Biography of William W. Wurts

Pursuing the even tenor of his way amid the strenuous and oftentimes oppressive conditions of pioneer life, gaining headway against the currents of hardship, danger and disaster, here by slow progress and there by more rapid strides, always meeting his responsibilities in industry and courage with manliness and force, and frequently helping some less fortunate brother to a new start, William W. Wurts, of near Rifle, Garfield county, one of the Western slope’s most substantial, enterprising and successful ranch and cattlemen, has, during his long residence of more than thirty-five years in the farther West and intimate intercourse with its people, borne himself with commendable uprightness and loyalty to every duty, and has all the while been a potent force in pushing forward the progress and development of the section in which he happened to be living. He is a native of Ohio, born in Lake County on Christmas day, 1847, and the son of Archibald and Mary (McGuire) Wurts, the former born in Ohio and the latter in Ireland. They remained in Ohio until 1858, then moved to Michigan, locating near Lansing. The father was a manufacturer of wagons and carriages, and did farming in connection with his industrial business. He was a man of great public spirit and enterprise and was successful in his undertakings. Deeply interested in the cause of education, he was one of the early promoters and aids of Hillsdale College in Michigan, and contributed essentially to the establishment of other institutions of value to the state. In his early manhood he was a Whig in political affiliation, but when the Republican party succeeded to the assets of his former party he promptly and fully espoused its cause, and he remained true to the organization to the day of his death. He and his wife were members of the Christian church, and died, he in 1854 and she on February 24, 1883, leaving two of their four children to survive them, William and his brother Archibald, now living near Pueblo, Colorado. After receiving a limited education at the public schools, William joined the Union army towards the close of the Civil war, while he was as yet but a youth, as a member of Company G, Second Ohio Calvary. He served to the close of the contest and was mustered out of the service at Camp Denison. Returning to his home, he took a contract for boring oil wells. He continued this line of activity until the spring of 1867, when he moved to Kansas City, Missouri, but after a short residence there he moved on to Omaha, crossing the plains with a large train. From Fort Larimer they had United States troops to escort them into Montana, and so avoided all trouble with the Indians, but were six months on the trip. After the supplies were unloaded Mr. Wurts returned to North Platte and a little later went to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he wintered. In the spring he started for New Mexico, intending to do mining, but on arriving at Pueblo he learned that admission to the mines would be refused, and so he changed his termination to Denver. From there he went to Canon City and Mt. Granite, where he engaged in mining in the employ of the Cash Creek Mining Company, for a period of three years. He next took a position as contractor with the Boston & Colorado Smelting Company and remained in association with that corporation three years in that vicinity. Then he did contracting for the company at Alma until the spring of 1876, at which time he moved to the San Juan country with headquarters at Del Norte. Here he freighted about the country during the summer, and in the fall went to the Black Hills of South Dakota, where he sold his teams and turned his attention to mining, remaining two years and acquiring the ownership of a number of claims. He then moved to Leadville and again freighted until 1879, when he opened a meat market at Alma. This was a profitable enterprise, but in 1882 he sold it to purchase a squatter’s right to a ranch. He began cattle and ranching, and during the next four years gave his attention wholly to these pursuits. In 1886 he sold his ranch and took his cattle to Eagle county where he held them two winters until he could find a suitable location for a permanent residence. In 1888 he purchased another ranch, this one located on West Rifle creek, near Rifle, and this place he held until he sold it to his son Jesse in 1895. His final purchase was the ranch he now owns and occupies, two miles north of Rifle. It comprises one hundred and twenty acres, all tillable and well supplied with water. He also owns another ranch of the same size and in the same neighborhood. Hay and cattle are his principal products. The former is produced in large quantities and of the latter he runs about eight hundred head. Fraternally Mr. Wurts belongs to the Odd Fellows and the Grand Army of the Republic, and politically he supports the Republican party. On May 24, 1880, he was married to Miss Mary Mullen, who was born in Iroquois county, Illinois, at the town of Watseka, and is the daughter of Daniel B. and Mary (Mayett) Mullen, both natives of the province of Quebec. They located in Illinois in early life and moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1873. One year later they moved to Alma and in 1885 to Rifle creek near Rifle. The father is a carpenter and builder he has erected many of the large buildings in Denver and elsewhere in this part of the country. He is an earnest Democrat in political activity and he and his wife are Methodists in church relations. Nine of their ten children are living: Mary (Mrs. Wurts); Delphine (Mrs. Joe Lovell), of Paris, California; Delia (Mrs. McDonald Oshier), of Como, Colorado; David, of Telluride; Charles and George, of Rifle; Jennie (Mrs. I.W. Graham), of Rifle; Frances (Mrs. Louis Plummer), of Rifle, and Katharine (Mrs. Joseph Slaughter) of Ridgeway, this state. In the Wurts family twelve children have been born, ten of whom are living: Jesse W., Alta (Mrs. John Manning), of Lawton, Oklahoma; Hattie, Warren, Aaron, William, Emma, Rachel, Milton, and Virgil. The parents are members of the Methodist church.

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

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