German Settlement 'just like Germany'
Many residents had known one another before settling southwest of Big Bend
Courtesy Photo/Kelly McCabe, gr.grandson of Henry Lupke
The area known as the German Settlement is west of the "Old Plywood Plant" located on County Road T and west of the Skyline Store on Road T.5. both west of Highway 145.
PIONEER DESCRIBES GERMAN SETTLEMENT
Mrs. Agnes Langhamp Lupke
March 10, 1934
I was born July 16, 1860, near Oenabruck in the province of Hanover, Germany. When I was twenty-two years of age, I came to the United States in 1882 shortly after my father's death. I had relatives in Cincinnati where there was a German settlement, and there I worked for a long time as a servant girl and learned the language. I had a hard time doing that at first, but being among my own people, many of whom I had known in the old country, made it easier.
I had known Fred and Henry Lupke in Germany. They came to the United States in 1878. Before coming to Montezuma County two years before I arrived, they had spent two years in Minnesota. Each of them took up a homestead in the country south and west of the Big Bend, and they freighted from Durango to Rico and brought in supplies also to the Big Bend. In 1888, Fred Lupke sent me money to come out to Colorado to marry him. In a way, I was not coming to an entirely strange country, for my friends, the Roelkers, had already been here for six months. The Osterfelds came with me and the Abelns a month later. We had known each other in Germany, and we were all good friends together in the new settlement near Big Bend. There was never any trouble, and on Sundays we would get together and have coffee and cakes and something to drink just as we had in Germany.
When I started from Cincinnati, I had the rheumatism so bad that I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get a drink of water on the train. But by the time I reached Durango, it left me. Mr. Lupke met me there with a team and a buggy he had hired from a liveryman in Cortez. He was to pay two dollars a day for the buggy. But when we got back and he found it was a wedding journey, the livery stable proprietor wanted to charge Mr. Lupke twenty-five dollars, which was more than twice the price agreed upon. There was almost a shooting over it.
Almost everyone had big houses here then. But Mr. Lupke had hauled lumber from a mill near Mancos and built a frame house on his claim. There were many deer in the country then. I often saw them and once a band of twenty-two went by our place. A man was hunting near us, and a frightened deer ran into the chicken house. There were many cattle running wild. And once when I went for our cows, I saw an animal I have since learned was a lynx.
The Hartmans for whom Hartman Draw is named lived about a quarter of a mile from us. Lillian Hartman Johnson married a lawyer, Charles Johnson, of Durango. And a brother of Lillian, Frank Hartman, edits a paper in Aztec, New Mexico.
The Big Bend was our nearest town. Only the Morton place still stands there now. But then Harris Brothers had a store there, and Mr. Ordway had the post office. I used to walk and carry my butter and eggs to sell at Harris' store. Sometimes they would bring fifty or sixty cents a dozen in winters. Flour had to be brought by packhorse from Durango in the winters then. People would go by wagon to Rico to sell their corn and fat hogs and vegetables and bring back a load of different supplies. Mr. Lupke crossed the Dolores as many as twenty-five times freighting to Rico. The Germans peddled vegetables in Big Bend, later in Dolores, and in Cortez, too. Rico was by far the liveliest place hereabouts.
When we had been married seven years, Fred Lupke died. A team of mules had run away with him while he was working at Animas City before he came to Montezuma Valley, and he fell under the rake. That caused his illness, which developed years later so that he was very bad a year and a half before he died. He had to be lifted about, and we took him to the hospital at Durango for a while. That was after the trains came to Dolores. But the nearest doctor was at Rico or Durango, whichever is the nearer. There were no telephones; so you had to send a messenger to bring back the doctor, and it cost $30 a trip the few times we had him for Mr. Lupke. When he was gone, I was left with my little children.
A kind neighbor used to stay with the children while I went to town with my team and wagon to sell vegetables. I had to work very hard, but I made out to get along. There were many bachelors about, and women were scarce. Eventually, I married Mr. Lupke's brother, Henry, and we moved over to his homestead, a part of which we still own and live on. Both my husbands worked with scoops and teams building the ditches for the irrigation system here.
The children went to school two and a half miles away at the old German school house that later burned down. The German families built this school for their children. They had three months of school there in the summer time, and there would be perhaps twenty-four or twenty-five children. Once there were thirty-six children. The Osterfeld, Pomroy, and Abeln children were among those who went there. Mrs. Morton from Big Bend was the first teacher. I boarded seventeen teachers myself, in the course of the years. Back in those early days, Louise Ordway, now Mrs. Harry Pyle, came out on a bicycle to teach at the German school.
The priest from Durango would come over two or three times a year and say mass around in the various houses of the German settlement. Sometimes the children would walk five or six miles over to what is now the Kaylor place to receive religious instruction. The priest would stay at Wedell's or Osterfeld's each year for a while and instruct in religion. The children knew something about it then, too.
We amused ourselves mostly with hard work in the German settlement. We liked to see who could grow the best of everything and do everything the best way. We had great pride in what we did and in our homes. Sundays we got together at the home of one of us and had coffee and cakes and had a nice, quiet, friendly time. Among us, it was just like Germany.
Hartman Draw separates the German Settlement area. The Centennial Orchard of George and Elizabeth Osterfeld is located on Road T.5. The school house built by Frank Roelker and Henry Ablen may have been on the Henry and Agnes Lupke place on Road T. Both Henry and Frederick Lupke owned properties at the end of Road T. The Frank Roelker and the George Osterfeld properties are the homes of the great grandchildren of the families who came from Germany to make their homes. The Frank and Regina Roelker property is located on Road T. Without the help of the descendants of these families, my research of their community would have been more difficult. The photographs are courtesy Kelly McCabe, great grandson of Agnes and Henry Lupke.
June Head is Historian for the Montezuma County Historical Society and can be reached for comments, questions or corrections at (970) 565-3880.