Bookmark and Share

A letter tracks the early days

We are quoting from a letter written me back in 2002 by Susan E. Nossaman Felts.

The letter is in response to a column I did about that time concerning the Belmear family, among the earliest pioneers in the San Juan mountains, their advent here dating back to 1860 and Baker’s Park, probably the first Anglo settlement in the San Juan Mountains. Among the most interesting facts to be learned from Susan’s letter is the interconnectedness among the Belmear, Nossaman, Johnson, and other early San Juan families. Continuing from last week, we read:

“Minnie King Belmear was born in 1875 in La Junta, Colorado, and Elizabeth King Johnson was born in 1895 in Farmington, N.M., so there was quite a gap in their ages! When Minnie was 5 years old she and her parents passed through Pagosa Springs (Motter—1880, when Fort Lewis occupied what is now the downtown part of Pagosa Springs), spending about a month here while on their way to Animas City (Motter—now part of Durango). Henry King had been wounded in the Civil War and it is my understanding that he soaked in the Hot Springs for a while hoping it would help heal his wounds. The King family moved on to Animas City and settled there for a while. Several of their children were born while they were there and some including Minnie settled there.

“In your column it seems a little confusing. Will and Minnie Belmear had 10 children, five of whom lived to adulthood. Stanley Belmear was their son and my grandmother’s nephew. Stanley’s wife, Elizabeth, still makes her home in Pagosa (Motter — letter date July 8, 2002). I can remember as a child going to Aunt Minnie and Uncle Will’s house in Durango to visit. I don’t remember any of Minnie and Will’s children except Stanley (probably because they were all grown up and Stanley was the only one who still lived around here). I also remember going to Stanley and Elizabeth’s store, The Wayside Grocery.

“Elizabeth King and Charles B. Johnson had four daughters, Genevieve, Elaine, Charlotte, and Marylyn. Elaine married Royal Nossaman and they are my parents. I know you have visited with Elaine several times about Nossaman history. Both sides of my family (Nossaman and King-Johnson) go back to Colorado Territorial times (Motter — prior to 1876 when Colorado became a state). Mom and I belong to Colorado Territorial Daughters. When I was doing the paperwork/research to apply for our Pioneer license plates, I found the copies of the 1870 census for Bent’s Fort where Henry Clay King and the Rhoades were enumerated. Henry King married Elizabeth Jane Rhodes in December 1870. He was 23 and she was 14. Elizabeth Jane had a sister named Minerva. Minerva married Jim Belmear in 1880 (Motter—in Susan’s letter a genealogical chart of the families follows, I’m not copying the chart here).

“If you can find it, the book ‘Where Eagle’s Winter’ tells more about the Belmears and others who were early settlers in Dolores and the Disappointment Valley area. My Aunt Genevieve gave me a copy of this book.

“I just wanted to fill in a little more personal information that the book didn’t mention. I also have a hunch (from stories in our family) that Minnie and Will came over to Dyke (Motter — William and Elizabeth ran the Dyke general store and post office. That building still stands) in the 1930s because Elizabeth and Charles were already in this country and knew of work that they could get. Of course that was in the Depression and times were pretty hard all over.

“Keep on writing and I’ll keep on reading. Sincerely, Susan E. (Nossaman) Felts.”

Thank you, Elizabeth.