Stories and history of some of my ancestors and other aspects of genealogy
Monday, March 18, 2013
MY GRANDMA'S STORY: CHAPTER FOUR
We started our trip to New Mexico in February 1902. I was disappointed when we saw the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I had read about it in Geography and they called it "The Father of Waters". It is not far from its source in Minnesota and is not a large river there. But farther down after the Ohio River and the muddy Missouri River join it, you see a really BIG river.
When we got down in Kansas and Arkansas, we saw many cute little prairie dogs sitting up on their mounds. When we reached the panhandle of Texas, there was a dust storm which stopped the train and we had to wait until the section crew could clear the track. We changed trains in Dalhart, Texas and went from the depot to a hotel for a meal. The sand blew into our faces and felt like something cutting our cheeks.
Montoya, New Mexico was not far from Dalhart, Texas; and we were soon there. But our freight had not traveled as fast as we did, so we could not move into the depot until our beds, etc., arrived. There were some repairs being made on the railroad near Montoya and a work train was placed on the side track. The work crew kindly turned one car over to our family and supplied us with whatever we needed until our possessions arrived. We were in Montoya, New Mexico, from February until July. I do not know what the Mexican Indian children and the postmaster's children who lived there did for a school. Mother taught us and when we started to school after moving to Cloverdale, California, we were all able to go on to the next grade except my brother Cyril. He had to repeat First Grade.
We saw many interesting things in Montoya. I had never seen a mountain and there was one out about twelve miles from our depot. There were many varieties of cactus with beautiful flowers. There were also the tall stalks of yucca with their wealth of beautiful white blooms and the mesquite bushes with dainty leaves. Also there were rattlesnakes, some of them very large and many lizards. The air was very clear and the stars seemed so near and the sky so full of them.
We were on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. Long trains of stock cars loaded with long-horned Texas steers went by on their way to the Kansas City stockyards. Sometimes the cars were loaded with human beings, whole families from Mexico on their way to work in the cotton fields. They traveled like the cattle with no sanitary facilities. When the trains stopped, they would get out and sit on the platform to eat their beans and chili and tend to their needs to the best of their ability.
The drinking water in Montoya was very poor, very alkaline. The railroad brought in tanks of water on flat cars, for our use and the section foreman's family. We had our groceries shipped in from Kansas City. Although the country was full of Texas steers, the only meat we could buy was goat meat and there was no milk. The folks decided to move on to California.
Montoya, New Mexico was not far from El Paso, Texas. We went on a Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific train to El Paso and changed to a Southern Pacific train to go to Los Angeles, California. I don't remember the trip through New Mexico. I think it was at night and we were asleep. When we had traveled some distance through Arizona, a flare was put out to stop our train. We were near Benson, Arizona. A freight train was just ahead of us traveling more slowly than we were.. It had come to a burning bridge and had come to a stop just one rail before reaching the bridge. We were scheduled to pass the freight at Benson. If we had passed sooner, we might not have been able to stop at the bridge as were traveling so much faster.
It was a hot July day. The passengers on our train had to walk through a rocky canyon (Texas Canyon near Benson, Arizona) to a train on the other side of the bridge and those passengers came over to our train. Father carried a suitcase in one hand and most of the way he carried my little brother Cyril in his other arm.
A lot of men were carrying express and baggage from one train to the other. I remember one group who were carrying crates of strawberries and in the hot weather the juice was running down on their clothes and looked like blood. When we awoke the next morning, we must have gone through some desert country. Our mouths were full of sand and there was sand in our beds.
Finally we were in California and we began to see orchards. There were wild morning glories growing all along the tracks, and even if they are considered a pest, they looked beautiful. At one station, some boys were selling what we thought were large oranged. We were so hungry for fruit, mother bought some. They proved to be grapefruit, something new to us. I don't remember ever having seen any of that kind of fruit before.
We were in Los Angeles just long enough to change trains. Being a railroad employee, father could get reduced rates over certain railroads. So we changed trains again in Oakland, then in Suisun and in Santa Rosa. It was difficult to make so many changes with four children and baggage. At last we arrived in Cloverdale, California, which was to be our home from 1902 until 1914. It was a town of about a thousand inhabitants then, but now has about four times that many. We stayed all night at the hotel operated by the Menihan family. Next day we went house hunting, but didn't find a home in town. We finally rented a big white house on top of a hill about five miles south of town. it was similar to our old house at Brooks, California (she is referring to the old Victorian style home my mom grew up in on the farm and that I lived in when I was a little girl, at the time she wrote me these stories).
Texas Canyon near Benson, Arizona--where burning bridge was on my grandma's train trip in 1902 as they were moving out to California. They had to get out and walk through here to a train on the other side to continue on. Now my husband and I often go through this area for our business travel and everytime we do I tell him my grandma's childhood story again.Texas Canyon near Benson, Arizona--where burning bridge was on my grandma's train trip in 1902 as they were moving out to California. They had to get out and walk through here to a train on the other side to continue on.My maternal Great Grandfather George M. Browne, born Feb. 14, 1863 in Ontario, Canada. Picture taken around 1899 when he was station agent and telegrapher at the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railroad in Redwood Falls, Minnesota. He was station agent at the depot in Redwood Falls, Minnesota around the time that Mr. Sears of Sears Roebuck got his start there selling watches. My grandma had an article in the Saturday Evening Post with the story and a painting of the depot where my grandma lived when she was little. She pointed out her room which she could tell by the location of the big tree in the yard. I visited Redwood Falls, Minnesota about 14 years ago and while the depot is gone, they have a commemorative model of it and a plaque with the historical information, which I have pictures of. The tree whose branches overlooked my grandma's bedroom window when she was a little girl is still there. .Photo taken Delhi, Minnesota. He married Mary Helen Baker in Gary, South Dakota in Dec. 1886. Due to his declining health (he had Bright's Disease) they later moved to New Mexico and then California where his daughter (my Grandma) married and resided on the farm where my mom was born and raised and where I grew up and on which my brother and his family still live.The Baker sisters: My Great Grandmother (sitting on left) Mary Helen Baker (Browne) born July 23, 1869 in Blue Earth, Minnesota, died Nov. 1935 in Auburn, California, aged 66; and my Great Grand Aunts Lucy Baker (Onstad) (sitting on right) born July 21, 1867, died Dec. 1896 at the age of 29; Ella Delora Baker (Silvernale) (standing on left) born Sept. 10, 1876; and Florence Ansley Baker (Landon) (standing on right) born July 10, 1880. Photo taken in Dawson Minnesota shortly before Lucy's death. Their mother was Hannah Maria South. Their father was John Wesley Baker. The Baker line is very well detailed and documented in a published genealogy of which I have a copy and to which my Grandma added a supplement. It traces the family in detail back to my 8th Great Grandfather Edward Baker who came to America on the Winthrop fleet in 1630 and was a prominent founding father of Lynn, Massachussetts, USA (now Saugus). Baker's Hill, which is a suburb of Boston, retains his name to this day.My Grandma and her brother and sister (my Grand Aunt and Grand Uncle), from l-r, Lloyd Sanderson Browne, born Feb. 21, 1894, died March 4, 1932; Ella May Browne, born Oct. 20, 1890, died Aug. 29, 1905 at aged 15 of tuberculosis; and my grandma: Hazel Florence Browne (Curtis), born Feb. 22, 1892, in Boynton, North Dakota during a raging blizzard, died Sept. 11, 1982 at aged 90 in Woodland, California of pneumonia. My parents were with her at the hospital when she passed; and my best friend and I were in my grandma's house, where I had been living with her. At the moment of her passing, she heard her shuffle down the hall of her house in her slippers just as she so often did in life.