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Harry Longenbaugh recalls life in the Cortez area in early 1900s

Walter and Harry Longenbaugh, on a horse-drawn road grader on County Road 25, east of Road 26.5 (Courtesy of the Longenbaugh family)
A look back at neighbors and the mysterious Mr. Shumaker

Editor’s note: Following are excerpts from a history seminar in July 1978, according to speaker Harry Longenbaugh.

I was born in 1904, and my folks moved out west of the Beulah schoolhouse and homesteaded before I started to school.

I think I was about 4 years old when they went on the homestead. I was there when I went to my first year of school at Beulah when I was 6 years old. We rode a horse – two of us rode a horse. If the schoolteacher stayed with us. she had a horse.

That homestead was right at the head of Trail Canyon, and if you went down the road toward Cortez from our house a mile-and-a-half and turned south a half-mile, there was Jim Barrett with his wife, Ida, and their daughter, Eleanor, and son, Jack. They moved in, and we’ve had “one hell of a time with him ever since.” (Jim Barrett was also one of the speakers at this seminar, and he talked about his dad and Jim Barrett then working on a ditch).

We lived there on the homestead for several years. My Dad worked out on the job all the time – various jobs – he ran a hay baler for many years. When he got on to the road job, he was there for 17 years. A lot of the time, he wasn’t home, so Mother and us kids were there alone. I was about 9 years old when we moved down the McElmo Canyon to the mouth of Trail Canyon – what many of you folks would call the “Vencil Place.” It’s where Dobbins live and was known as the “Gold Medal Orchard” between Dobbins and Malles now.

We lived there for a year or two. so that gave me the insight on Trail Canyon from both ends. Now, I can tell you why it was called Trail Canyon. At the time, it was named or folks got it on the map, there was no road down there, and when we got up that canyon from the lower end of it about 2 or 3 miles there was a box canyon with a high waterfall. It was probably about 160 feet tall, and all the water comes down over that fall.

There was a pretty good hole down on the lower end of it, and us kids just used that for a swimming hole. I know I was 9 years old when we lived down there. I was too small to really do much work, but I was big enough to think that I was important as the devil. We ran around there. and we ran all over the country and in the rocks down there, and it took a new pair of overalls about once a week because I’d wear the seat out of them because of sliding on the sand rocks.

The first I can remember there wasn’t any road in Trail. There was a good trail that come up there as far as that box canyon, and it took off over the hill. You had to climb pert near out on top before you’d get to come back and get above the falls.

Walter Longenbaugh's family in 1919: Edna and Walter Longenbaugh, top, and Harry, Gailen (Longenbaugh) Greenlee and Dillon Longenbaugh, bottom. (Courtesy of the Longenbaugh family)

Now you come on up the canyon 3 or 4 miles, and there was a farm up there. It was originally settled by Jim Morrison – you’ll find his name and his people still live in Dolores but Morrisons settled that farm first. And on the maps any old-timers tell you about East Morrison and West Morrison – they were side branches that ran out right there at the falls.

Well, that was before my time. The first one I can remember there was “Jakie” Brinker – Mr. and Mrs. Brinker and their daughter, Emma. “Jakie” was pretty small kind of a fellow than he had been. I suppose he had polio or something sometime. He put in a little orchard there and had a lot of berries – gooseberries, currants, strawberries, watermelons – and then every couple of weeks he would load up that stuff and bring it to town and leave it at the produce house here in town, and that’s what they lived on – that little dab of berries and stuff they had there and they had a pretty rough time of it, and I’m not kidding you.

Later, they moved into town and bought a place out east of town. It would be in the area of McDonald’s now. They put their daughter in school here, and after she went through school – a bright student – she married Jim Dennison. Jim Dennison passed on, and she married Dr. Bressee, the dentist. That was the folks that lived in Trail Canyon when I was 9 or 10 years old.

There were two other families that lived up toward the head of Trail. One of them was the Ben Williams family – a lot of youngsters in that family. They went to school at Beulah, which was about 3 or 4 miles from there, and those kids never had a horse – they always had to walk. The lived in an old three-room log cabin, and it was pretty well built because it stood there for many years after they moved on.

There was another family, name of Shumaker – a man and his wife and two boys. We never knew what kept the Shumaker family going. Lots and lots of times, we’d see him come out of there horseback about sundown to dark, and lots of time we’d see him come home about sunrise to 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning. Where he’d been all night – we never knew.

There was some water in Trail Canyon and at the falls. When you go up to the Morrison place and just above the Morrison place and just along the Morrison place, there is a big pine tree. It’s a tremendous big pine tree -probably 3 feet in diameter. Right by the big pine tree and right below it, there is a good spring called the ‘Trail Canyon Spring’’ and it runs probably a half a foot of water. That water was what kept “Jakie” Brinker and the Morrisons alive. Stock all over Trail Canyon in the dry years and water at that spring.

There was also water at the Williams place. When we lived right upon the top of the hill at the head of the canyon, we used to water our stock down there at the Williams Spring in the winter when our reservoirs would freeze dry or go dry. The stock would have to go to the spring for water. I know when I was a first grader the schoolteacher stayed at our house and they drove a buggy – a spring wagon – and it was my job when I was 6 years old to get up in the morning and take that team to the Williams Spring and water them and bring them back and go to school.

How many 6-year-old kids could you turn loose with three to five head of horses at 6:00 in the morning these days and get the job done?

June Head, historian, may be contacted at 565-3880 for corrections or comments. My last article of Country baseball in SW Colorado needs a correction. The big game of a 1 to 1 for 20 innings in 1950 was played between Yellow Jacket and Goodman Point. Millard Higgins and his brother, Virgil Higgins, both played in this game for Yellow Jacket.