As Told by Mrs. John Patterson
In 1866 Colorado was rather a dreary looking place, especially in Weld county, near where the town of Greeley is now located.
Leaving Coultersville, Illinois, the last day of April, in company with Mr. Isaiah Lemon and family, consisting of his two sons and two daughters, we arrived at the mouth of the Poudre on the fifteenth day of July, being eleven weeks on the road. We could hear of Indians before us and back of us; we passed places where there had been ranches burned just a short time before us. I think we saw only two Indians, and they looked as though they had been out on a hunt. We also saw a company of Pawnee soldiers. But we know that it was our Heavenly Father that guided us and kept us from harm.
Uncle Carrol Moore and Aunt Eliza had lived on the banks of the Poudre for several years. They were aunt and uncle to all the people around. The ranchmen just milked cows and cut the native hay for a living. Inside of four years we only heard two sermons, but we started a Sabbath school and did the best we could. One woman remarked that she did not know that any religion had ever crossed the Missouri river; but she found out different.
Uncle Carrol and Aunt Eliza always got along real well with the Indians, who often came down the creek for the squaws to gather prickly pears. They would use wooden tongs to pick the pears to prevent pricking their hands on the thorns. It is said that at one time, in 1864, Fremont saved the lives of his men by this same prickly fruit.
Uncle Carrol said that many times he had seen some of the Indians watching him. He knew they were calculating how would be the best way to kill him.
Uncle said: “I always had my old Spencer ready and they knew what I could do, and that I would shoot if necessary.” The Indians never got him. He died some years later in Greeley.
We did have several Indian scares the next year. I would be so frightened that I would not allow any one to talk of Indians, especially after dark. The alarm would come sometimes when we were preparing to go to bed. The words would be, “All to one house.” Then we would have to hustle out and go. We always went to Mrs. Wylie’s sod house. We were few in number, but we always made the best of it.
Mrs. Wylie’s youngest son and daughter, Sam and Dellia, are still living on the old place. The old sod house was torn down a number of years ago, but the old site is marked by the ox yoke and log chain that Sam Wylie’s folks used in crossing the plains from Illinois in 1864.
I think the last big Indian scare was in 1878, in the what was then Weld county. The old Weld county is not near so large now, several counties having been taken off. Quite a number of people had to gather a few goods, get their families in wagons and take them to places of safety.
I understood that Mrs. B. D. Harper was the only woman that remained on a ranch. Three hired men were murdered on the Tracy ranch and the other ranchmen were fired upon. The three murdered men were buried at what is now Sterling. It is stated that the cemetery at Sterling was started at that time. People used to say in early days that out west they had to kill a man to start a cemetery. There is a great change in our fair state since those Indian excitements.
Source: True History of some of the Pioneers of Colorado, by Miss Luella Shaw, Press of Carson Harper Co, Denver, Colorado, 1909