Biography of I. W. Chatfield

Born in Geauga county, Ohio, in the region which slopes away peacefully to Lake Erie, reared on a farm in Illinois, taking a turn in the commission business when he was but nineteen, burned out by a disastrous fire when he was conducting a prosperous hotel enterprise, living in the midst of alarms at the time of the border war in Kansas, traveling back and forth overland across the plains, buying and selling ranches in Colorado, frequently whirled about in the maelstrom of politics, I. W. Chatfield, of Garfield county, this state, whose home is at Rifle, has had an eventful and interesting career. His life began on August 11, 1836, and he is the son of Levi T. and Levina (Masters) Chatfield, New Englanders by nativity, the father born in Connecticut and the mother in Vermont. The father was a farmer and followed his vocation for a number of years in Ohio. Then in 1844 he moved to Mason county, Illinois, but after a short residence in that state returned to Ohio, where he remained until his death in 1848. The mother soon afterward made Illinois once more the home of the family, and there she taught school at the town of Bath. She died in 1858. Both parents were Episcopalians and in politics the father was a Whig. Of their six children only there are living, I.W., Clark S., at Basalt, and Mrs. Ellen S. Batchelor, at Denver. Mr. Chatfield is one of the pioneers of this state, having passed much of his residence in it on the frontier; and he is also one of its best representative men and most useful citizens. He had very little schooling, and while a boy began to work on the farm for a compensation of six dollars and a half a month and his board. In this way he was employed until he reached his nineteenth year. He then became associated with Gatten and Ruggles in the commission business at Bath, Illinois, and he remained with them four years, during which time he was rapidly promoted in their business. At the end of the period named he took charge of a hotel in partnership with his mother, and prospered in the undertaking until they were burned out. After that Messrs. Gatten and Ruggles backed him financially for another venture in the hotel business, and this he conducted until the excitement over the discovery of gold at Pike’s Peak induced him to sell at a good profit and start for the new eldorado with three yoke of oxen and a stock of provisions. The train was two months on the way to Denver, and after arriving Mr. Chatfield remained only a short time, then returned east to Kansas. He located at Fort Scott and settled on a squatter’s claim, but the border troubles breaking out soon afterward, he with his wife and his brother Charles journeyed overland to his former home in Illinois. There he was variously employed until the beginning of the Civil war, when he enlisted in the Union army in the Twenty-seventh Illinois Infantry. During his service he was promoted to the rank of sergeant, and as such fought in the battle of Island No. 10, and also that of Stone River. There he was taken ill and sent to the hospital. Later he was made lieutenant at the battle of Farmington on May 9, 1862. After leaving the army in 1863 he went to St. Louis where he fitted out with ox and horse teams and again came to Colorado, consuming eight weeks on the trip and having with him his wife and his sister, now Mrs. Batchelor, of Denver, and R.M. Wright, now a resident of Fort Dodge, Kansas. They located where the town of Florence has since been built, Mr. Chatfield patenting the land on which it stands, which was then covered with wild sage brush. He farmed in this neighborhood until 1871, on a ranch of one hundred and sixty acres which he bought of William Ash, adding to the purchase until he owned two hundred and eighty acres. When he disposed of this property he moved to Bear creek and bought out J.B. Hendy, who now lives in Denver, and whose ranch comprised one hundred and sixty acres. This he traded for the Daniel Wetter ranch on the Platte river, on which he remained until 1879. He then sold it to Frank Caley and moved to Leadville, where he engaged in merchandising and railroad contract work, remaining there until 1884. In that year he again sold out and moved to Aspen. Here he once more began merchandising and continued until 1888. At that time he bought a ranch of one hundred and sixty acres at Emma of Good & Childs, and this he continued to work until 1896, when he sold it at a profit. While living at this point he introduced the growing of potatoes in the section, a movement that has added greatly to the value of the land there. On selling his interests in Emma he moved his cattle to Rio Blanco county, where he has since kept them and carried on the stock industry on a large scale, although maintaining his home at Rifle. He belongs to the Masonic order and the Grand Army of the Republic. In politics he is a Republican and has served as alderman at Leadville and as state senator of his county, occupying the latter position in the years 1880, 1881 and 1882. In 1892 he was elected to the lower house of the legislature for the counties of Pitkin, Montrose, Delta, Mesa and Gunnison. On May 20, 1858, he was married to Miss Eliza A. Herrington, a native of Iowa who was reared in Texas and Missouri. She is the daughter of Sylvinus and Jane (Anderson) Herrington, natives of Ohio, who moved to Iowa, then to Illinois and finally to Texas, and were successful farmers. The father was a Whig in political affiliation and both were Presbyterians. But three of their nine children are living, Clara, Riley and Mrs. Chatfield. The mother died in 1846 and the father is also dead. Mr. and Mrs. Chatfield have had nine children, Willard, Wirt, Grace and Myrtle have died. The five living are Mrs. Josiah A. Small, at Pueblo; Elmer E., in Bighorn Basin, Wyoming; Jacquelina A., at Canon City; and Charles A. and Calla, at Rifle. Mr. Chatfield has in his possession a cherished memento a roll of honor presented to him by Colonel Sheridan, on which his name occupies a conspicuous place.

Source: Bowen, A. W. Progressive Men of Western Colorado. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., Publishers. 1905.

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