The journey from Utah to the Mancos in 1882

By MARY L. LAMB

Part 1We first came from Utah to the Mancos in 1882. There was quite a large party of us consisting of my mother, Mrs. Sarah C. Lee, known to all as “Grandma Lee,” my brother Charles, his wife and child; my other brothers, Robert E., Walter, and Ammon; my sister Sarah and her husband and John D. Young and one child, my sister Josephine, then a child. John Hall and his wife, Rebekah, my husband Charles M. Lamb and myself with our two children, Ruby and Sadie, the last named was born on the way. The Halls were old friends, not relatives.

We originally intended to go to the Gila River in Arizona, where an older sister of mine, Mrs. Olive Norton, lived. We were unsettled at Utah, and only Mother had a home. So we persuaded her to dispose of her place and set out with us. We came through this way and stopped for a time.

We left Escalante Feb. 26, 1882. We had four or five wagons, the necessary horses, milk cows, and John Young had a four ox team. My husband and I were well prepared for the road with a stove in the front part of our covered wagon and a bed with springs in the back. There were many friends to see us off on our long journey that February day. My second daughter, Sadie was born ten or fifteen miles out of Escalante that same day. My mother was a doctor woman and took all of the care of me that was required.

We headed for Hall’s Ferry on the Colorado and we crossed over the river on March 19 or 20 when Sadie was three weeks old. There, the rocks are cut and blasted out so that a wagon can pass easily. The walls are slick and perpendicular, and the road down to the ferry between these walls is very steep, for it is said to drop 1,700 feet there in half a mile.

There was a big ferryboat at the bottom to take us across the Colorado River. Our wagons were all that the boat could carry, and after we had driven them onto the ferry, we had to swim the horses across. That was a frightening business, for we had a hard time to keep the stock from milling downstream into the canyon. One big heavy horse reared up with his forefeet on another horse’s back and rode across the river that way. All you could see were the animals’ noses sticking out of the water. One man said he would swim with the horses, but the horse he was riding reared and he fell off. As he was himself no swimmer, he was towed over the river hanging onto the horse’s tail. Eventually we got all of our horses, oxen and milk cows across and were ready for the second lap of our journey. Fortunately, the road up from Hall’s Ferry on this side is not as steep as the one we descended into it.

It was a terrible road – or lack of it- from the Colorado River to Bluff City, Utah. We were there about the first of April perhaps. We were a little short of food, and there was not much of a variety to what we did have. We used jerked meat cooked until tender and then gravy made with it. The Halls added much to the enjoyment of the rest of us on the trip, for they were very jolly. John Hall would say things to his wife, and she would pretend that she was angry for our entertainment.

We remained at Bluff City for a few days, and then came on to Mancos. We came up the McElmo until we struck Montezuma Valley. When we were traveling along somewhere east of the present site of Cortez, we saw a seance of some sort that has always remained a mystery to me. We were going along pretty well over toward the Mesa Verde and headed for the Mancos. We passed a ranch with a little house and a stock corral where horses were rounded up. There were two men with saddle horses here, and the men were off the horses, running about in a peculiar manner and acting strangely. A cloud of smoke began to rise from inside the corral just before one of the men came out of there. Out of the cloud of smoke came the most terrible and unearthly yells I ever heard. The two men got on the horses and started to ride away. Then, possibly because they noticed our party at a distance and knew we must be hearing those yells, they rode back and fired some shots into that smoke. The yells ceased. Whatever they had tied there they had killed of course. Then they rode away again as fast as they could. We did not investigate, for we could see there was nothing we could do.

We had no idea what might be the explanation of what we had seen and heard, and, being strangers in this country, we did not want to court trouble. But we never heard anything remotely concerning what we had seen that day.

Part 2 of Mrs. Lamb’s story will be published on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016 issue. June Head is the Historian for the Montezuma County Historical Society and can be reached for questions, comments or corrections at 970-565-3880.