The note of interest here is that Alexander (son of Charles Sinclair and Mary A. Havens) is a widower and his mother Mary A. Havens Sinclair is living with him. She was said to have died in 1860, although the exact date is unknown. Mary would have had to pass away sometime after September 14th.
This is the continuation of my great grandmother's (Eleanor Erma Van Dusen Bowen) Story written in the 1980's. Her mother was Mary Ellen Barrett and her father was Caleb Grant Van Dusen.
During 1924 and 1925, we traveled through the Pacific
States always looking for greener pastures, until Mother returned with Mr.
Austin to Bayfield, Colorado and I was sent to Aztec, New Mexico to live with
As I have written, the
day was nice when we left McPhee, but as we neared the New Mexico-Colorado
border it began to rain. The road became muddier and muddier, and by the time
we got near the Ship Rock, it was dark, rainy and the mud was ankle deep. We
had a hard time finding a place to pull off the road where we would not get
stuck. If I remember correctly, we stopped in the middle of the road, not even
an Indian was crazy enough to be out in this kind of weather. We ate the food
Mother had prepared for our first day in the car. There were Mother, Mr.
Austin, Charles, Bill Austin and me. We tried to sleep but I don’t think any of
us slept soundly, except maybe Charles, who could sleep any old way if it was
time to do so. I know I didn’t sleep very much. The rain beat down on the car
top the whole night long and it was cold.
Soon after daybreak the
next morning, the sun began to shine. We could see the Ship Rock real good, as
we weren’t far from it. It looks like a ship from a distance and it is the only
huge rock of its size, standing starkly against the sky, in that vast area of
The mud was lightly
frozen so we were able to get started up. The car slid and slipped about so
much that we were afraid of getting stuck, but luck was with us and we traveled
slowly until we reached the graveled road at Newcomb’s Trading Post. From here,
we made good time into Gallup, New Mexico, where we rented a cabin for the
night, and we had a decently cooked meal. Charles, Bill and I put our bedrolls
on the floor and Mother and Mr. Austin slept in the only bed there was in the
The cabins in those days
were a one room, board structure with a double bed, a table and chairs, a stove
sometimes, and once in a while a sink with cold running water. Most often,
though, the cabins were for sleeping only. I don’t remember any cabin that we
stayed in having hot water in it and they rarely if ever had an inside toilet.
Most of the campgrounds had what they called community kitchens under a roofed
over area which had open sides with back to back stoves or concrete grills for
doing our cooking. Once in a while we would find a kitchen with gas piped to
the stoves, cost us 25 cents for so many minutes, but most often we had to burn
wood. There were quarter meters for the gas stoves and we had to pay by the
bundle for wood to cook with on the other type of stove. Heat was furnished in
the cabins by the owners. We got our fresh water from a faucet, usually, at the
end of the kitchen. There were never any sinks for we just tossed our dish
water or wash pan water on the ground out of the way of walking.
When we reached Arizona,
the sun shone so brightly, I thought that my eyes would go blind again. They
really hurt so bad for a while that I had to shut them and put a towel over
them to keep the light out of them. My eyes finally got use to the bright light
and the warmth of the sun felt good to me. It was very hot at Oatman where at
lunch one day, Mother prepared two cans of pork and beans and corn over a
campfire. She opened two cans of sardines packed in mustard sauce. In those
days cars had wooden running boards to step on to get into the seat. Mother set
our food on the running board on the south side of the car and somehow the
mustard sauce got spoiled on it. It was probably my fault, because I was good
at that sort of thing. Later as we drove along, the hot sun made it smell to
high heaven. It stayed with us all the way through Needles, Barstow, the Mojave
Desert and into Bakersfield, California where Mother got some lye and she
scrubbed the running board for the third time to get rid of the fish and
mustard smell. I’m not able to really enjoy Sardines in Mustard Sauce to this
The California poppies
were in bloom on the hills of Bakersfield and it was a beautiful sight to see.
As we traveled up through Tulare to Sacramento, we would stop and camp wherever
the men folks could get a few days work on a farm.
The old Model T
faithfully climbed the Siskiyou Mountains into Oregon. There was no work at the
sawmills in Grants Pass Oregon, so we decided to stay a few days in a
campground near Salem. Here I saw a lumberjack climb a tall pine tree with
spikes on the inside of his boots. He would get up so high and then fasten his
belt around the trunk of the tree. He would cut the top of the tree off, then
he would come down the tree, always, anchor himself to it and cut off another
section of the tree He would lower himself to the ground and finish felling the
rest o0 the tree.
There was a light drizzle
of rain as we went on to Portland. We found us a campground close to the
Columbia River and not far from the main part of town. I bet you could not do
that now. It drizzled rain the whole time we were there. We learned to eat and
like smelt, even when cooked with their heads on them. They were really
delicious. Mother liked them so well that we had them several times a week, and
we ate fresh salmon from the river quite often, too. The people in this
campground would huddle around the gas cook stoves in the community kitchen for
warmth and so they would talk and get acquainted with each other.
It was here that Bill
overhauled the engine of the Model T. When it came time to grind the valves, I
was drafted to do the job. I seemed to have had a feel for things like this
because I could hold the tool, evenly, that I used to do the grinding with. We
used a special compound to smooth them down. This tool was on the order of an
old fashioned brace and bit, except it had two prongs on the end.
The men tried to get work
in the sawmills at Longview, Washington. There just weren’t any jobs to be had,
so, we went up to Seattle where it was still raining. We went up on the hill
east of Seattle where we could see all the town. I sure couldn’t do that the
last time I was in Seattle in 1972. It is just too big.
We backtracked to
Portland, Oregon. Then drove along the Columbia River to Baker, Oregon. All
along the way, we were allowed to join the mushroom pickers to earn money.
Mother could not tell a mushroom from a toad stool and therefore she never made
any money at it, about one half of her pickings were always discarded.
We were in Pendleton,
Oregon during their famous Rodeo. It was very colorful with cowboys and Indians
who were in their blankets, everywhere. There were many pretty girls riding
their beautiful horses about the streets.
We had used up all of our
money by the time we got to Baker, Oregon, and we had to camp at the edge of
town, while we waited for a draft to come through that Mother had sent to her
bank in Delores, Colorado. We got very short on food. We only had biscuits and
gravy until our shortening gave out. I was able to get a job washing dishes at
a small café for one day. Then Bill got a job baking in a large café. He was a
pastry cook by trade. He decided to stay on until he earned enough money to go
back to Texas where his family was living. When our money came, we went on to
Caldwell, Idaho, where Mr. Austin and Charles got jobs on separate farms.
Charles decided to stay in Idaho for a while, which lasted two hears, before he
came back to Bayfield, Colorado. We stayed only until the haying crop was in,
then we went down south to Nampa to work at prune picking and packing. We
worked in the Brown Orchards. Mr. Brown’s daughter and I became friends and we
worked together, side by side at the packing tables. There were several young
boys serving the tables with fruit, boxes and paper. They also removed the full
boxes to the tables where they were nailed shut and labeled. Being young,
Eleanor Brown and I, got the best service and we mad the most money. It was
We were camped at the
edge of the orchard near a ditch of water. After supper was over, Eleanor, her
brother and several other people would come to our camp. We’d sit around the
campfire and sing songs while Mr. Austin played the harmonica or guitar.
Stories were told by nearly every one of his or her experiences in the fruit
harvest from here to Southern California. It was seldom that we heard a
personal story. We never knew much about these people except their names and
where they originally came from. The men and women seemed happy in their
marriages and the children content with their lot in life. They seemed to have
no other ambition, but were content to follow the crop harvesting trail. This
is one time I hated to see the job done, as I had made some nice friends and I
would have like it if the folks had decided to settle down here. But no, we
were to move on like the rest of the people. This time we were going into
Boise, Idaho, to look for work.
When we got to Boise, we
rented housekeeping rooms in the downtown area.Mr. Austin went to look for work while Mother and I went sightseeing as
far as we could walk. We saw our first enclosed swimming pool. It was called
the Plunge. It was huge and an ugly building with screened in side walls. We
thought the Capitol building was grand. Mr. Austin found a job, but it was in
Mountain Home, Idaho, so we packed the car and left immediately.
The ranch where we were
to work, belonged to a lawyer, in Mountain Home, by the name of Green. The
ranch was six miles south of town in the middle nowhere. Mr. Green had summer
wheat ready to harvest and he needed Mother to do the cooking for the hired
hands and he needed a man in the fields to drive a team. That is the reason Mr.
Austin got the job. We lived in a two story house and the foreman, Mr. Cramer
and his two daughters lived in a small cottage. The out buildings consisted of
lambing sheds for the sheep and corals for shearing them. There was the usual
chicken and turkey houses, a barn and of course the usual outdoor privy.
The sheep were driven in
from the north while we were there. There was bleating a plenty. There were
lambs being born and men shearing sheep. The Indian women were allowed to kill
a sheep when it was needed for food. When a baby would cry too much, I’d see a
mother take an entrails of the sheep, zip the stuff out of it with her thumb
and forefinger, then she would rinse it with water and hand it to the baby as a
Mirages are quite a
common occurance in Idaho. Once in a while in the late afternoon, I could see
by mirage, a ranch at the end of a small mountain which, ordinarily, could not
be seen at any seen at any other time. I could see people and the animals
moving about the yards between the house and the barns.
Mr. Green ask me to take
charge of the turkeys and the chickens. I was to see to the setting of the eggs
under the turkey hens as he wanted to be sure and have a good crop of them to
sell that fall. I was able to give an account of over two hundred baby turkeys
when we were ready to leave the ranch. They were healthy ones, too.
We were on the ranch only
a few days when Mother became very ill. Mr. Green suggested that I do the
cooking as it was too late for him to get another cook. Besides he needed Mr.
Austin with the team and wagon. I said, “Yes, I would do it.” I had six days to
see if I could do it. There were already six of us on the ranch. There were
three of us, Mr. Cramer and his two daughters, and the second day, Mr. Green’s
son, showed up to stay for the harvesting. It was agreed that Mr. Austin would
take the first day off and show me the ropes, and then after that, he would
take off early at noon to make the hot bread for dinner which was a must for
working men. He would, also, help me put the meal on the table.
The first meal, I cooked
myself was supper on the second day. It turned out good except that I didn’t
salt a single dish of food. Mr. Cramer and Larry emptied the two salt cellars
that were on the table, twice, during the meal. They, also, did a lot of
teasing. What I often wonder when I think back to that night is, “where did
they stash all that salt?” I know that I was embarrassed and that I didn’t
think it odd at the time. I’d just refill the salt cellars when they would ask
me to do so. Remember, I was only fourteen at the time. After this meal I did
all right with the cooking for the twenty three men who came to work in
harvesting of the wheat. What helped me do a good job was Mother coaching me
from her sick bed and Mr. Austin baking the bread and helping me to put the
meal on the table at noon. Even when mother was up and around again, I had the
heaviest work to do and she worked as my helper for a while. I really did learn
how to cook to please men. Mr. Green liked to eat and as I think of it now, I
believe that be lived, only, to eat and he was a big man and a fat one too! He
especially liked my green salads. When the meal was nearly over, he would take
the salad bowl and make a motion as though to pass it around the table, but he
never waited for an answer to his, “Does anyone want some?” Then he would dump
the rest of the salad on his plate and he would eat it with gusto. He loved pie
and other desserts, too. We soon learned to leave a portion for us in the
kitchen if we wanted salad or dessert. It there was any dessert left on the
serving dish, he would eat it all.
There is an unforgettable
memory that makes me laugh today; but it was anything but funny at the time. An
old desert rat and his mule came to the ranch for a few days. He was a
prospector, also he had most of his worldly goods on the back of his mule. He
was about Mr. Austin’s age or he may have been a little older, but he looked
about a hundred years old to me. I can’t recall his name, but I remember his
face well. He had a face full of whiskers and held a corn cob pipe between his
lips. He decided that I would make a fine wife for him when he went back to his
shack in the hills. He asked Mr. Austin for my hand in marriage and offered a
span of mules in exchange for me. I don’t ever remember seeing Mr. Austin as
angry as he was then. I thought that he would mop up the floor with the old
man. The man left the ranch that night. But he had nerve to write Mr. Austin,
saying, “That if two mules were not enough, he had a few ounces of gold that he
was willing to give for me, too.” Mr. Austin blew his stack and he said, “That
idiot can’t understand plain English, not even a big fat NO!”
I spent my fifteenth
birthday at the home of my stepbrother, Clyde Austin, in Provo, Utah. He and
his family lived in a nice apartment above the bakery where he worked. Clyde
was a baker, and he baked me the most beautiful cake I had ever had. It was a
red devil’s food cake with thick, creamy frosting on it and his wife gave me a
lovely pin as a gift.
We camped a little way
out Green River, Utah on the bank of the river. It was almost forty seven years
later that I camped in the town of Green River in a comfortable camper, with my
husband and daughter Ruth.
Our next stop was Grand
Junction, Colorado where we took light housekeeping rooms for a week while Mr.
Austin looked for work. He looked up the Farmer’s Headquarters for information
on what crops were ready for harvesting. He was told to go to Delta, Colorado
where the onion crops would soon be ready for the pickers.
While we were here, we
got mixed up with two men who wanted to join us in seeking field work. One of
them Mike Flaharty, was a real migrant worker because of his restlessness and
his hating to stay put in one place. He was a true Irishman and a fine, honest
man, but his friend was something else, as we did learn the hard way. Baxter
appeared to be educated, well-mannered and a very likeable young man. They went
with us to Delta where were told that the onions would not be ready for three
weeks or so, but that the peaches up north at Paonia were ready to pick and
that we could get work picking them. We picked peaches for three weeks up on a
small mesa north of the town; then we returned to Delta for the onion harvest.
I started to school at
the Delta Junior High as an eight grader.
Mother, Mr. Austin, Mike
and Baxter picked onions. They met a Mrs. Hinkle, her two boys and one girl,
who were from Oklahoma. She and Mother decided to rent a big, two story house
together and divide up the rooms, but they would share the kitchen. Mike and
Baxter were to spread their bedrolls under a big tree in the yard. It was
agreed that they were to take their meals with us, that is Mike and Baxter, at
so much per meal.
Since we were allowed all
the onions we wanted, Mother decided, the first night that we were in the
house, to cook a big pan of fried onions for supper.
Mrs. Hinkle said, “Oh, no
you’re not, not in this kitchen. I can’t stand the smell of onions cooking.”
So, Mr. Austin built a
campfire in the yard and Mother cooked them over it. Mother instead that Mrs.
Hinkle taste them and she ate half of them. From that day on until we left,
there was fried or boiled onions cooked every day.
Our house set back from
the Gunnison River about three hundred feet. One day, Mother announced that she
was going to learn to drive the car. She got under the wheel and Mr. Austin go
in beside her, while I got into the back seat. She did just fine until she got
near the edge of the river, where there was a sharp turn in the road. Here she
panicked and drove straight toward the edge of the river, but Mr. Austin
managed to stop the car before it went into the water. Mother sat still for a
minute or so, then she opened the car door and got out. She walked back to the
house and sat down on a chair that was outside of the kitchen door. She had not
said one word to either of us. Mr. Austin had backed the car along the road to
the house and he stopped the car closed to her.
Mother looked at him and
said, “I’ll never drive a car again.”
She arose from the chair
and got into the car with us, and we drove into town with Mr. Austin doing the
driving. She never did suggest driving a car again during the rest of her life.
One night, I was late
getting home from school and Baxter hadn’t come in either. Mother was worried sick,
and she had Mr. Austin to look for me. The uproar was because the Police had been
at the house that evening asking for Baxter. It seems that he was married and
had deserted his wife and baby. He had stolen a car an abandoned it and he was
an escapee from prison where he had been serving time for check forgery. Mother
was afraid that he had coaxed me into running away with him or else had
kidnapped me; but he came in before I did, and when he heard that the Police
was hunting him, he left again. We learned that he belonged to a well-to-do
family in Denver. They told the folks that Baxter was not his real, name
either. I came in soon after all this had happened and explained that I had
been at Lena Pendergrass’s house and forgot what time it was.
This is one time I didn’t
not have to listen to a long, angry lecture, because Mother was so relieved
that I had come home safe and all in one piece.
After the onion harvest
was over, went to Montrose. We were told that a ranch up in a canyon, south
east of town, was hiring help for the winter, and though we did not get the
job, we were in a happy holiday mood. Coming back down the canyon, near the
bottom, we lost a pin out of the steering rod connection and as luck would have
it, Mr. Austin had to turn the wheels toward the mountain to make a sharp
curve, and the car ran into the side of the mountain. Mother went up the road
to watch for cars and I went down the road for the same purpose, while Mr. Austin
put a new pin in the connection. We were soon on our way again, but the holiday
mood had left us and we drove back to town in silence. Since the job did not
become ours, we all agreed that we would go back to Bayfield, Colorado for the
rest of the winter. It was mid-November when we started up the mountains over
the highway to Durango.
It began to rain before
we got to Ridgeway. The road became muddy and very slippery. It was getting
dark so we ask a rancher if we could camp on his place for the night and he
said that we could camp down by the barn.
The next morning we got
an early start while the mus was cold and lightly frozen, but it was slow
going. We had to push the old Model T a lot of the way up to Red Mountain Pass.
I truly believe that we pushed that car most of the way up the mountains to the
top of the pass. It wasn’t too bad going down from Silverton to Durango, but it
could have been dangerous for us if it had kept on raining. I remember that it
was difficult to keep warm when we had to stop and sleep in the car at night.
The side curtains didn’t keep much cold, but it did keep out the wind.
When we reached Durango,
Mother sent me to Aztec, New Mexico by train, to live with my father. She and
Mr. Austin were going on to Bayfield, Colorado in the car.
Elijah Van Dusen was the son of Jacob Van Dusen and Sarah Dennis. He was born 8 May 1833 in Indiana. Elijah married Martha Jane Reynolds on 5 Oct 1854 in St. Joseph County Indiana. Elijah passed away in 14 Apr 1909 in Stuttgart Arkansas at the age of 75 years old. He is buried in Lone Tree Cemetery in Stuttgart.
Helen E. Gurney was the infant daughter of Ebenezer Bourne Keen Gurney and Almira Jane Josselyn. According to Massachusetts death records Helen died on 7 August 1853 of a bad case of whopping cough. She was only 8 months and 15 days old. She is buried with her family in the Mt Pleasant Cemetery in Hanson Massachusetts.