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J.M. Rush of Mancos: A life forged in young America

Editor’s note: This article is based on an interview Anna Florence Robison had with J.M. Rush Jr. and his granddaughter, Minnie Rush. J.M. Rush Sr. died in 1917.Montezuma County Historical Society

James Martin Rush, Sr. was born on December 19, 1819, at Dahlonega, Georgia, when the first gold mine in the United States was worked and where the first mint was situated. When he was sixteen years old, his parents moved from Georgia to Texas. As a young man, he worked on the first capital building at Austin. In 1842, he joined the Texas Rangers and was a ranger for eight years. He went through the Mexican War with the Rangers. He was in Zachary Taylor’s command, his colonel being Jack Hayes and his captain a man named Bagley.

He also helped to move the Cherokee Indians from the South, and he was in the battle of the Fallen Timbers.

J.M. Rush Sr. was first married to Sarah Ann Hensley January 15, 1850 in Texas. They had two children, Marietta and David Hensley Rush. Sarah Ann, the wife, died September 15, 1858. On January 8, 1859, he married Louisa Virginia Worthman. They had four children, Julia Frances (Mrs. Fanny Wade of Mancos), Edward Alexander, James Martin and William Creek Rush.

J.M. Rush Sr. was in the Confederate Army for one year during the Civil War. Because of his age, it happened that he was a volunteer. Then he was placed on special service hauling cotton from North Texas to Matamoras, Old Mexico, for shipment. Confederate ports were blockaded. He used sixty yoke of cattle and twenty wagons. His helpers were all boys under twenty. Perhaps none of them were more than eighteen years of age. He made three trips that way, and on the last trip the Comanches stole twelve yoke of his oxen. He was on his last trip when Lee was surrounded.

In 1865, he and Dr. Sorenelius brought the first herd of six hundred head of cattle out of the state of Texas after the close of the war. They sold the cattle to the government at Leavenworth. On May 1866, Rush family left Texas for Oregon. They went north through Indian Territory and Kansas to Grand Island. They were held at Fort Kearney because the Indians were so hostile. The Indians killed emigrants ahead of them and behind them, but the huge train where they traveled was never attacked. It passed through the present site of Julesburg, Colorado, and split into two parts at Green River, where it divided a party turning off there to go to California while the other party went on the Oregon Trail. They took the Sublette Cutoff and reached Oregon City on November 8, 1866.

J.M. Rush Sr. ran a flour mill there for two years, then moved south and worked in a sawmill for one year before he went to California. The fall of 1869 he moved on to Tahama, California, where he farmed until 1873 raising wheat. In July 1873, he moved to Wells, Nevada, and lived on a farm in Clover Valley. While living there, he had teams freighting from Wells, which was on the railroad to Spruce Cherry Creek and other mining towns.

In 1876, he moved to Ward, Nevada, and built a station for freight teams two-and-one half miles east of Ward. The spring of 1878, he moved to Duck Creek and farmed for a year. The spring of 1879, he moved to Butte Valley, and in the fall of 1879, J.W. Rush, Sr. and his son-in-law, Jack Wade, came on horseback from Butte Valley, Nevada, to Rico, Colorado. On the way, they fell in with Antone Giogetta and Pete Cheribeni in Utah and came with them. In November, they left Rico and came to Mancos, where J.M. Rush Sr. rented the John McIntyre ranch. The reason they happened to go to Mancos was that Ed Ptolemy came to Rico to ask for men to come down to help to protect the women and children of Mancos in case of Indian attack. This was during the Indian scare of 1879.

Jack Wade got back to Butte Valley December 2, 1879, and the next day the entire family started for Mancos. As it was already late, they could not cross the Wasatch Mountains, so they wintered at Silver Reef, Utah, and worked in the mines all winter. In early April of 1880, they started again. For nine days before they reached the San Juan, they had nothing but beans to eat. The San Juan was too high to ford, so the family waited at a Mormon settlement three miles below the mouth of McElmo while Jack Wade and Martin Rush Jr. went on to Mancos, arriving there May 12, 1880. J.M. Rush Sr. and Jack Wade took teams and brought lumber to build a boat to cross the San Juan. When they got there, it developed that the Mormons had got everything belonging to the Rush family across with exception of the horses. They had taken the wagons apart and ferried them over in a 16-foot skiff. The Rush family arrived in Mancos May 19, 1880.

They lived on the McIntyre place that summer. J.M. Rush Sr. traded a horse to Senator George West for a relinquishment on 106 acres where the town of Mancos now stands. He bought a blacksmithing outfit from Billy May and ran a blacksmith shop next year on the spot which is about the middle of the street in front of Dr. Trotter’s residence (1934). The Rush cabin was nearby. There were no other buildings on the Mancos site except the schoolhouse.

The first machine brought in to cut grain was a dropper, which would cut enough grain to make a bundle, drop it to be hand-tied and cut another.

In 1881, George Bauer brought the first goods to sell in Mancos. He sold his first goods from a counter made from two empty barrels with planks laid across at the Rush blacksmith shop. George Bauer ran his store in the blacksmith shop until Martin Rush (son of J M. Rush Sr.) cut logs to build the new store and it was completed. It was a log building eighteen by twenty-four feet. The next building George Bauer built was where the undertaking establishment in Mancos is now.

In June 1881, there was quite an Indian scare after Dave Willis was killed, and the people of Mancos were much afraid. There was probably no real danger of attack. J.M. Rush Sr. planned the stockade fort around the old log schoolhouse. He was captain in charge of the work. Joe Smith, Wat McGill, Doc Reid and J.M. Rush Jr. chopped logs for the stockade. J.M. Rush Sr. and Bill Brittain hauled them, and Dave Lemmons had charge of digging the trench and to set up the logs for the stockade. The fortification was completed in record time. When it was finished, the people of Mancos found out that Tom Peppers had exaggerated when he said that all of the men except himself, who had been out west against the Indians, had been killed. This was the occasion of the Indian Creek fight. The Indians had led into a sort of basin or canon and had split and surrounded the white men who followed. The victims were Hard Tarter, Wiley Tarter, John B. Galloway, Hiram Melvin, Jimmie Heston, Tom Click and Dave Willis of Mancos. Jim Halls and Harg Eskridge and Jordan Bean were injured. All the men out there didn’t take an active part in the fight. Josh Alderson is said to have run around in his excitement saying he had lost the barrel of this gun. The two Wilson boys from out in Utah were also killed in that fight.

In 1883, J.M. Rush Sr. bought a grist mill from a man named Cox on the Hermosa. It was the first mill brought to the San Juan. Mr. Rush set it up on Chicken Creek near Mancos. He also started a sawmill, which he sold to the Mormons of Bluff City, Utah, in 1885. J.M. Rush Sr. farmed on the Mancos and son Sandy (Edward Alexander) and George Bauer had the Doyle Mine and made quite a bit of money out of it. They sold out to Doyle.

In 1901, J.M. Rush Sr. moved with his wife to Fruita, New Mexico, and Mrs. Rush died there in 1904. Mr. Rush sold his place at Fruita and went to Tonopah, Nevada, in the gold rush. Later on, he spent the summers in Mancos with Mrs. Jack Wade, his daughter and wintered at Kayenta, Arizona, with his granddaughter Mrs. Wetherill. The Wades were in Moab, Utah, for a while. Their children are Mrs. Wetherill, Nellie Coston, John, George and Jim Wade.

In 1915, during the Indian trouble, Mr. Rush, his granddaughter, Mrs. Wetherill and other members of his family were in Utah. The Utes told them they would kill them. Upon hearing that Mrs. Wetherill sent the Utes word that the Navajos were their friends and would kill the Utes for revenge if the Utes carried out their threat. The Utes did not carry it out, and John Wetherill presently came to take them to Kayenta. Mr. Rush lost his gold-headed cane in the skirmish, and he always held that loss against the Utes.

Mr. Rush was a vigorous old gentleman. At the age of 92 years, he rode horseback from Mancos to Kayenta and returned. At the same age, he walked from the home of his son Martin in Dolores to Glenco to see about collecting a debt. He died in 1917 when he was within a few months of his ninety-eighth birthday.

June Head, Historian of Montezuma County Historical Society can be reached at 970-565-3880 for comments.