Sunday, October 10, 2010

The BLM Government Land Office Records Beta Website

Have you always wondered how to find out if your great-great-grandfather really did own a homestead like you've been told in that old family story? Or have you wondered who homesteaded the land you live on now? This information is available on the BLM Government Land Office Records website - one of my FAVORITE links to visit as a genealogist and a historian.

I happened to visit the BLM GLO Records website and discovered they have a Beta release of the 4th generation of their website. It now has map-based searches and I love it! Of course, it makes the workshop I gave at the Colorado Family History Expo obsolete since I went to much trouble explaining how to use Earthpoint and GoogleEarth to locate a homestead on a map, but I am thrilled! Here is the new homepage:

To test the site, I entered the name James Mahan in Chaffee County, Colorado in the search box. According to the story in Under The Angel of Shavano, in 1865 James Mahon traded a yoke of oxen to Wilburn Christison for his homestead on Cottonwood Creek (in the town of Buena Vista today). In the new website, I put a check mark in each box under "map" below Land Description and the land is marked as orange squares in the map below! The only problem I've found that I wish BLM would fix is it won't show allotments of halves, such as the north half of the soutwest quarter. When I check the first box, this message appears, "due to data limitations, we could not map the aliquots or lots of this land description." The map should show two more blocks west of the top block running south of County Road 350 and the west side is adjacent to County Road 353.

You can zoom in on the land to get better detail:

Click on Terrain and you will see that Cottonwood Creek runs through this property:

The Satellite view will show the development in the town of Buena Vista that surrounds this land. This piece of land is under consideration for development at this time, which is sad when you see how pretty it is in the picture below.
Another feature I love in the Beta release is the ability to see who else owned the land patents on the other pieces of land in that section. Click on the Related Documents tab and it shows the list of land patents in that section:

Here is Wilburn Christison's homestead land he traded for a yoke of oxen. That's Mount Princeton in the background. Isn't it beautiful?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Treasure Discovered in 'Colorado As I Saw It' Book

My parents, who live in North Carolina, visited me and my family last week. While they were here, I mentioned I would love to have a copy of Colorado As I Saw It by Harry Epperson. Dad looked it up on-line and found it at Old West Books and ordered it for me. This wonderful gift arrived today in perfect condition, making me very happy. But then I opened the cover and discovered 27 newspaper clippings from newspapers dated in the 1940's to the 1960's! The clippings are all related to the stories in the book, which was published in 1943. There are also obituaries for Harry Epperson (the author) and Thomas McQuaid. McQuaid told some stories in the book related to Ed Watkins. Amazing!

Click on the picture for a closer look at the newspaper clippings.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Photograph Research Trip

I made a quick trip to Salida on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday morning I talked with Joyce Reno, the Chaffee County Clerk. She answered my questions about land records and was very helpful. I was reminded again that when you can't find a record in one place, it might show up in another. Last month I had contacted the National Archives in Denver about land patents. The man who helped me said he'd look up the information, but later called to say he couldn't find the book. I mentioned this to Joyce and she said, "We've got it right here." It helps to know I've looked at all of the records and I'm not overlooking something with the land records.

In the afternoon, I visited the Salida Regional Library to look at the Bob Rush photo collection. I didn't find any photos pertinant to my presentation or book, but they were fun to look at! Most of the collection is available digitally on the Salida website.

As I was leaving the library, Jeff Donlan and I were talking. It dawned on him to ask if I'd talked to Dick Dixon. I said I hadn't, but he was on my list. Dick has written book about Turret and the Salida area. He also has a fabulous collection of Salida photos. Jeff picked up the phone and called Dick at the Mountain Mail newspaper office. Before I knew it, I was having the most amazing conversation with Dick at the newspaper office. Here was a man who knew the historical Salida people I've been living with for the past three years. It was wonderful to talk to someone who knew them as well as I did. Just like talking with an old friend. You will be seeing some photos from Dick's collection show up in my book. Isn't that exciting?

I stopped at the Canon City History Center on my way home. And found some more great photos. It's fun to start collecting photographs for the book!

The book isn't finished yet. Working on the Ed Watkins presentation in Salida is helping me. I tend to tell the story in circles, I tell about one event then circle back to another. Putting the Powerpoint in order is helping me gain focus. And I'm picking up on a few things I hadn't caught before.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ed Watkins and The Cattle Thieves Presentation

Join me on Sunday September 19 at 2:00 p.m. at the Salida Regional Library for an afternoon of storytelling about "Ed Watkins and the Cattle Thieves." The story of Ed Watkins and his cattle rustling gang (which included Ernest Christison) has been told for over 125 years in central Colorado. Watkins was hanged by a masked mob in Canon City on August 11, 1883, but the story didn't end there. Over the next year there were more arrests connected with the cattle thieving, a muder or two, a jail break, and court cases with surprising outcomes.

I will be telling the story my research has revealed at 2:00 p.m., and after a short break at 2:45, more details and a time for questions and discussion will continue at 3:00 for those interested in staying.

For more information about the story, click on the tab Cattle Thieves above this post.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Great Flood - Pueblo, Colorado 1921

Last night I was looking through a packet of old family photographs and ran across these flood pictures, which had been copied from somebody's photo album. I became curious about where the flood was and started doing some photo detective work this morning.

Because my family lived in Canon City when most of the photos were taken, I first thought it might be Canon City. But I didn't think Canon City had street cars and I didn't find any mention of a flood in the Arcadia Canon City book. Then I wondered if it might be Pueblo, so I googled Pueblo flood and discovered the 1921 great flood in Pueblo.

I visited the Denver Public Library
digitized photo collection to look at photos of the flood and thought I was on the right track. I knew there was one way I would know for certain it was the right flood. I could read the name "Kress' Store" on a sign in the first photograph, so I looked up Pueblo in the 1921 Colorado Business Directory on HeritageQuest a
nd I found the Kress store on 211 Main Street. The Great Flood of Pueblo killed 1500 people.

Someone in the Christison or Frankenbery families must have gone to Pueblo and to take the pictures. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Poncha Springs Cemetery

On January 22, 1875, a group of vigilantes made their way to Elijah Gibbs' cabin on Gas Creek with the intention of hanging Gibbs for the murder of George Herrington. Gibbs had already been tried and acquitted of the murder charge, however, the vigilantes still believed he was the guilty party.

The vigilantes arrived at Gibbs' cabin around midnight and demanded that Gibbs come out. When Gibbs didn't do as requested, some of the men started piling brush up against the door to burn Gibbs out; not caring that Gibbs family - his pregnant wife and three children - along with a neighbor and her child were in the cabin. Gibbs fired the first shot at Sam Boon, who had lit a match to set the fire, hitting him in the chest. He continued firing, hitting two men in the legs. As the men fell, the shotgun belonging to one of the men went off and hit David Boon, the brother of Sam. Finley Kane (reportedly an uncle of Sam and David) was also shot.
Elijah Gibbs turned himself into the Justice of Peace and a trial was held the next morning with Wilburn Christison acting as Gibbs' defense lawyer. Gibbs was found to have acted in self-defense and he left the area immediately.

The wounded men were taken to William Kraft's home where David Boon (age 31) died January 23, Sam Boon died January 24 (age 30), and Finley Kane died January 25. The three men were buried in the Droney Pasture cemetery, but were later moved to the Poncha Springs Cemetery where this picture was taken. Each man has a Civil War veterans marker. Sam and David served together in Company H of the 102nd Ohio Infantry and Finley Kane served in Company I of the 29th Ohio Infantry.

For more information about the Lake County War,
read this post. Also click on the Lake County War label.

If you are related to anyone in the Lake County War or if you have information about it, please contact me at

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Colorado Family History Expo

The Colorado Family History Expo is coming up June 25-26, 2010 in Loveland. I will be presenting 2 classes:
  • Researching Your Colorado Pioneers - Friday at 4:30 pm
  • Locating Homestead Land Patents - Saturday 4:00 pm
For a full listing of classes and registration info, visit Colorado Family History Expo. Hope to see you there! I am also a Blogger of Honor and I'll be blogging from the Expo, so check back often that weekend for genealogy news and tips.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mapping Colorado History

This month my article, "Mapping Colorado History" appears in the April 2010 issue of Colorado Country Life magazine. I loved researching this article and learning about the map history of Colorado. I learned so many facts about Colorado and its maps that I couldn’t fit all of the information into the article. I’ll be writing blog posts this month about the maps I mentioned in the article and offer more how-to’s on using Colorado maps.

Colorado Country Life is the Colorado Rural Electric Association magazine sent to homes in many of the rural electric coops in the state. “Mapping Colorado History” is my second article in Colorado Country Life. I’ve read the magazine since I was a child, having lived in the Mountain View Electric Association area almost all of my life. My connection to Mountain View became stronger when I married. My husband, John, began working for Mountain View 25 years ago in March. He started as a meter reader, spent twenty years keeping the lights on as a lineman, and now works as an inspector inspecting newly constructed power lines.

I have added a page for Colorado Maps which has a slideshow of Colorado maps, many of which are mentioned in the article. The Colorado Maps page is just below the Colorado Reflections header. I will also add more to the maps page.

I’m excited about interacting with readers of this article. Please leave your comments and questions on this blog. You can also become a fan of Colorado Country Life on Facebook and leave comments on their fan page. I’ll respond to comments and questions there, too.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Genealogy vs. History

I had no intention of writing a post about Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC.

There has been a lot of hype about it among the geneabloggers and genealogy community in social network. We even received a schedule of the promotional interviews including The Today Show, The View and Oprah. After watching Lisa Kudrow's interview on The View, I decided I wanted to watch the show to see what all of the hype was about. Is it really the new Roots which is going to cause everyone to jump on the genealogy bandwagon like the famous miniseries did in the seventies?

Watching the show, I enjoyed seeing Sarah Jessica Parker's emotions as she was told information about her family. They seemed real to me as I've had many of the same feelings. This, however, is what my husband, John, didn't like about the show. To him, it sensationalized the show. He would have preferred more facts. I also appreciated how the show grounded the genealogy discoveries in the context of history.

At one point, Sarah Jessica Parker was handed a letter detailing her 4th great-grandfather's death in the California goldfields. I must say that letter hooked me. Don't we all wish we had a letter like that to explain events we don't have any information about? The show didn't explain where the letter came from, however, this morning I received an e-mail from Anastasia Tyler, PR Manager of Ancestry explaining the letter. "We found a letter written by someone in Ohio to John S. Hodge, which had been published in a book," says Natalie (ProGenealogist). "One of my colleagues tracked down the original set of letters, which provided more details, including information about John S. Hodge's 1850 death."

After the show, I considered what Sarah Jessica Parker learned about her family history and compared it to my experience. In some ways there wasn't much comparison: Parker didn't spend years tracking down her genealogy the same way I have; instead, thousands of dollars were spent for professional genealogists to do the research. She didn't spend months trying to figure out frustrating details or missing information. But her response to the information was very similar to my response. There is wonder, excitement and sadness in genealogy.

What we have in common is the understanding that each person in our family tree is a thread. All of our ancestors' threads are woven together and create a tapestry of history. History focuses on the strongest, the leaders, the people who made a name for themselves, whether good or bad. Genealogy, however allows us to see history in another light. We see the people, our people, who lived in the times and were a part of history, but nothing much was written about them because, well, they were kind of boring in light of the people who made a name for themselves. As we research and learn about their lives, though, we discover our ties to the history, history that may not have meant much to us until we learn we have a vested interest in that period of time.

Without genealogy, some of the history would be lost forever. Think of the stories we wouldn't know if Alex Haley hadn't become interested in his genealogy. I have two friends,
Jane Kirkpatrick and Heidi Thomas, who have written historical novels about their grandmothers. Jane's grandmother was a photographer in the early 1900's and Heidi's grandmother rode steers in rodeos in the 1920's. Neither woman was famous, but because Jane and Heidi have written their stories we have a another perspective of the history, one we would have missed without genealogy.

That's what I've discovered as I write my family's history. You will find Ernest Christison as a sidekick of Ed Watson in the cattle rustling story in the history books. But because I researched Ernest and his involvement, I discovered there was much more to the cattle rustling story than has been told. I've also found the same to be true in Wilburn Christison's story. Sometimes more of the history is revealed through the lesser known people.

I hope Who Do You Think You Are? will draw more people to genealogy. Genealogy can open a door to understanding history. But it can also light a fire for children. I have a friend, Hailey, who is a first-grader. Hailey will tell you three of her ancestors was on the Mayflower. And she can tell you some of the history. Do you think this child will have an interest in history throughout her life? Hailey already knows the secret of each thread creating a tapestry of history.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Escape

Last week I had the urge to visit Buena Vista again. 126 years ago on January 27, 1884, Ernest Christison, my great-great-uncle, escaped from the Buena Vista Jail along with ten other prisoners. You can read more about the jail break on this Black Sheep Sunday post. After breaking jail, Ernest and Albert Sweeny ran 1/2 a mile to the Arkansas River, crossed it and began climbing the hill on the others side.

The two men hid in the pinions and rocks watching the posse form and the search begin. In the photo below you can see the courthouse in the center of the picture viewed from the hill.

Christison and Sweeny walked south along the hills. Below Nathrop they crossed the river again and continued walking to Thomas Cameron's ranch near Salida, where they were captured early the next morning.

Today the area where Ernest and Albert Sweeny crossed the river is a park. There is a footbridge across the Arkansas and hiking trails up the hill. John and I walked up the trail to experience a little of what Ernest did. Can't imagine crossing the river with the ice and cold. My feet would be blue for a week! It was easy to picture Ernest and Albert scrambling up the hill during their get-away. It was 25 degrees when John and I visited on Friday, the 29th. There was a fresh layer of snow on the ground from the night before. Luckily for Ernest and Albert there wasn't any new snow in 1884!