Historical Society recounts lives of area’s homesteaders

During the recent quarterly meeting of the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, Norma Oldland, left, was one of many area natives to give a presentation on homesteading. Oldland shared her stories of the Oldland homesteaders from the 1890s.

During the recent quarterly meeting of the Rio Blanco County Historical Society, Norma Oldland, left, was one of many area natives to give a presentation on homesteading. Oldland shared her stories of the Oldland homesteaders from the 1890s.

RBC I The Rio Blanco County Historical Society quarterly meeting was held Oct. 6, highlighted by a great presentation on homesteaders in Rio Blanco County.
Connie Theos explained the history of homesteading and the different types of homesteads dating back to the original Homestead Act of 1862, to the Timber Culture Act of 1873, which allowed people the opportunity to add to their homestead by planting 40 acres of trees.
In 1904, there was the Kincaid Act for Nebraska allowing people to acquire 640 acres for greater opportunity to farm and graze. Then, in 1916, the Stock Grazing Homestead Act made 640 acres an option for people outside of Nebraska and throughout the Western plains. Hence the large landowners in the early days accumulated a great deal of land when their neighbors were unable to improve their 640 acres.
As recently as 1930 was the Subsistence Homestead Act, part of the New Deal, which was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. That act enabled homesteading on land remaining.
Connie Theos’ great-grandfather, John Fetcher Hay, came to White River City, where he saw a girl swept downstream in the river. She might have drowned had it not been for John. And, as fate would have it, the two were married later.
Theos’ grandmother, Louis Parr, had a picture of every rural school in the area as she taught in each one at some time. Theos spoke of the importance of knowing where we come from and who we are, and she added that we come from true pioneers and it is our responsibility to keep the history alive.
Patty Anderson displayed several Homestead Certificate samples accompanied by photos of Northwest Colorado homesteads.
The program continued with Don Moyer’s presentation about the Moyer family, which homesteaded on Lime Kiln.
Norma Oldland presented information on the Oldland homestead, as this represents the family’s 127th year on the ranch. She talked about the size of the ranch growing to nearly 11,000 acres at one time. It is still nearly 10,000 acres.
It was homesteaded by Rueben Oldland in 1885, Reuben being the grandfather of Norma’s late husband by the same name. The story is one of great sacrifice and great success.
In the 100 years from 1785 to 1885, when Rueben came to the Piceance Creek area, the United States had tripled in size.
Opportunity was great, but often the risk was higher, and all too often the land proved too tough. This is perhaps the greatest commonality of the homesteaders presented. They were all tough and all were determined to survive.
The Kilduff family’s story was presented by David Cole as Tom Kilduff was ill. Cole presented information on the K bar T ranch and the history of his family, certainly characters by their own right.
Information on the Hill family from Rangely was presented as they remain on the ranch now, with the fifth generation on the ranch originally homesteaded up West Douglas Creek, now known as Cripple Cowboy Cow Outfit.
Trudy Burri presented information on the Warren family that homesteaded the land in 1882 where she currently resides. They had come from Leadville, and they passed down a strong work ethic and perseverance.
Burri echoed Theos’s emphasis on keeping history important and teaching our kids to love the land and the people and to understand the sacrifices made along the way.
Chris Uphoff provided a very sad story about some early Piceance homesteaders, the Summers family. The family lived in a 20-foot by 20-foot cabin and was completely snowbound in the winter. A son died when he followed his father out in the snow, and another son lost his life in a horse accident. The family lost the homestead after fighting and actually winning a trial over the land, but the cost was too great. The land went to Roda Mage, who was married to Judge Fulgem, who sat on the Nuremberg Trials court in Germany after World War II.
The history of the land is unique and the stories that have been handed down are priceless.
Presentations such as these and other efforts of the historical society and pioneer families help preserve area history, which becomes more and more important to remember each passing year.

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