Looking Back: Life at Lone Dome and Big Bend in 1882

The town of Big Bend, photograph from the Majors/Dawson family collection. Enlargephoto

Diane Dawson/Courtesy photo

The town of Big Bend, photograph from the Majors/Dawson family collection.

I was born on Feb. 4, 1859, in Iowa. There were nine of us children, and I had a twin brother to whom I was much attached.

All but three of us children were born in Indiana, and I had an older brother who was in the first regiment that left our section of Iowa during the Civil War. I was exceedingly proud of him, as I remember. When I was 10 years old, we moved to Missouri and settled at Harrisonville, where I grew to womanhood. The day my twin brother and I were 22 years old, my mother was buried. My brother was at that time cook at the Eureka House at Robinson’s Camp north of Denver. So, after my mother’s death, I came to Colorado to be with him. I arrived at Robinson’s Camp in 1880 and spent that winter there.

Robinson had a mine and hotel there, and the camp took its name from him. There was a great deal of claim-jumping in those days, and guards had to be posted about. Robinson was killed by one of his own guards who mistook him for a claim-jumper.

Early in 1881 I married George P. Moore, a miner. Shortly afterward, my husband and I went to Pitkin in Gunnison County, where he had to do assessment work on a mine. While there, I paid a dollar for a dozen eggs and found only two of the eggs fit to use. It was too high there for me, and, on the doctor’s advice, my husband sent me back to Longton, Kan., to an older sister. He sold the mine and went to work at Leadville for a time. He had a brother at Socorro, N.M., who ran a meat market. He was ill and sent for my husband to come down there and run his market until he recovered. He remained in New Mexico until in May when he bought a buggy and drove up to Antonito, Colo. He went on to Pueblo, where he bought a span of mules and a camp outfit and bargained with a young man to drive it for him to Antonito in return for being taken on the Durango. This was in the spring of 1882.

We made the trip from Antonito here in a covered wagon when my daughter, Della, was a little over 5 months old. My husband knew Nathan Dickerson, who was already in this country, and he had made up his mind he wanted to take up a ranch on the Dolores River. But the water was so high with the usual spring flood that we could not hope to go down the Dolores at the time of our arrival. We camped at the H.M. Smith place at Mancos for a while. Also we were at the Simon place before we went to Durango on our way to Silverton, where my husband teamed all summer. He did well, too. When we left there in October to come to the Dolores Valley to find a home, we had $800, which was good, for those days.

Speaking of the Simon family, Mr. Louis Simon was the father-in-law of my husband’s friend, Nathan Dickerson, who had married his daughter Rachel. Mr. Simon had a place in Montezuma Valley at what is since known as Simon’s Draw in the Lakeview neighborhood. But at this time he lived on the Dolores River not far from Mr. Dickerson. I suppose you have heard when Mr. and Mrs. Simon’s silver wedding anniversary arrived, one daughter came from Rico and another from Durango, and the Saylers, a young couple with one little child who lived nearby in the direction of where Cortez now stands, were there for the dinner. Afterward, when the Sayler’s got home, they found that the Indians had ransacked their house while they were gone and had taken even some of the baby’s clothes, not to mention everything eatable. They returned to the Simons’ that night.

When we came to the Dolores Valley in October 1882, my husband selected a ranch at Lone Dome about 16 miles down the Dolores River from here (Dolores, the new town). A young man named Charley Salter had taken it up, but he was young and homesick and wanted to get away. The place had a good cabin on it and a ditch that would carry water for 50 acres of land completed. It had been rented the summer before, and the renter had raised a splendid crop and had the cellar full of produce. My husband bought out Charley Salter, and they went to Durango to fix up the papers and the filing. We had to live on it five years to prove up, and we kept that ranch, which was a good one, until 1916,when we sold it and our cattle. The first winter, the man who had rented it before lived with us. We furnished such groceries as we had to buy, and he furnished the vegetables.

We were very comfortable on our place at Lone Dome. Some of our neighbors were the Barnes family. Gene Salter, a brother of Charley, Jim Trimble, some English people, a bit later, the Dillons, and later still the Bradfields.



Part 2: The next segment of this story will publish in the Sept. 5 edition of The Cortez Journal.

June Head is the Historian for the Montezuma County Historical Society and may be reached for comments or corrections at 565-3880. Entire article may be found in Volume II, Great Sage Plain to Timberline, which is published by the Historical Society.