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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

Remembering a Few Valley Families

Remembering A Few Valley Families


One day, Ben Kettle and I were talking about how several people who grew up in the Valley, never married: John and Walt Comstock; Elton Camper; Sara, Carolyn, and Francis Kettle; and Adolf, August, Irene, and Hilda Neerman. There may be others I am forgetting. Ben told me that some of them, until they were in their 40’s, cared for elderly parents, and that others simply did not socialize or come to town very often.

Genevieve (Stacy) Niles, who grew up in the Hillside area, told me that her Grandfather Stacy usually only went to town (meaning Westcliffe), twice a year: once before winter and once after winter. If it was an election year, he would make a third trip in order to vote.

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A few years ago, I had the honor of speaking at Donna (Kidder) Coleman’s funeral. Of the six sons of W.O. and Bessie Coleman, Three of them married Donnas. At the funeral, there were a lot of Colemans in one place. Some were former students of mine, and most of them have been friends for many years. The last time I had seen Larry Coleman was at his Aunt Jean’s funeral, four years earlier. I told him that we needed to stop meeting like this. It was good to have lunch with Larry a few weeks later.

While funerals are times of sadness and grief, they are also times of sharing memories and stories. Some of the generation younger than Donna, shared about Thanksgiving dinners, cousins getting into mischief and playing together. Donna’s husband, Miles, is the last one living, of the six sons of W.O. and Bessie Coleman.

Talking with the family, I was reminded of stories I had heard several years ago, when I spoke at Bessie’s funeral. When John was in elementary school, Bessie had baked a birthday cake for him to share with his class. However, John had a better idea. On his way to school, he hid the cake in an old shed, and during the week, he ate it all himself.

I think there are other family versions of this next story. I’m not sure who to “blame” for this one. I am guilty of a little speculation myself on the names of the boxers. When W.O. and Bessie got married, and began to have children, it was decided that W.O. would name the boys and Bessie would name the girls.

W.O. liked boxing, and so when their first son was born he named him Stanley, probably after Stanley Ketchel, one of the greatest World Middleweight Champions in history. Then came Jack, named for Jack Dempsey, World Heavyweight champion 1919 to 1926. Gene came next, named after Gene Tunney, who defeated Jack Dempsey twice. Jim, son number four, may have been named for “Big” Jim Jeffries, another World Heavyweight Champion. Next was John, for John L. Sullivan, dubbed the “Boston Strong Boy,” who was the first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing and the last heavyweight champion of bare knuckle boxing.

When son number six was born, W.O. said to Bessie, “You might as well name this one. We won’t ever have a girl.” And so, Miles joined the Coleman clan. Of course, many of us know him as “Happy.”

One day, I was sitting with Miles at the Rancher’s Roost Cafe when he said to me, “Dick, did I ever tell you how I got my nickname? My mom told me that one day, when I was two years old, my uncle was visiting. I was playing around on the floor and he said to my mom, ‘He sure is a happy little cuss, isn’t he?’ The name stuck, and I have been called Happy ever since.”

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Dale Coleman has read some of my stories, and being a teacher, he felt it was his duty to give me a few writing assignments. He suggested that I write about all of the family connections in the Valley; you know, who is related to who.

For a minute, I just stared at Dale in disbelief. Then I said, “Dale, you have got to be joking. Neither of us will live long enough to finish that story.”

Dale then decided that I should list the names of families who still own or live on ranches (or portions of ranches) that have been in their family for at least a couple of generations. This seemed a little more manageable.

Shortly after this, I was sitting with Randy Berry, Rhonda (Berry) Patterson, Gary Patterson, and Rita (Berry) Wilson, as we planned Russel and Eunice Berry’s memorial service. I shared Dale’s assignment with them, and they all took up the challenge with me. Later, John Rusher also added some valuable insight.

I’m sure that this list is not complete, and maybe not even totally accurate, but it is a beginning. A couple of ranches are in the Wetmore area and one is in Fremont County.

I am only listing last names, however some names represent more than one immediate family and more than one ranch. These are the names that came to mind:

Adams—Austin—Berry—Brandenburg—Camper—Canda—Coleman—Day—Davis—Diekman—Degree—Donley—Eggleston (North of Hillside)—Geroux—Hood—Kattnig—Kennicut (Comstock)—Kettle—Koch—Marrs—Menzel—Miller—Parker (before 1968, the Beck Ranch)—Reid—Reis—Rusher—Rusk—Schneider—Vickerman—Walker—Young.

I’m sure that some of you may know more than I do, so please feel free to edit the list.

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On a recent Sunday afternoon, we were driving South to enjoy a picnic with friends along the Huerfano River. Forty years ago, Redwing had a gas station / grocery / post office. None of these remain today.

About 25 years ago, Barb and I cooked a hog for a gathering of Rudi Cordova’s family. Rudi is a long time resident of the Redwing area and we used to brand together at Wolf Springs Ranch.

We drove up into the Blizzardine area through Dave (Doc) and Mary Boyer’s ranch. I was remembering when Harvey Geroux and Rocky Mosher worked for Boyers. Harvey and Rocky are both gone now, and Doc died a few years ago. The Navajo Nation bought the ranch, along with the upper half of Wolf Springs. I think that Mary and the family kept a few hundred acres on the upper ranch.

We stopped at Katie’s Cabin which Doc restored a while back. I believe that the Katie who lived in the cabin was a school teacher many years ago at the Froze Creek School.

Gus and Katherine Alice (Ally) Watkins lived a couple of miles East of Katies Cabin. Their daughters, Barb (Stock) and Mary Lou (Livengood), both attended the Froze Creek School.


Mary Lou once told me that she and Barb rode their horses across the prairie to school, about three and a half miles as the crow flies. Today, almost nothing remains of the school building.


Katie’s Cabin


There is an old windmill and shed just off of the Blizzardine Road. I had been in the shed years ago and saw the farm records the residents had kept on the wall: so many pounds of snow peas planted, cost of grain, pounds of potatoes harvested, ect…I wish I had taken a picture back then. Jim Christoff, who delivered mail in the valley, told me that a man by the name of Earl Hansen once lived there.

I need to take more Sunday drives. Seeing places I had forgotten about refreshes my memory, and occasionally triggers a few more stories.





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