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401 Meeker St Delta CO 81416 970.874.4421

Bert Williams pens his memories of Delta

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Writer's note: This is the first of a series (two to three articles) on early days in Delta as hand-written by Bert Williams (exact date unknown). It is felt that many long-timers of the area will be interested in this documentation.

"Being of sound mind, I am going to start with my birthday, Jan. 7, 1905, as it was told to me. My father came to Colorado six months before my mother brought me here from Glenwood, Iowa," wrote the late Bert Williams who lived a great deal of his life in the Delta vicinity. Bert was the father of Ralph Williams, a long-time Montrose resident.

Bert's father worked in the mining area as a wagon driver, but the snow slides and mountains were frightening to him, having grown up in the flat-lands of Ohio prior to journeying to Iowa and Nebraska. He met his future wife in Lincoln, Neb., where she was attending the academy (an equivalent of high school). She learned the photography business, qualifying her to work for a while in a photography shop in Delta.

"When Dad left the mine, he came to Olathe and went to work on a large sheep-growing ranch as the ranch foreman," wrote Bert.

His mother became the ranch cook as well as being in charge of the mail. She drove her fast horse and buggy, at least twice a week, into the town of Olathe for mail and supplies. The rubber-tired buggy had a top with side curtains as well as a charcoal-burning heater, which kept her comfortable for the 10-mile trip each way.

"Halley, an Englishman, owned the ranch and Mom said that on a windy day Mr. Halley would say 'The hair is blowing through my 'air.' I guess Dad and Mom only worked at the ranch for a year or so," wrote Bert, adding that Halley sold the ranch. That's when the Williams family moved to Delta.

(Halley sold to John Ketchum in 1897, who in turn sold to Fred Donnelley and Johnny Palmer.)

"Dad went to work at Joe McGraw's livery barn. We lived in the first house north of the Grand Mesa Lumber yard. Dad had to drive the hearse for funerals and when the fire bell rang, he would saddle a horse and go to the hose cart and take it to the fire," wrote Bert, adding that both of these incidents were vivid in his memory.

"Of course in those days, it wasn't very much of a town -- maybe two blocks wide and three or four blocks long ... Dad then was working on the Methodist Church and the Lincoln School."

One day Bert followed a crowd that was going up the Third Street Hill and wound up watching his first football game which was held just north of what was the old monastery, which is now long gone.

"In those days the 'flying wedge' was the main part of the game ... I saw Alec Wigram get crushed in that wedge play that day."

Bert's parents bought some machinery and horses and rented land south of Delta, near where the former Coors barley building sits today.

"Grand Junction had built a sugar factory and imported Russians to do the hand work in the beet fields. It was a new crop in Delta and it paid pretty good and it looked like beets would 'make' the town of Delta. The folks then bought a farm west of town, out past the fairgrounds, where the city lagoons are now. A county road and bridge crossed the Uncompahgre River and to the north of the bridge was the folks' farm.

"One day Chipeta, the queen of the Ute Indians, and some of her tribe were at the fair, and on my way home from walking to school, I watched the Indians. At another time, I saw an airplane at the fairground.

"I guess it was the next spring that this valley had terribly high water and my folks got washed out. The river changed its course to the south of the farm and the bridge and road that I walked to school was gone. It was at this time that the folks moved up on to Orchard Mesa, the name of the mesa north of here, where the airport is and I went to a one-room school in North Delta.

"The school had a large pot-bellied stove for heat in the wintertime and the fire was most enjoyable in cold weather because I had to walk that mile and a half to school of a morning.

"There was eight houses up on the mesa at this time and the people had high hopes for the mesa, but there was not enough water to keep crops growing. There is still the old reservoir up there and signs of habitation -- ditches and other signs of farming, but the last house was destroyed by fire a good many years ago."

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