Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 37

          The Catholic church was a brick structure 30 x 46 in size, and the very Rev Joseph P Machebeuf and the Rev John B. Raverdy lived in a few rooms of wooden construction behind it. They attended Denver and many of the mining camps in the mountains, besides seeking out and saying mass for a number of settlers who were attempting to farm along the creeks in the valleys or raise livestock for the markets. The first Sunday I attended mass Father Machebeuf was the celebrant, and while he was preaching I was thinking that he was the oldest man I had ever seen. Yet he was only 53; out he was so weatherbeaten from exposure in missionary work that he looked as if he might be 80. I lost that impression when I came to know him better. His youthful spirit changed all that and in appearance he did not seem to me a day older when he died 24 years later.

          My first work in this new region was not digging for gold but in the hay field about 30 miles down the river from Denver where my oldest brother had a contract with the Government to furnishe [furnish] an unlimited amount of hay to the camp at Denver at $30 a ton. My work was to rake the hay with a horserake, one of the kind then in use - a revolving affair about 12 feet long behind which the driver walked and turned over when he got to the window. It was no poetic Maud Huller business, but a continual strain on arms and legs and and also the back. Also, I hauled hay to Denver part of the time. My team consisted of three yoke of oxen, my load was 3 tons of hay, and my time was 3 days. The first day I drove about 20 miles and camped for the night by the roadside and unhitched my oxen and turned them out to feed for the night. My own food I sometimes carried with me (that is, when there was a plenty at the camp of the hay makers), and sometimes I got something at an occasional ranch house on the way. At night I wrapped myself up in a blanket and slept on the load of hay or under it if it threatened rain. The second day I drove to Campt Weld, unloaded my hay, did some necessary trading and started back to the hay camp where I arrived on the third day. My compensation was $50 a month and board, which I considered very liberal for a boy of 18, but the work was the work of a man.

          Father Machebeuf owned a fine ranch of some 400 acres 8 miles west of Denver upon which he had a German family from Denver, but they were not experienced farmers and he wished to make a change of operators. He spoke to my father about taking the farm and took him out to the place to look it over. My father was a professional miller, and when he spoke to Father Machebeuf of the adaptability of a certain spot for a mill the priest was most anxious for him to take the farm and build the mill. Farms were being taken up then and considerable wheat was being grown already, so we too could farm and the mill would convert our grain into flour as well as that of the neighbors, for flour was being brought from the east at that time and sold for exorbitant prices. But this project came to nothing, for my father died in September, and Father Machebeuf came near following him from the same intestinal ailment which became epidemic and carried off quite a number of people, among whom also was another of our party, the husband of one of my sisters. After our afflictions we took up again the question of the farm and Father Machebeuf agreed that we should take the farm anyway and do the best we could with it without the mill.

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