Probate Records – Samuel B. Sturtevant

After coughing up a decent chunk of money for copies of Samuel Bevier Sturtevant’s probate package to the Denver County Probate Court, I was annoyed to find out that Denver Public Library has copies of Denver County probate records from 1930-1989. *sigh* I also found out that since his wife, Lotta, survived him, her will and probate is a lot bigger. Well, now I know where I’ll be going to look for Lotta’s monsterous probate package!!

Samuel Bevier Sturtevant Probate, P-21885, Denver County Probate Court, Denver, Colorado.

Sam’s packet was quite interesting despite the hefty copying fees. The most important finds out of these records were verifying family connections and pinpointing where family members were living in the 1960s. I also found out a bit more about Sam’s interests and associations. Lots of nice clues!

Sam’s health had been deteriorating for some time which probably prompted him to write his will. Three months later he died at the Presbyterian Hospital in Denver on November 8, 1960. The last survivor of five siblings, and having no surviving children of his own, Samuel’s will reveals that he remained connected with his Lyckman cousins in Colorado and his two nieces on the west coast.

Ultimately his wife, Lotta, was the sole beneficiary of his estate, but he stated his wishes if Lotta preceded him in death. This simple list provides wonderful insight into the people and organizations that were important to Sam.

  1. Father’s oil paintings to the Boulder Historical Society
  2. House with furniture and furnishings to cousin Vera (Lyckman) Hill of Denver
  3. $2000 to cousin Ruth (Lyckman) Hansen of Fountain, Colorado.
  4. $2500 to cousin Ernest Lyckman of San Acacio, Colorado
  5. $3000 to  cousin Walter Lyckman of San Acacio, Colorado
  6. $2000 to niece Marjorie (Weeks) Leatart of Long Beach, California
  7. $2000 to niece Betty (Weeks) Hursh of Larsen Air Force Base, Washington
  8. $2000 to cousin  Vera (Lyckman) Hill of Denver
  9. $200 to Josephine Norlie (no relation)
  10. $500 to the Social Order of Beauceant of Denver, for the welfare program
  11. $1500 to Epiphany Episcopal Church of Denver
  12. $2000 fo the Ohio Northern University at Ada, Ohio [Sam's alma mater]
  13. $2000 to the Colorado’s Women’s College of Denver, scholarship fund

If any person or organization died or lapsed prior to Sam’s death, remainder of estate would be distributed as follows:

  1. 75% to El Jebel Temple, AAONMS of Denver for the Shriners’ Hospitals for Crippled Children
  2. 25% to cousin Vera (Lyckman) Hill, if living; if deceased 25% to El Jebel Temple for general charity fund

Beyond the typical property and investment listings, one unexpected item I found out about Sam was that he was a stamp collector! While I’m not a hard-core philatelist, I do have a fondness for stamps and the amazing art and history represented on them. Sam’s collection was extensive enough for the appraisers handling his estate to estimate his large collection between $5000 and $6000! After punching these numbers into an inflation calculator Sam’s collection would have an estimated value between $38,200 and $45,900 in 2011!! And that doesn’t count for the variation in the collector’s value of the old stamps. Quite impressive, Sam!

Now that I know Lotta was the sole beneficiary, I hope to find her probate packet at Denver Public Library during my trek there this weekend. Then hopefully I’ll get more details about the lives of Lotta, Sam, and the Sturtevant legacy.

Wooden Postcard…Interesting Find by an Oregon Collector

Quite a few of the historically-minded folks in Boulder know I’m researching Joe. One day I get an email forwarded to me from one of the gals at the Boulder History Museum. The email is originally from a gentleman in Oregon trying to find out more about a painted wooden postcard with “Rocky Mountain Joe” painted on the back. As a collector he was intrigued to know more about this guy Joe.

Image courtesy of Paul Clinton, 2011.

This painted wooden postcard did not immediately compute! He made photos for tourists, not postcards! But as soon as I saw the painting style and handwriting on the back I was pretty much sold. The week or so before I had looked at some of Joe’s oil paintings and it felt familiar. (Watch for an upcoming post about the paintings!) I have also examined many of his illustrations with lettering and the word “Post Card” looked right. Though the smudged lettering and pencil lines makes me wonder how complete this product was. While I cannot definitively say that, yes, this is one of Joe’s cards, I have a sneaking suspicion it really is.

The mountain in the painting is the Mount of the Holy Cross in the Sawatch Range, Eagle County, Colorado. Famed nineteenth-century photographer William Henry Jackson was the first to photograph the elusive snowy cross and provide proof of its existence in 1873.

Image courtesy of Paul Clinton, 2011.

There is no way of knowing if Joe sketched this card on site, but I have a feeling he painted it from another source, such as a print or photograph, rather than taking the long treck to the Western Slope.

This postcard provides another interesting insight into Joe’s business activities. In addition to selling tourists photographic views of the Rocky Mountains and of Boulder County, it appears he also provided the quintessential tourist medium…the postcard.

Research Update…FINALLY!

Since January of this year I have been side-tracked from Joe research. A new job will do that to you! I scored an awesome job at the University of Colorado Heritage Center as the new Outreach Coordinator. I’m doing research, writing, exhibit development, educational programs, etc., all about CU’s history. Besides getting to do what I love everyday, I also have a small, but great office on the third floor of Old Main, the original university building. Joe took quite a few photos of this fabulous structure.

Courtesy of Carnegie Branch Library for Local History. Boulder Historical Society Collection, S-2888

Trying to juggle a new job, finish up freelance research projects, get a small educational workshop business going, and just typical day-to-day living has kept me away from Joe. But no more!

I have been actively  jumping into the deep end again! Woohoo! I have my stacks of folders out, I’m entering info into spreadsheets, making an outline for an article, re-evaluating all the materials I’ve been collecting the last few years, transcribing records left and right, and contacting archives. I’m finally getting a plan together…again.

I’m thrilled to visit the Boulder History Museum‘s storage facility tomorrow to look at some of Joe’s paintings! Before becoming a photographer, Joe learned his trade of illustrating, sign painting and graining from his step-father William Peck. It appears that when he arrived in Boulder he also took on the trade of paper hanging and occasionally produced custom oil paintings.

According to a 1958 Daily Camera article by Forest Crossen, Joe’s son, Samuel, donated seven on his dad’s paintings to the Boulder History Museum. Five are described in the article: three Boulder Canyon scenes and two biblical subjects. I’m not sure what to expect as far as quality. His illustrations range from rough and sketchy to having wonderfully soft details, quite a dramatic difference, so I’m expecting something similar for his oil paintings.

I have also come across several early newspaper articles describing some of Joe’s artwork. His pieces ranged from illustrations which were published in national illustrated papers such as New York’s Graphic, Day’s Doings, Hearth and Home and Illustrated News, to some custom 9×12 foot paintings of ancient Babylon and Rome for Dr. Perry, a professor of ancient History at the university. Anyone who has researched early Boulder history will be familiar with Joe’s style as many of the building sketches in early city directories are his.

On the other end of the research spectrum, I think I have located one of Joe’s surviving descendants! Through public records, obituaries, and Ancestry.com I have located one of his great-grand children. I’m hoping to contact this person soon. Hopefully this individual is cooperative and has interest in sharing details about their family history. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Road Trippin’ to South Dakota – Searching for William Peck at Old Fort Sully (Part 2)

So my trip to Pierre and the South Dakota State Archives wasn’t as thrilling as I hoped on the research end of things. The Archives was fabulous, but records they had for Fort Sully weren’t terribly exciting or in depth.  I think part of the problem is that the first Fort Sully only stood for three years so there is little information about it.

The most exciting find at the Archives was a hand-drawn illustration of the fort by Private William S. Peck himself! Yes, “my” William! I will be ordering a scan in the next week or so and I hope to post it here. It is a beautiful drawing of the fort a bit at a bird’s-eye view looking from the Missouri River.

The illustration is partially in color, with the use of some reds and blues. There is an large eagle accompanied by flags, guns, cannons, and a bugle which includes a banner touting Company D of the 30th Wisconsin, and “Bello vel Pace [Paci]” translated to “War or Peace.” The scene includes details of the fort structures along with out buildings and teepees and people situated along the banks of the Missouri.

Since Old Fort Sully no longer stands, I was encouraged to find some additional drawings and reconstructed plans of the fort. One in particular was quite helpful. The drawing shows the location of the barracks, hospital, guard house, doctor’s quarters, commissary, officer’s quarters, the well, interior walkways, and the flag pole. It also indicates sites outside the fort walls including a dance hall, indian homes, the interpreter’s house, and stores. I will redraw the plans when I post the illustration of the fort by William Peck.

The time Company D of the 30th Wisconsin stayed at the fort was limited. Post returns show they were only there a couple of months along with the 6th and 7th Iowa. Three officers were present in the month of June 1864 with Captain David C. Fulton as commanding officer, there was 1 medial officer and 65 enlisted men with only 54 were on duty, since 10 were sick and one that was arrested. Hmmmm, arrested for WHAT? The records don’t reveal the crime, darn it!

A small monument is the only evidence that a fort ever existed at this location. There is a little children’s museum here, but all I saw inside were play exhibits of wildlife. It really isn’t surprising no mention was made of a contentious past.

Fort Sully monument located where the flag pole stood at the center of the fort.

Detail of the monument.

Vertical marker at the right located the southeast corner of Fort Sully. The stone marker can be seen near the center near the children't museum.

Overall I’m glad I made the trip to Pierre, however it would have probably been much more satisfying if it was the first stop on a much longer road trip. I hope to get up to Fort Totten in North Dakota soon. Now THAT will be a much more inspiring trip considering a majority of the fort still stands!

Road Trippin’ to South Dakota – Searching for William Peck at Old Fort Sully (Part 1)

If you have read my background about Joe, you will know that I believe he co-opted Civil War and Indian fighting stories from the military experiences of his brother Samuel and step-father William Peck. This week I was on the hunt for some of William Peck’s activities during the Civil War, specifically his connection to the building of Fort Sully in Dakota Territory in 1863. Several of Joe’s Indian fighting claim surround the military regiments associated with this fort, so I hope that my adventure will uncover some leads and clearer connections.

You can read more about William on his bio page, but here’s a quick military intro. William enlisted in Company D of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry in August 1862. The following spring brought orders that took his company to St. Louis, Missouri where companies D, F, I, and K guarded supplies and support General Alfred Sully on his Northwest Indian Campaign. In August 1863 William and his company were transferred up-river and assisted with the building of Fort Sully located near Farm Island along the Missouri River just a few miles east of modern-day Pierre, South Dakota.

So off to Pierre I went!

During my eight-ish hour drive through northeast Colorado, central Nebraska, up to the center of South Dakota, and finally to Pierre, it was really easy to get a sense of what the landscape was like nearly 150 years ago. Easy, because I don’t think the landscape has changed very much apart from the roads, fences, and the occasional cell phone tower.

Somewhere in the middle of South Dakota. The majority of my drive looked just like this.

Nearing Fort Pierre, South Dakota. There are inklings of things green in the gullies that probably run with water in spring.

Between the periodic small towns, the rolling hills were filled with prairie grass, endless corn or hay, acres of sunflowers, or a distant line of cottonwood trees identifying a small creek. It wasn’t until I neared the Missouri River and Pierre did I see a vast amount of vibrant green trees again.

The goal of this research trip was to learn what I could from the South Dakota Archives about the first Fort Sully and the men who lived there or passed through. Yes, there was more than one. The first fort was built quickly in the summer of 1863 during the campaigns led by Generals Sully and Sibley against the Sioux in Dakota Territory. This was the fort William Peck helped to build, but it only stood for three years.

The location of the fort was not optimal. It was in a low-lying marshy area next to a small inlet off of the Missouri River (now known as Hipple lake). During those three years the soldiers suffered from disease and damp conditions. The first year was particularly harsh due to the lack of food, especially vegetables and fruit, and many of the men suffered from scurvy, including William.

Even today the area is quite marshy. View is looking south across Hipple Lake with Farm Island in the distance. Trees from the heavily-wooded island were cut down for the construction of the fort.

By 1866 the structure was in such disrepair that the commanding officer wrote that it was “hardly made habitable during cold weather…a few of the men’s quarters [were] high enough to permit me to stand erect in them…and the whole place is over run with rats, fleas, bed bugs and other vermin.” (1) So the old fort was disassembled and new Fort Sully (or Fort Sully II) was built about 25 miles north of Pierre.

** Part 2 Coming Soon! **

(1) Commanding Officer of Fort Sully, Dakota Territory, to Lieut. H G. Litchfield of the Head Quarters of the Department of the Platte in Omaha, Nebraska Territory, letter, 25 June 1866, discussion of quality of work and life at Fort Sully; Building Fort Sully I, Harold H. Schuler Papers, 1989-1993, Boxes 5973-5974, South Dakota Archives; original letter held by the National Archives.

Follow-Up Photos

So I took a little field trip to where I think Joe probably died near 64th and Pecos outside of Denver. (See my previous entry about locations and to see maps.)

I was discouraged by a whole mess of construction going on just south of I-76 on Pecos where the old Modern station was supposed to have been located. I didn’t make it near the actual location, so I quickly bailed for the tracks just a short drive north and west.

Not much to see looking south along Pecos near I-76.

The area near 64th and Pecos is still a bit isolated with some industrial buildings, what appears to be a small irrigation pond, and oddly enough, some baseball fields across the street. Improvements were made several years ago along 64th Street so now people can enjoy a nice bike path nearby and singing birds at the pond.

Looking northwest along the tracks near 64th and Pecos.

Since the area along side the tracks was nice and wide, I decided to take a little walk. If the gravel path wasn’t as broad as it was I never would have ventured out. I had no desire to end up like Joe or replay the railroad bridge scene from Stand By Me! No trains rattled by me but hearing numerous whistles in the background gave me an odd feeling.

While there is no way of absolutely knowing  if this is the area where Joe met his death, it does provide a good physical sense of place. There is something intriguing by walking in the footsteps of those who came before us, and if I squint I can visualize and imagine how empty this area most likely was like a century ago when Joe walked along tracks similar to these.

Looking south along the tracks near 64th and Pecos. The bridge in the distance is I-76.

Newly Found Info About the Location of Joe’s Death

So I picked up the book The Kite Route: Story of the Denver Interurban Railroad at my local rockin’ used book store, Black and Read, yesterday. I collect various history books about Colorado, but mostly Boulder and Denver. It’s a neat book about the development and operations of the old commuter rail that ran a route between Denver, Broomfield, Louisville, Boulder, Marshall, and back to Denver.

Not only is it a good general history, but I wanted to pick it up because I know Joe not only photographed the trains but he was killed by one.

Near the end of the book, and appropriately listed with all the rail accidents, is a blurb about Joe’s death. The story goes that after meeting his son Samuel in Denver for the day Joe prepared to return to Boulder that evening on the train. His son bought the ticket but forgot to give it to Joe. On the way to Boulder, the conductor asked for tickets, but Joe realized he didn’t have the ticket and didn’t quite have enough money for the fare. So off the train he went to walk home.

Most newspaper reports state he got off near the Globeville station (just north of Denver near the current interchange of I-25 and I-70). But the description in this book mentions that the conductor “put him off at Modern [station], located near present day Sixtieth Avenue and Pecos Street.” (1) Cool! New info to work with! That’s roughly half way between the Globeville and Westminster stations. What’s really spiffy is that the modern-day rail lines follow the approximate routes from 100 years ago. So I checked out Google Maps, and yup, some of the current tracks are still running in the same area. That puts the location of the Modern station just south of I-76 on Pecos. Obviously more digging in the Interurban Railroad papers are needed to find the exact location, but it’s at least a start!

The approximate location of the Modern station in 1910

What happens to Joe after he gets off the train will never really be known. After Samuel realized he still had his father’s ticket he arranged for a conductor to take the ticket in the hopes he could pick Joe up if he saw him walking along the tracks. Around 11:25 pm, the crew found Joe, but unfortunately they found him about a half mile from the Modern station, dead near the tracks. They took his body to the Westminster station where they contacted the authorities and waited.

Approximate location where Joe's body was found.

After an examination, the Adams County coroner only found Joe’s face bruised and bloodied and a broken left arm. He uncovered no evidence of foul play. The theory is that Joe tried to jump on one of the passing trains, fell, and died of shock on the side of the tracks. There is some speculation that he might have been intoxicated when he made his trek back to Boulder on foot. While there is currently no evidence for this, he had started building a reputation for imbibing a bit too much several years prior to his death. But my theories about that is an entirely separate post!

So these new bits of information are exciting! First I need to find out if the Denver newspapers reported other information about his death than the Boulder papers. I thought I looked at them all, but obviously I must reevaluate that! Next, I hope to locate the Adams County Coroner’s records, that will certainly hold some interesting info. Then I need to find more records about the Denver Interurban to hopefully uncover more detailed maps of the route and stations. I’d love to get a good sense of where this Modern station really was.

I think tomorrow I’ll take a little field trip and drive along Pecos and take some current photos of the sites I highlighted in the maps. I live in the general area so it will be a quick photo shoot. Look for a new post with new photos tomorrow!

(1) William C. Jones and Noel T. Holley, The Kite Route: Story of the Denver Interurban Railroad (Boulder, CO: Pruett Publishing Company, 1986) 133. Other mentions of specific locations are also from this reference.

I LOVE Google Books!!!

I am continually amazed at what I can find online. As a Gen-Xer who grew up with a TRS-80 with cassette tape “programs” operating on a ludicrously small amount of RAM, and who has worked with computers since the late 80s, I am still blown away by the speed in which technology moves.

Books and journals that I never knew existed or that I would have to squint at in a reference library microfiche reader suddenly appear clearly on my computer at midnight or 6 o’clock in the morning.

Through the wonder of Google Books (and Google Scholar) I have found fabulous public domain historic references. In my ongoing search for Joe I have downloaded a book about the history of Paris, Maine to discover more about Joe’s Revolutionary War grandfather; a comprehensive look at the early years of Hudson and St. Croix County, Wisconsin; I can get a sense of the open frontier of Sauk Rapids, Minnesota when Joe’s father moved the family around 1856; and I can better understand the motivations to build Fort Totten on Devil’s Lake in the Dakota Territory (North Dakota) where Joe’s step-father worked in the 1880s. I can even find out what the weather was like on a given month in 1888 at Fort Totten by downloading monthly weather reviews from the US Army Signal Corp!

Wow! Who knew?!

No matter the topic you are researching, take the time to search Google Books, you just might be able to download a long-saught-after old book or find a newer book at your nearby library!

** For those of you who will scoff at my use of Wikipedia links, I am only using them as a general informational source for my readers, not for real research. Don’t worry, Wikipedia footnotes will not be found in my documentation. **

Organizational Heaven and Hell

I love diving into the zen-like meditative zone of research, but like most researchers, I feel the onset of despair when the reality of organizing all my newly found gems smacks me square up side the head.

I have been trying to minimize all the grunt-work hell by making gradual entries in Joe’s research plan and timeline since I got back from a Salt Lake City conference at the end of April. Yes, it’s been four months, I know, and I’m still not quite finished. Quit nagging me!

Despite not being far along with my organizational goals and future research planning I take a break to remind myself that all the hell of doing the mind-numbing data entry into my spreadsheets, word processing files, and software is actually worth it. Heavenly sun beams shine down on me periodically as I those “ah-ha” moments reveal a clear moment in the past. The pain of trudging through all my papers, notes, and photos is suddenly gone as I am able to put my data together in ways that bring a new part of Joe’s story to light.

Somehow this vicious cycle of  collecting clues, processing them, and interpreting the findings is totally worth it. Not many of my friends understand this masochistic behavior, they tend to roll their eyes or look at me funny and laugh nervously. The ones that do understand, gratefully share in the excitement and satisfaction. Similar to an archaeologist digging in the proverbial dirt, there is a certain thrill in uncovering an item long buried and bringing it “back to life” to share with others.

That’s what I love about history.