Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cache Creek or Cash Creek?

Today prospectors go to Cache Creek to pan for gold. But in the 1860's, the prospectors headed to the mining camp of Cash Creek. The creek was named Cache Creek after a couple of prospectors cached their supplies in the area, but the mining camp was established as "Cash Creek" when the post office opened in 1859. This makes Cash Creek one of the earliest mining camps in Colorado. When mining companies formed in the early 1860's, they listed their headquarters as Cash Creek.

Cash Creek boomed in 1860. Horace Tabor stopped for three weeks to wash gold at Cash Creek before moving up to California Gulch. It quickly became evident that the creek didn't carry enough water for large scale mining. In 1861, efforts began to build the Cash Creek Ditch to supply water for mining. By 1864, most of the individual mining claims had been bought up by several mining companies. The Gaff and Bailey Mining Company, managed by Joseph Hutchinson, was the largest company and soon bought all of the claims.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Researching Chaffee County in the 1870 Census

Until 1879, Chaffee County was the southern part of Lake County. The 1860 and 1870 census will show people who lived in what is now Chaffee County in the Lake County census. The Lake County census includes Oro City, Centreville, and Granite. HeritageQuest also includes Fairplay in the Lake County census possibly because William Beery conducted the census for both counties and the towns are not in order according to county in his census pages.

Usually, the census taker would enumerate the households in a settlement or post office, then start a new record for the next post office. But William Beery didn't seem to take this approach to gathering his statistics. He started in Oro City, which is now Leadville, and worked his way south.

This became clear to me when I found my great-great-grandfather, Wilburn Christison, in the Oro City census as Wilburn Christie. It seemed funny to me that he was farming in the Leadville area amongst all of the miners. Then I saw the next name was James Woodard, who farmed near Trout Creek at the time. So, Wilburn probably lived north of Woodard in the Trout Creek area at this time. You will notice Henry A.W. Tabor in Oro City, listed on the page before Wilburn Christie.

Continuing south in the Oro City census - Other names that help locate where the people were living include:
Charles Nachtrieb - Owned the flour mill at Nathrop, the town named for him
Thomas Cameron - Adobe Park, near today's Salida
John Burnett - Poncha Springs

The Centreville census shows people living in the Brown's Creek and Gas Creek areas (the people involved in the Lake County War). June Shaputis wrote a book called
Where The Bodies Are that tells about the people involved in the Lake County War and where they lived. It's a valuable resource.

Granite is also in Chaffee County now.

I hope this helps solve some of your Chaffee County 1870 census problems. Leave a comment if you have any questions or you can e-mail me directly by clicking on my photo in the sidebar and finding my e-mail under my profile.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Log Fence

An old, fallen down log fence runs along the east side of Rick Mountain. According to the legend, the cattle thieves built the fence to keep their stolen cattle from drifting into Salida. Did Ernest Christison and Ed Watkins build the fence?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Twelve Things I Know

Last summer writer Susan Tweit posted on her blog "Ten Things To Be Thankful For" at a difficult time in her life. She said sometimes when we are stuck in our writing it is helpful to make a list. At that time I had kicked my writing into high gear, but felt I was making little headway. I sat down one night and wrote a list on a pad of paper about writing my book. I ran across that list tonight and decided to share it on my blog--both as a reminder to me and to encourage others. (My ten things ended up being twelve.)

Twelve Things I Know
1. Writing a book is totally overwhelming.
2. I have a great story.
3. I am committed to it.
4. I have more research to do.
5. I've found my writing style.
6. I have enough information to write the book.
7. I have great support from my family and friends.
8. I have an editor who is very interested in the book.
9. My prologue sets the stage for the book.
10. I will have to rewrite everything!
11. Life happens.

As of tonight, the prologue is still the only part of the book completed. I wrote "Life happens" without knowing that one month later my mother-in-law, Helene, would go into the hospital and spend a month on the edge of life and death. She is home now after two months of rehab. But she has a long road to travel with much support needed from her family. Life happens.

The research piece is still happening, too. Last week I went to Google Books and started typing in names. I must say I was shocked to find that two of the cases I'm researching went to the Colorado Supreme Court. The court upheld the County Court's rulings. I should have been thrilled to find this, but I felt overwhelmed. If I missed this big piece of the puzzle, what other big pieces am I overlooking. But I also remembered this is a treasure hunt and each treasure comes when it is ready to be found and when I am ready to find it. Tomorrow I am going to the State Archives to look at the Colorado Supreme Court Cases.

I have added Twitter to my blog in the right-hand column. Twitter is a social network where you answer the question, "What are you doing now?" in 140 characters or less. I thought I'd just Twitter what I was doing with the book and research, but I've decided to go ahead and share what I'm doing at other times. Now you will know why the book isn't finished yet!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rick Mountain and Cottonwood Gulch

Rick Mountain
Cottonwood Gulch

Tonight I took a closer look at the plat map and Ernest's land description. I realized the land the clerk had marked in the assessor's office was only 40 acres--the 40 acres I paid attention to when we visited the Rick Mountain Ranch. However, according to the deed, Ernest owned 160 acres.

The earlier pictures I posted are the 40 acres on the east side. The Rick Mountain and Cottonwood Gulch pictures above show the 120 acres to the west. This land is six miles up Cottonwood Gulch out of Salida.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Women Writing The West Conference

I spent the weekend in San Antonio at the Women Writing The West Conference. It was fabulous! It was good to see old friends and meet new friends. The women are so encouraging and supportive. I am so happy I found this group three years ago!

On Friday we toured the Alamo, shopped and ate lunch on the Riverwalk. I enjoyed visiting with my friend Jane Kirkpatrick and her husband, Jerry. Jane and Jerry are in the picture of the Alamo. Jane had a special weekend because she also received her WILLA Award at the conference for A Tendering In The Storm.

I enjoyed rooming with Heidi Thomas, whose novel Cowgirl Dreams will be released in January by Treble Heart. I also spent time with the other board members and had fun getting to know them better.

The highlight for me was meeting with my editor for my book about Ernest Christison and the cattle rustling. Ron told me I was on the right track and that he looks forward to continuing to work on the project. Yippee!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ernest Christison's Land

John and I drove to Salida Saturday night. We visited with one of the present-day owners of the land that Ernest Christison owned in 1883. Glen's grandparents had lived on adjoining land in the early 1900's. His grandfather was George Everett, who wrote two books about the history of the area: Under The Angel of Shavano with Dr. Wendall Hutchinson and Cattle Cavalcade in Central Colorado from 1860-1966.

We drove up to the land on Sunday morning. John and I weren't sure if we could locate it positively without Glen, but we did--using the GPS and the map. The aspen were at their peak. The land is rugged, desolate and beautiful. How it sustained many cattle is a mystery to me. I guess that is why there was open range at the time. The elevation is almost 9,000 feet.
Check back for more pictures and details about our trip!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What Is History?

Robert Lowenberg and Gayle Christison Gresham

On Monday, I opened the newspaper and saw that one of my high school history teachers, Robert Lowenberg, would be giving a program at Castle Rock on Wednesday. I knew I couldn’t miss this!
When I was a senior in 1983 at the Douglas County High School in Castle Rock, Colorado, I was selected to be in a small class called “What Is History” taught by Mr. Lowenberg. Mr. Lowenberg had a passion for preserving the historic structures in Castle Rock and recording their history. Mr. Lowenberg’s goals for the class were 1) to learn the skills and methods of an historian and 2) to do primary research, using written, physical and human resources within the community. Mr. Lowenberg spent the first five weeks exploring what history means and how we define it. Next, he divided the class into teams of two students and assigned each team a house in Castle Rock to research. Kathy Kirby and I were assigned the Memmen house, a small farm on the outskirts of Castle Rock (now surrounded by the town). Mr. Lowenberg drove us to the library, newspaper office, or courthouse each class period teaching us how to search old newspapers and census records, how to use grantee/grantor records for title searches, and how to interview the people who lived in the house and those who knew something about the house. Kathy and I discovered the house was once owned by John H. Craig, one of the founders of the town of Castle Rock. Two mayors of Castle Rock had also lived in the house.

Kathy and I wrote our term paper for the class and each included our impressions on “What Is History?” After attending Mr. Lowenberg’s program last night, I pulled out my old paper. How interesting to look back and see what I had learned and what I had to say about history. I used a quote by Carl L. Becker who said, “History is the memory of things said and done.” I wrote, “Memory is not always accurate even if it is written down.” That is something I really believe now! I also wrote, “Complications make the work hard, but they do not overpower the rewards.”

As to my expectations of how history and this class would affect my life, I wrote, “I believe I would like to be a historian, but it will probably just be a hobby. This class has been the best class I have ever had. I lived and breathed this class. It was so hard to come back from Castle Rock after reading about the people and town and try to concentrate on Chemistry [class]. I will always be able to use the skills I learned in this class. History is more than just the past to me now; it is the present.”

Twenty-five years have passed since I was in Mr. Lowenberg’s “What Is History?” class. I haven’t seen Mr. Lowenberg since I graduated from high school. Last night I introduced myself to him and he said, “Yes, I remember you!” I think that’s pretty good since there were over 400 students in my graduating class alone. I was happy to tell him I am still using the research skills and understanding of history I gained in his class.

Bob Lowenberg gave a presentation on “Getting To Know Castle Rock.” He also sold and signed copies of a book he put together in 1981 called Castle Rock: A Grass Roots History using the papers students wrote in his earlier classes.

It isn't often we have a chance to thank the person from the past who made a huge impact on our lives. I want to thank Mr. Lowenberg for his passion for history and for his joy in passing along what he had learned. That combination makes the best kind of teacher. And Mr. Lowenberg is one of the best. Thank you, Mr. Lowenberg.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lynn Monroy, Graphologist

Left to Right: Lynn Monroy with Gayle Gresham

Those of you who have followed my journey in researching and writing about my family know that unexpected surprises are becoming common for me. Never knowing what will turn up next or who I will meet is an adventure that I love! Another opportunity opened through a member of Women Writing The West and I decided to pursue it to see what happens. Author Eunice Boeve wrote an e-mail to the WWW group about her cruise to Alaska. For Eunice, one of the exciting parts of the cruise was a daily program about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and other men involved in the shoot-out at the OK Corral in Tombstone given by graphologist Lynn Monroy. Lynn had studied and analyzed the handwriting of the men on both sides of the conflict and gave an entertaining and enlightening program by showing examples of their handwriting and giving insight into their character. Lynn also chose three people randomly each day to analyze their handwriting and Eunice was one that was chosen. She thought Lynn's findings about her were fairly accurate. Lynn even pegged her as a writer!

After reading Eunice's e-mail, I decided to contact Lynn about my project. Lynn expressed her interest and said she would be in Colorado and perhaps we could meet. Yesterday we met at the Colorado State Archives so Lynn could look at the original letters and documents. I showed her a note that is signed by both Ernest Christison and Ed Watkins and a note that isn't signed but has the name of Watkins' ranch on it. I had hoped that maybe the note signed by both men was written by Ernest, but Lynn thought it was most likely written by the Justice of Peace or court clerk since it had seal on it. But she was fairly certain the note from Watkins' ranch was probably written by Watkins. She could tell that he was an educated man by the handwriting. I know he did go to college and was active in the literary society in Salida.

Lynn made copies of the notes and several other papers. She thought one of the lawyers must have been quite a character from his handwriting. Then I remembered finding a court case last for which Wilburn Christison was the county judge, so we looked in the file to see if we could find a document he had written. We found one! So Lynn had it copied, too, and will analyze it. I can't wait to learn what she discovers in the handwriting of all of these men. I also hope I can find a sample of Ernest's handwriting--even a signature would help.

Thank you, Lynn! This is exciting!

Lynn's sister, Renee, took the picture of Lynn and I in front of the prison record exhibit at the archives before they left for the airport. Thanks, Renee, for driving Lynn to meet with me!

And thank you, Eunice, for getting me in contact with Lynn! I appreciate all of my friends in Women Writing The West.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Arrest

Mount Princeton - View from Gas Creek
Ernest Christison was arrested in June of 1883 near St. Elmo with seventy head of cattle that had altered brands. St. Elmo is on Chalk Creek which runs just south of Mount Princeton. He wasn't arrested by lawmen, however, but by a group of South Park cattlemen who took him and others with him on a three-day horse ride to South Park. Ernest and the others were brought before a Justice of Peace and then taken to the Fairplay jail.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Colorado State Archives

Today I visited the Colorado State Archives again and sifted through five boxes of court records. Three of them held nothing of interest, the fourth is one I've used frequently, but the fifth box was a gold mine! I recognized many names in the court cases. I also found the court case of a gentleman who escaped from the Buena Vista jail with Ernest. This case even had a grand jury indictment for breaking out of jail which included all of the men who escaped. This defendant also had an original excuse for claiming he did not steal the horse for which he was sentenced to prison--he was too intoxicated by liquor at the time to steal anything.

The highlight of my day happened when a gentleman walked by my table and asked how my research was going. Then he introduced himself as Terry Ketelsen. I immediately recognized the name of the State Archivist and I was thrilled to visit with him. He asked about what I was researching and asked me about the story when I told him I am writing a book. He was interested in the types of sources I am using and where I am finding them. He also asked me how I got started in my interest in Colorado history and in this story. We had a very enjoyable conversation.

Meeting interesting people is one of the benefits of writing this book. What an adventure!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Whispers of the Valley

Driving to Salida and Buena Vista reminded me again of my connection to the Upper Arkansas Valley; a land where I’ve never lived, never even stopped over for more than a four or five day camping trip, but as soon as I drop into the canyon of the Arkansas River and start melding into its curves, I know I am going home. It is the same sense I have when I return to Colorado from a road trip to North Carolina and turn onto Highway 86 just west of Limon driving into the high plains seeing the gentle rolling hills with the prairie grasses blowing in the wind. I watch in anticipation for my first glimpse of Pikes Peak—the blue mountain that stands guard duty over the high plains, the mountain with gentle shoulders that has watched over me like God since I was one-year old. The high plains are the home I’ve known all my life, but the Upper Arkansas River Valley is the home I’ve known in my soul, the home knit into my very being almost 150 years ago when my great-great-grandparents settled into its bosom.

What is it about the Upper Arkansas Valley that whispers to me? Is it the awe of walking over the same rocks and trails where the feet of my ancestors tread so many years ago? Is it their stories that have merged into my being and made me one with the land? Or is it simply my memories of riding in the backseat of an International Scout in my early childhood while my parents explored ghost towns and ancient trails as my Dad listened to the whispers of the valley in his soul?

No one place in the valley holds my heart captive. I feel the energy of the Arkansas River, the lifeline of the valley with its rushing waters that burst over rocks and flow unfettered to the plains of Colorado. Did its energy captivate my ancestors? In the center of this valley lie the meadows of Gas Creek, an oasis of cool, green grasses that refresh my soul. In places, the high desert is the front yard of the majestic mountains, a front yard where rocks and small boulders are scattered like marbles tossed by a child interspersed with clumps of native grasses. The rawness of this land stirs my individualism, my desire to be a person who can survive and thrive in this rugged land. The mountains are familiar. Mount Princeton towers like my Pikes Peak. Its shoulders are not quite as broad, but it still gives me the sense the mountain can envelope me in its arms and has the strength to carry my burdens. Looking at the mountain, I know the promise of cool mountain air scented with pine and I can almost hear the flutter of aspen leaves and the rushing waters of Cottonwood Creek.

While visiting last week, I had an overwhelming urge to put our house on the market and buy a house near Buena Vista. I wanted to view the vistas and draw strength from the land every morning. Feel the connection to my roots every day. Return to the sacred spaces of my ancestors. But then I drove home to Elbert and felt the familiar tugging in my heart when the tires of my truck hit the dirt roads and I saw the green pastures, Ponderosa Pine trees and Pikes Peak to the southwest. My home is as beautiful as the Upper Arkansas Valley. It’s the land of my heart, the home of my immediate family and the home of seven generations of my husband’s family. Someday, my great-great-grandchildren will visit Elbert, Colorado and know in their souls this is home. And then they may drive to the Upper Arkansas Valley, listen to the whispers of the valley, and know this home was knit into their being as well.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Locating Ernest's Land

On Thursday morning I went to the Chaffee County Clerk's office and started looking through the Grantee/Grantor indexes. About thirty minutes later I found an entry for Ernest Christison. I pulled out the book of deeds and discovered the land where Ernest had his ranch. It was located about seven or eight miles northeast of Salida as the crow flies. This photo is taken looking northeast of Salida in the general direction of the ranch.

I knew Ernest had a pasture in that area based on testimony I found in court records, but I wasn't certain that he owned it. It was exciting to find the proof. But the transaction made me a little sad. Ernest sold his ranch on the same day he got out of the Fairplay jail. He must have needed the money for his court and lawyer fees.

It was very tempting to drive up to see the land. I'd rather wait, though, for my husband to go exploring with me. Then he can drive while I soak in the atmosphere and scribble descriptions down in my notebook.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Trip To Salida and Buena Vista

Arkansas River between Canon City and Salida

Last week I drove to Salida and Buena Vista for three days of research. And, it was a productive three days! This week I will put up several postings with pictures and tell you about my newfound treasures. So, check in frequently! The Arkansas River is running high from the incredible snow run-off. It is amazing to talk to the people in Buena Vista to hear how much snow they had this winter. They spoke of plowing their driveways with the snow already piled up 14 feet high on each side. And Fairplay had it much worse.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gayle's Update

Oh, my! Have I really not posted a message since January?

I am still researching and writing. Kicking it into high gear this summer. I hope to make a research trip at least once a week. I've been organizing my research more--I now have over 600 entries in my database for the book. I've also decided to go back and read through each court case again. Today I went to the Colorado State Archives and spent 4 1/2 hours looking at each document in 2 cases and writing an inventory of what documents are in each case and which copies I have.

Around 1:00 (when my head was swimming) a woman walked in and asked the staff for some records in Park county. When she mentioned Buckskin Joe, I wondered if it was Christie, a member of Women Writing The West with whom I'd corresponded by e-mail and met briefly at the WWW conference last fall. When she sat down, I asked about her Park county research and she looked at me like I was familiar to her. So I asked, "Are you Christie?" And it was her!

Christie, who has a background as a law clerk, looked at some of the documents and explained some that totally flummoxed me. She has also offered to go over some of the cases with me. It could only be Divine intervention!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Memories of Turret

Gayle Christison on Tractor at Turret with dog, Scrappy

Last fall, when John and I drove up road 175, the first place I was anxious to see was Turret. Turret is a ghost town west of Cameron Mountain. It became a town later in 1897 when the Vivandiere and Gold Bug mines were in operation. My great-grandfather, Lewis Christison, worked as a miner at Turret in the 1930's, long past its glory days.

When I was little, my parents loved to go four-wheeling and poke around ghost towns. Turret was a favorite place to camp at. My favorite part of going to Turret was sitting on the old tractor with iron wheels and pretending to drive. This prepared me for my later wheat-farming days. But, I never drove that old tractor through a fence!

I was surprised to find new cabins built in Turret. Several for sale. Of course, I fell in love with one. Maybe someday, when I am rich and famous!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Black Mountain

Black Mountain is northeast of Salida in the southern part of South Park. The IM or Mulock Ranch was on the west side of Black Mountain (this photo is taken from the southeast). Ira Mulock and his three sons, Ira Parker, Edson, and Peter ran around 5,000 head of cattle in South Park in 1883.Ernest Christison was convicted of stealing IM cattle. Ed Watkins was arrested for stealing IM cattle, then hanged in Canon City by a group of cattlemen, presumably the Mulocks and others. Nobody was ever arrested or tried for his lynching.
This morning I received a great New Year's present when I checked my e-mail and found an e-mail from a descendent of Ira Mulock! I'm looking forward to learning more about this family.

Looking For Descendants

In my research, several descendants of key players in the cattle war have surfaced. Their stories and information are adding layers and depth to the book. I've decided to give a list of families who were involved in the cattle war and ask their descendants or relatives to contact me -
These are families who lived in Chaffee, Fremont and Park Counties in 1883-1884:

Ernest Christison
J.B. Cameron
Robert Cameron
Nancy Cameron Coffee Casteel
Jesse Stingley
Nettie Cameron Stingley
Ben Jameson
Frank Reed
Henry Van Kleeck
Ira Mulock
Ira Parker Mulock
Edson Mulock
William Gribble
T. Witcher
Gregory Gross
W.R. Smith

Gayle's Update

Happy New Year!

I kind of left you hanging since I went to the Women Writing The West Conference. I had a great time visiting with the other writers and getting to know them. It is great to be a part of this organization. I was elected Secretary for 2007-2008 and I'm working to help with the marketing of WWW. Next year's conference is in San Antonio and I can't wait to go!

The best part of the conference was meeting with an editor who is very excited about my book project on Ernest and the cattle rustling. He can't commit to the book until the manuscript is complete, but he is very encouraging. So, in the past few months I've been working on improving my writing and organizing the book. And I've kept on researching. Amazing facts are turning up-- facts that keep me questioning and searching for more answers. I've learned more about Ed Watkins' background and more about his wife. With recent information, I've realized there is still a lot of buried treasure for me to dig up. I'm grateful for what keeps coming to the surface and for what I discover when I dig deeper.

Here's to 2008 -- the year of a completed manuscript, I pray!