jimmie Pardue and Danny Daniels put their plan to escape prison into motion at around noon on October 3, 1929. Pardue shot and killed the first guard, Elmer Erwin, who was in the Crow's Nest. After taking Erwin's rifle, Pardue shot and killed Walter Rinker, who was on top of the administration building, and then shot and killed Ray Brown, who was in Tower 8. Guard Myron Goodwin was also shot, but didn't die until a week later on October 10.

Pardue and Daniels held 11 guards hostage in Cell Block 3 for twelve hours. During this time, another group of 100 or so prisoners set a fire which destroyed Cell House 1 & 2, including the dining room, library and chapel.

Daniels gave his demands to Warden Crawford for their release; Crawford, however, called in the National Guard. When Daniel's demands weren't met, he began killing his hostages execution style. He first shot guard Jack Eeles in the head and dropped his body from a window. Guards Walter Rinker and R.A. Wiggins were also killed.

The Warden and National Guard tried several plans throughout the night to end the riot. 2,000 rounds of ammunition were shot into Cell Block 3.  A charge of 150 pounds of dynamite was set off outside the wall of cell block 3, but the charge failed to bring down the wall. Finally, tear gas was dropped into the building and Daniels, seeing no way out of the situation, shot Pardue and two other prisoners who helped with the escape plan before turning the gun on himself at about 4:00 a.m. on the 4th of October.

Reading through the newspaper reports of the riot, I can't imagine the fear and anxiety of having a loved one working in the prison. Margaret Brown's home was across the Arkansas River from the prison, within a mile of it. Surely, she heard the gunshots. Did friends gather with her at her home or did she go to a location where other family members of those who worked at the prison waited? One report highlights the plumes of smoke from the prison, the percussion of the dynamite blast broke windows in houses within ten miles of the prison, airplanes flew overhead day and night, and the constant gunfire throughout the night.

One article in the Canon City Record shares the story of E.J. Hollister's family, "All through the terror-filled hours of the afternoon and night, they waited for word from their loved one - their husband and father... Each shot that rang out during that horror-filled night brought new terror, more heavy anxiety to Miss Grace Hollister, oldest of the three daughter, who waited in heart-breaking fear for news of her father." 


My grandfather, Ken Christison, Sr., was about 12 years old at the time and lived with his family in Rosita, a small town southwest of Canon City. He recalled in an interview with my dad in the 1970's that there were rumors that 40-50 inmates had run for the mountains, but it proved to be untrue. None of the inmates escaped during the riot.


To view photos of the prison riot and more of the story, visit this article on the Denver Post blog

Monday, July 30, 2018

Johnson Family Connections

Margaret Johnson Frankenbery with grandson, Armyn



One of the things I love about genealogy are the connections I find. I've discovered I was working with a third cousin, once removed  when I was a librarian and I've found several other amazing connections. But, the connection I found this week blew me away!

First, a little background: Margaret Johnson Frankenbery is my great-great-grandmother. She was born in Missouri in 1861 and she married Enos Frankenbery in 1879. They moved to LaVeta, Colorado around 1885, where Enos owned a coal mine. By 1900, they lived in Canon City, Colorado where he was first employed at a hardware store, and later owned a quarry with his son, Roy Frankenbery. Enos and Margaret's daughter, Rosine Belle, married Lewis Daniel Christison. They are my great-grandparents.

Using Ancestry, I found that Margaret's father was Joseph Harrison Johnson. And the matches to my DNA test appear to confirm this. Margaret's obituary states she was one of 17 children! Her mother, Hannah Phillips, was Harrison's second wife. I believe they had seven children together before she died. 

But the surprise was yet to come. As I looked at Harrison's 3rd marriage to Mary Byrd Gunn, I noticed one of her daughters from a previous marriage, Mary J. Gunn had married John Hood Tidwell in Oklahoma. The Tidwell name rang a bell. My daughter-in-law's grandfather's name is Tidwell. I texted Shelby and asked her great-great-grandfather's name. She later texted back, "George Dallas Tidwell." Unbelievable! George Dallas Tidwell is the son of Mary J. Gunn and John Hood Tidwell!

So, my great-great-grandmother, Margaret Johnson (b. 1861), was a step-sister to Mary J. Gunn (b. 1867), my daughter-in-law's 3rd great-grandmother.

Shelby's mom and I are 4th step-cousins, Kenny and Shelby are 5th step-cousins. Crazy, huh?

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Hutchinson Homestead



36 years ago, I visited Dr. Wendell "Hutch" Hutchinson to ask him about my great-great-uncle,  Ernest Christison and Ed Watkins. Hutch gave us a tour of his family's homestead and showed us the location of a Christison cabin on the Hutchinson Ranch.

This weekend we returned for the "Ranching Voices: Stories of Our Valley" program at the Hutchinson Homestead. It is now a National Register Historical District and Learning Center to educate youth and families about history and agriculture. The speakers were from four of the oldest ranches in Chaffee County and they shared the histories of their ranches and their stories as ranchers. 

I felt like I was sitting at a family reunion listening to the stories of the early settlers I have spent so many years researching! Many of the stories were familiar to me, told through books like Under The Angel Of Shavano by George Everett and Dr. Wendell Hutchinson. Other stories or people mentioned are connected to the story of Ernest Christison and Ed Watkins. 

This morning felt like a repeat of the past when Hutch's son, Art Hutchinson, showed me the location of Henry Van Kleeck's house and dairy in Poncha Springs. Art shares his father's love of history and the people who settled the Upper Arkansas Valley. Talking with him felt like talking to an old friend who knows all of the people I know!

Here is a photo of two descendants of 1860's Cash Creek miners, Joseph Hutchinson and Wilburn Christison:
Gayle Christison Gresham and Lewis "Art" Hutchinson

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Redemption of Ernest Christison Article in the Mountain Mail

Virgil Ernest Christison's grave marker in the Fairview Cemetery, Colorado Springs
I've been enjoying the articles written by Joy Jackson, archivist at the Salida Regional Library, about Salida stories of the past in her column, "At the Library." My friend, Margy, sent me copies of the four-part Cattle Thieves series published from November 2017 to February 2018 in the Mountain Mail. And a couple of other friends sent me links to the articles. 

The final article is "The Redemption of Ernest Christison." It is fun to see my great-great-uncle, Ernest, have his own headline and article. Jackson refers to newspaper articles from 1883-1884 which I have also used extensively in my research. It is interesting to read someone else's conclusions. 


I thought I would fill in a little family history information. Virgil Ernest Christison was the second oldest son of Judge Wilburn and Elizabeth Christison. In 1879, he married Nancy Jane Taylor. Their first child, John, was born in 1882. Their daughter, Grace, was born in August of 1883 before Ernest went to jail in Buena Vista.

Ernest was sentenced to two years in the Colorado State Penitentiary and was released two months early for good behavior in March of 1886. Ernest and Nancy had two more daughters, then two more sons (the first Roy, born in 1893, probably the baby mentioned in the article) and finally, a daughter, Helen, born in 1904.


Ernest died in 1939 in Colorado Springs. His obituary reads in part, "Virgil E. Christison, 86, who came to Colorado as a youth and engaged in the mining and freighting business shortly after the Civil War, died yesterday at the residence of a daughter, Helen." 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Step Into The River



Last fall, Julia Cameron was a keynote speaker at the Women Writing The West Conference in Santa Fe. I found her talk on her book, The Artist's Way, refreshing and bought the book to work through it. I made my way through the 12-week workbook, not perfectly, but open and trusting it to move me forward with writing my cattle rustling book. I appreciated finding my creativity opening like the petals of a flower, slowly and delicately.

As I found my creativity, three C's kept rising to the top - Creativity, Curiosity and Connection. These three C's drive me. When I approach life from the basis of creativity, curiosity and connection, I am open, curious and move forward in whatever I am doing. When life becomes a list of tasks watched over by a stern taskmaster, I am closed, fearful and anxious.

Applying the three C's to writing my book has helped me to write again after a couple of years of depression and writer's block. Allowing myself to be curious helps me step into the scenes. Sometimes it is being curious with the research and other times it's the simple curiosity of "What happens next?" Creativity means I can try writing it different ways, moving in and out of various points of view, seeing the manuscript as a lump of clay instead of an immobile object. Connection is the reason I am writing the book. It all started with a family connection, my great-great-uncle, but it is really a story of connections: who knows who, who did they work with, who were they friends with, who is related, who has past connections? It is also my connection to the story. What speaks to me, what draws me in, what is it that won't let me go?

Western performer, Mary Kaye, shared a video on creativity and in it she quoted her cousin, western yodeler, Kerry Christensen. When she started in the music business, he told her, "Any time you start a career in a creative profession, whether writing, music, or art, it's like stepping into a stream of moving water. You have to take the first step into the water and it's cold, it's scary, but you have to trust that the flow of that creativity is going to take you to exactly where you need to be."

When I picture stepping into the stream of moving water, of course I picture the Arkansas River in Salida. And I know that creativity, curiosity, and connection are what move me into the stream. The river is the unknown, but I trust my Creator to move me through it and trust that the flow will take me right to where I need to be and where the book needs to be.

I created the poster in the photo above, framed it in a blue frame, and set it on the shelf above my computer. It reminds me to to choose creativity, curiosity or connection in the book and to step into the river, trusting the book will end up exactly where it needs to be.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Searching For Elizabeth Jane Christison's Grave




April 15, 1898 Salida Mail  Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection
http://coloradohistoricnewspapers.org

Ah, the Christison family and the sites of the eternal rest of their earthly bodies.
If ever a family wanted to throw their descendants into a fruitless search for gravesites, it is the Christisons. Apparently, stone monuments were not a necessity to the Christisons. Even Judge Wilburn Christison, whom we know died in Fairplay, does not have a marker in the Fairplay Cemetery.

Elizabeth Jane Lewis Christison's grave is also a mystery. To make matters worse, if you search for Elizabeth Jane on Ancestry, you will find that about half of the family trees say she died in Howard, Colorado and another half say she died in Blue Springs, Missouri. What? So far, I have not seen documentation for the Blue Springs death and burial. I have no idea where this idea originated.

I have 2 theories on where Elizabeth Jane Lewis Christison is buried. The first logical place would be for her to be buried beside her husband, Wilburn Christison, in the Fairplay Cemetery. But this is impossible to prove because there are no markers, nor are there any cemetery records.

The second theory, the one I believe to be the most likely, is that she is buried in the Howard Cemetery in Howard, Colorado.

First, let's look at her death. The newspaper clipping at the top is from the April 15, 1898 Salida Mail in the "Pleasant Valley Notes, Howard, Colorado" saying: "Mrs. Christison is very ill and serious doubts are entertained of her recovery."

I know Elizabeth Jane lived in Howard at the time of her son, Charlie's, death in 1892. I also have a family record stating "Mother" (Elizabeth Jane) died May 10, 1898 in Howard. I received this handwritten copy from Betty Regnier, Ernest Christison's granddaughter. At the top is a note, "The original of this was handed down through the family." I am guessing the printing was done by Betty's mother, Helen, and the cursive writing are Betty's notes.

Christison Family Record, Betty Regnier
Click Photo To Enlarge
So, I believe these two documents, the newspaper clipping, and the family record prove that Elizabeth Jane Lewis Christison died in Howard, Colorado on May 10, 1898.

Where is she buried? I believe in Howard Cemetery. 





There are two lots marked on the 1923 map of the Howard Cemetery that I think are Christisons. 
Howard Cemetery Map located at the Royal  Gorge Regional Museum
And History Center, Canon City, Colorado
http://www.rgmhc.org/


 The first is faint and there is a tear in the map that runs through the name. To some it reads "Dan Christisen." Someone else suggested "Dau." possibly for an infant that died. 



At some point (perhaps a WPA project?), someone put a marker up, reading "Dan Christinsen." Notice the "n" added on the marker is not in the name on the map.



One day, I got to thinking about the graves in Howard and recalled an experience I had as a librarian at the Elbert Library. A name was transcribed wrongly from a map to a cemetery record and I helped figure it out. Here's that Unknown Grave story.

What if "Dan Christisen" was really "Jane Christison?" I could see where the lower part of a cursive "J" could be faint and the letter look like a "D." And the "e" at the end could simply look like a line ending the name.

The Royal Gorge Museum and History Center has the original linen 1823 map. But this map must have been transcribed from other records; perhaps another map, perhaps a list of names and burials; or perhaps it was a survey of markers. What if there was a wooden marker that said "Jane" but was so weathered that the best guess was "Dan?"

The "Dan Christisen" grave is next to Julia Ann Taylor and her husband, John Wesley Taylor, who happen to be the in-laws of Elizabeth Jane's son, Virgil Ernest Christison, who died in 1905 and 1906. Perhaps Ernest  bought the lot, buried his mother there and 7 years later, buried his mother-in-law beside her?




My family has always called her "Elizabeth." But this is a family where many of the children went by their middle name. It seems logical that she went by "Jane."

I have searched for a "Dan Christinsen" or "Christensen" or "Christisen" and I haven't located any in the area.

The other grave is in the next row over, marked "Christinson" on the map. I believe this is Charlie Christison who died on April 29, 1892 at the age of 25 from an illness. His obituary states he was buried in the Howard Cemetery.

I know there is no way to prove with certainty that Elizabeth Jane Lewis Christison is buried in the grave marked "Dan Christinsen," but to me, it seems the most believable. 


Additional Blog Posts Relating To Elizabeth Jane Christison:

Elizabeth Jane Christison - A Colorado Pioneer
The Death of Judge Christison

Friday, February 24, 2017

Elizabeth Jane Christison - A Colorado Pioneer


Elizabeth Jane Lewis Christison is my great-great-grandmother. She is also the great-grandaughter of Hannah Boone (Daniel Boone's sister) and John Stewart (who was killed by Indians in 1770 during an expedition with Daniel Boone).

Elizabeth was born to Daniel Pennington Lewis and Polly Paine Lewis on November 10, 1828 in Platte City, Missouri. She married Wilburn Christison September 24, 1848 in Platte City. The family moved to Leavenworth County, Kansas in 1855. In 1861, Wilburn, Elizabeth and their six children crossed the plains with a covered wagon pulled by oxen to the mining camp of Cash Creek in the Colorado mountains near Twin Lakes. The youngest child, Mary Alwilda, may have been born during the journey.


While Wilburn ran an Indian trading post and practiced law, Elizabeth raise their children and bore three more babies. The family suffered a tragedy on August 17, 1864 when Arthur Boone "Boone" was struck by lightning and died at the age of 11.


The family moved south to where Buena Vista is today and then moved to Adobe Park (before Salida was there). In 1872, Wilburn was elected Park County Judge and the family moved to Fairplay. Wilburn died of pneumonia on February 7, 1882 in Fairplay. Wilburn Christison Obituary


Elizabeth moved to Brown's Park near Salida with her two youngest sons. And, by 1890, lived in Howard, Colorado, where her son, Virgil Ernest Christison, and family lived.


Her life wasn't easy after Wilburn died. Virgil Ernest spent 2 years in the State Penitentiary for Grand Larceny (cattle theft) from 1884-1886. Her middle son, John, committed suicide in 1890 in Aspen, Colorado. And her youngest son, Charlie, fell ill while working in Creede and died at her home in Howard in 1892.


Elizabeth Jane Christison died on May 10, 1898 in Howard, Colorado.


Additional Blog Posts Relating to Elizabeth Jane Christison:

Searching for Elizabeth Jane Christison's Grave