Saturday, October 8, 2011

Dinosaur Bones

 In 1989, I flew to California with my 1 year-old daughter to introduce her to her great-grandparents and family in California and Oregon. While visiting my Grandpa, Ken Christison Sr., at his home in Oregon, he gave me a photograph of dinosaur bones and a wonderful story to go along with it. When Grandpa was sophomore in high school in 1931, a couple of boys on a hike with their teacher, Prof Kessler, and found a section of a dinosaur vertebrae at Garden Park. Garden Park is an area where many dinosaur excavations have taken place since 1877. On October 17, 1931 Prof Kessler returned to the site with his World History class to instruct and demonstrate the proper methods of excavation. My Grandpa was in this class and, therefore, in the photographs taken that day by L.B. Stewart, the art teacher. The story of the discovery and the pictures were published in the Denver Post on November 8, 1931.

Dinosaur Vertebrae Discovered in 1931 by Canon City Students

Canon City World History Class 1931 with Dinosaur Bones
Top Row: (Left to Right) Earl Ford, Kenneth Christison, Rusty Goodman
Next Row: Frances Easton, Willard Morris
Next Row: Opal Darndary, Margaret Akeley
Next Row: Billie Friend, Billie Lee, Lenora Countryman, Marie Knauf
Front Row: Prof Kessler

World History Class in the School Bus
Prof Kessler in front seat with Kenneth Christison
This photograph was featured in Monday's Canon City Daily Record on Monday October 3, 2011 with an article titled "The Great Dinosaur Race." Today, Saturday, is National Fossil Day and the Dinosaur Depot celebrated with various activities. June Hines, director of the museum, called me and invited me to come. So, this morning my friends, the Courtrights, and I left Elbert in the snow to drive to Canon City. We were especially looking forward to a walking tour through the Marsh Felch Quarry where the 1931 class found the vertebrae, but the tour was rained out. Instead, tour guide Dan Grenard met us and gave us a fascinating lecture about the history of the Marsh Felch Quarry. Then, he and his wife invited us to her office to show us pictures and maps. 

Prof. Kessler had thought the vertebrae belonged to a Diplodocus, however, Dan Grenard told us today it is believed to be a Camarasaurus (Terry Courtirght told me it's pronounced almost like the car - Camaro). After the bones were found, Prof Kessler contacted the Denver Museum of Natural History. In January of 1933, he wrote again saying was concerned about the decomposition of the bones. J.D. Figgins, Director of the museum, responded and told Prof Kessler to "shovel over the entire specimen 1 1/2 to 2 feet of dirt. Leave the canvas in place and carefully shovel over the entire thing." 

Today I learned the experts believe the segment of vertebrae was never recovered and is still buried with its canvas and dirt covering.If you are interested in learning more about Garden Park, please visit the Hands On The Land website.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Search for Inez by Guest Blogger Ann Parker

Today I welcome author Ann Parker to Colorado Reflections! Ann is the author of The Silver Rush mystery series set in Leadville, Colorado. I met Ann in Women Writing The West and soon discovered a kindred spirit with central Colorado family ties and a love for researching the history.

Please leave a comment on this post for a chance
to win a book of your choice from Ann's Silver Rush mystery series!

My Search For Inez

I may be a Californian, born and bred, but my family history reaches into Colorado. It was that history--and a bit of a family mystery as well--that led me to write a historical series set in 1880's Colorado, specifically Leadville.

                                                            Now I shall explain...

My mother and father were both raised in Colorado, and we regularly traveled back as a family for summer vacations, holidays, and so on. I recall Granny (my paternal grandmother, Inez Stannert Parker) telling stories of her life as a young woman in Denver--meeting Grandpa at Elitch Gardens (which were really gardens back then), raising her children: my father, Uncle Walt, and Aunt Dorothy, and so on. But it wasn't until long after she died that my Uncle    Walt told me she had been raised in Leadville.

My first reaction: She what?

Granny had never mentioned Leadville. No stories, nothing. So this was news to me.

My second reaction: What the heck is Leadville?
My Uncle Walt, being an engineer in addition to being the family genealogist, immediately began to was enthusiastic about Leadville: "Why it is just the biggest, most amazing mining town in the world! Silver, gold, tin, molybdenum! Oh, Leadville was quite a place, quite a rough town in those days." I was intrigued. Tell me more, I said. Instead, Uncle Walt instructed me to go research Leadville. "I'll bet," he said, "that you could write a story based in Leadville.

Thus instructed, I started to dig into Leadville's past and the rest, as they is history. I did indeed write a "story based in Leadville"--in fact, three of them so far: Silver Lies, Iron Ties, and Leaden Skies. (The fourth, Mercury's Rise, is coming out in November, and although
it has key scenes in Leadville, most of the action takes place in
another Colorado town with a fascinating history: Manitou Springs.)

But, even as I penned my tales, I didn't forget Granny. In fact, I      
named my protagonist after her (with the blessings of the family). I
also continued to wonder about her mysterious life in Leadville.
Where did she live? What was her life like back then? What were
her circumstances? What was the town like in the late 1800's/
early 1900's, when she was growing from a child to a young
So, even as I researched for fiction, I also mined Leadville's considerable historical and genealogical resources for information 
about the real Inez. (Thank you, Lake County Public Library!)

Over the years, I have uncovered some small bits about her Leadville life. From my Uncle Walt's efforts, I knew she was born in
1886, the eldest daughter of Mary E. Stannert and Lawrence
Stannert, who himself was born in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and
was the eldest of six children (as far as I could tell). Inez had "half-
brother, Harry (the "half" is part of the family legend, but I've been
unable to verify this), and a sister Mary (who, again according to
family legend, was quite a, shall we say, "heck"-raiser in her days).
Thanks to Leadville's collection of city directories and various
 census records, I verified that they lived at 610 West 3rd Street.

Thanks to a cousin, I have a copy of Inez's "Certificate of Attainment," certifying that she satisfactorily completed the Course of Study prescribed for the Grammar Department of the Leadville Public Schools and that she was thus admitted to high school. The certificate is dated January 31, 1902, and is signed by the principal of Central School. Yet, I know well that one of the things she lamented late in life was never graduating from high school. What happened to stop her education? We don't know. We do know sh valued education highly, and made sure that her children "stayed the course." My Uncle Walt became an engineer, my aunt became a legal secretary (this would hav been in the 1930's...well before women were common such fields), and my father became a physician.

Another fascinating tidbit I uncovered was a listing in the 1905 directory that indicated that Inez Stannert was working at the Herald Democrat bindery. Did she leave school for employment? Seems likely. To help support the family? She was living at the same address as her father (and we assume the rest of the clan was there as well). At the same time, Lawrence Stannert is listed as a blacksmith working at the Arkansas Valley Smelter, so it's not as if he was unemployed.

The Stannerts disappear from the Leadville directories after 1906, and Granny met her future husband in 1907 in Denver, and got married in Denver in 1908.

And that's about it. Photos from her time in Leadville are few and far between. I looked through my collection of old family photos and didn't spot any, although I found some dandy ones of other female ancestors. (Or female friends of ancestors. Without names, who knows?) Much of Inez's early life remains a mystery, despite my attempts to glean more about her. So, I did what I could to honor her by giving my character her name. As time goes on, though, I hope I can find out more about the real Inez, even as I continue to create stories for the fictional Inez, spun from my research and my imagination.