From Craig, Colorado to Purcell, Colorado - late fall of 1924

Frances Russell was only five years old that fall of 1924 when her family pulled up stakes in Craig, Colorado, and moved their possessions and cattle over the Continental Divide to Purcell, Colorado. I’ve selected text from Frances’ autobiography to accompany the photos taken on that trip. For Frances Russell’s complete autobiography please visit the website of her granddaughter Cyndee Hildenbrandt,  here Note: unlike most covered wagon treks through Colorado in the late 1800s and early 1900s where folks from the east traveled west seeking a new life, this was a journey from west to east, a defeated homesteader leaving the rough sagebrush country north and west of Craig, Colorado, for the high, dry plains of eastern Colorado, and family ties.

“Some possessions were sold and the rest was loaded on two wagons.  One wagon was loaded with furniture
 and small tools and a walking plow.  This was a open wagon or a hay frame.  Daddy drove a four horse team
 to this wagon.  The other wagon was equipped with overjets, bows, and a wagon sheet.  It was loaded with
 bed clothes, clothing, food and a grub box up front.  Ma drove a two horse team to this wagon.  
She had William who was a year old.  And Ollie to look after William while Ma drove the team.”

 

Chloe Smith driving wagon and team

Chloe Smith with young son William driving team of horses pulling wagon

 

Camped for the night on Rabbit Ears Pass

Two wagons camped for the night.

 

“These wagons were loaded out at Grandma's house.  Daddy led out with his
team and wagon.  Ma followed with her wagon.  Ola and Frank followed behind on
horseback driving about fifteen head of cattle.  Ola was thirteen and Frank
was eleven.
 
The first night out was a dry camp, which meant no water for the horses
and cattle.  Drinking water was carried in the wagons.  This was at Cross
Mountain, where we lived when William was born.  This was a distance of thirty
miles the first day.  The next night they camped at Sunbeam.  They found that
the hotel Grandma used to run had burned down.  The Sunbeam camp was the
second camp without water.  So when Daddy's horses smelled water, he couldn't
hold them and they turned sharp and turned his wagon over.  Daddy hurt his
back in the accident.
 
They got to Craig for Rosie's birthday, October fifth.  Deed Morris went
back to Sunbeam and drove Daddy's wagon to Craig.  Because Daddy was hurt when
the wagon upset. Daddy had to go see a doctor in Craig for his sprained back.  The
livestock were put in the stockyard in Craig.  There was a day layover in
Craig for Daddy's back to rest.”
 

 

Stopped for lunch

Stopped for lunch in the pines

 

“When the wagons arrived at the foot of Rabbit Ears Pass, Daddy was told
by the Ranger that the pass was being closed at noon that day for the winter
season.  This was a good month later than they could safely cross over the
pass.  As Daddy was talking to the ranger, a rancher from the east side of the
mountain who crossed over the pass every year at this time, heard the
conversation.  He said if Daddy's two wagons and livestock were not at his
place by four p.m. the next day.  He would come with a fresh team to help them
over the pass.  They camped that night on top of Rabbit Ears pass, three miles
above timberline.  It was terribly cold with snow all over the ground.”

 

Chloe and kids at lunch

Ola, Chloe, and William at lunchtime

 

“After they crossed the top of the pass and started the descent, Ola
helped Daddy chain lock his back wheels of his wagon.  The next day the wagons
met the man coming with the fresh team, to see if they needed his help.
 
Because it was so late in the season, they had to detour up through
Baggs and Laramie, Wyoming.  The wagons in the lead, the livestock following.
As Ola and Frank with the livestock approached the rail road tracks in Baggs;
the arms came down, and a train went by.  By the time the train got by and the
arms came up,  they could see the wagons go out of sight, about three blocks
away.  They were not sure which way the wagons went and were very upset.  A
man stepped out and asked them if they were following those two wagons.  He
gave them the right directions out of town and to catch up with the wagons.”

 

 

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