Unexpected reunion for Hotchkiss pioneer descendants

Photo submitted Bruce Duke, left, from Johnstown, Pa., and Kip Farmer, of Hotchkiss, are descendents of Hotchkiss's earliest settlers. They met for the first time and discovered their families' connections at PJ's Pub after one of them commented on a repl

In 1881, Enos T. Hotchkiss, accompanied by brothers George and William Duke, became one of the earliest settlers in the North Fork Valley. They would stake claims for land and prepare to live in this new frontier. The younger brother, Edward Miles Duke, would arrive the following spring.

Ed, a young lad when he arrived, worked for Hotchkiss for his first few years. With the money he earned he bought his own small herd of cattle. He raised hay for his cattle and then plowed up land to plant peach and apple trees. Ed lived by his words, that anyone can succeed who is willing to work for what he wants. Along with his bothers they started Duke Bros. General Merchandise, and later the Bank of the North Fork. The Dukes also ran their cattle business in the Muddy area for awhile.

Ed Duke married Maude Doughty in 1891 and they had three sons, Horace, Bruce and William. Bruce died at a young age, but had a son named Bruce II and a daughter named Dorothy. Bruce II also had three sons -- Bruce Edward III, Jeff and Dana.

Enos' sister, Naomi Hotchkiss, married Phillip Sherman in Pennsylvania and they had two sons, Alvin and Carlton. Later Naomi and Phillip divorced. The boys came to Hotchkiss and had a brickyard located at the present day Delta County Fair Grounds. In 1897 they used the brick to build the Hotchkiss Block building that today houses PJ's Neighborhood Bar & Pub.

Bruce Duke III is a retired general surgeon of 38 years, from Johnstown, Pa. He served two years in the U.S. Navy as a surgeon, was in a group practice, and ultimately ran a private practice. His daughter, Dr. D`Arcy Nicole Duke, joined him in the practice in Johnstown, after her training at Boston University Medical Center.

Bruce likes to come to Colorado to fish in the Gunnison Gorge each June with Al DeGrange's Gunnison River Expeditions after he enjoyed a three-day float trip in 2009. He would return in 2011, and remain after the trip to learn about his family's genealogy in the area. The Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Society entertained him with a meal and an interesting Duke historical presentation given by Art Wolverton, who combined Chuck Farmer's version of the talk with some of his own thoughts. The historical account originated from Chuck, who had given the presentation at a cemetery tour. Later that day, Bruce went with area relatives including Clyde and Pam Addams Hyink, Bill and Kathy Addams McKee and Joan Duke Briggs (whose father was Horace Duke, the brother of Ed Duke). They took a drive up to the Overland Reservoir area, which the Dukes were instrumental in the establishment of and spent a lot time in that area.

Flash forward to the present to a recent evening at PJ's Neighborhood Pub dining establishment. Bruce had experienced his best fishing trip to date. With friend Steve Alber, they arrived at PJs on June 23. The owner, Peter, visited with Bruce and showed him a framed 1899 replica North Fork Times newspaper on an original brick wall that included a picture of the Hotchkiss Block and several other photos. Bruce spotted one picture in particular and told Steve that it was a photo of his great-grandfather, Ed Duke. A man sitting nearby heard the conversation and pointed to another photo on the paper. He said, "Well that is my great-great-grandfather, Enos Hotchkiss!" The two men looked at each other in amazement. Bruce Duke had just met Kip Farmer, whose parents are Chuck and Mary (Hotchkiss) Farmer! Another generation of the Hotchkiss family was also present, Kip's son, Reese Farmer.

Kip graduated from Hotchkiss High School in 1979. He then went on to college at CSU in Fort Collins. After that he began helping with the Hotchkiss Ranch and is carrying on the tradition as a fifth-generation member of the Hotchkiss family to operate the ranch. Enos T. Hotchkiss was selected to be in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Okla., in 1961; in 1993 the Hotchkiss Ranch was designated a Centennial Ranch.

Enos T. Hotchkiss and Edward Duke must have been smiling down on this reunion, which was totally unplanned.

Load comments