William R. Phelps of Washington
Sequence of Events:
Colorado Territory formed
Territorial Board of Immigration created with the objective to “present
facts concerning Colorado as an attractive and desirable locality for those
seeking homes in the Great West; to supply immigrants with full and
authoritative information, as well as to aid and facilitate their journey
official booklet printed by the Board of Immigration lists the average annual
rainfall in Colorado at just over 12 inches.
Colorado achieves statehood
of 1886: Congress created the new
Bent land district, comprising over six million acres of Southeast Colorado, and
at the same time established a land office at Lamar, near the center of this
district. The land was subject to
entry under the “Pre-emption Homestead and Tree Culture Laws”.
20, 1886: John Phelps died in
Moccasin Gap, Washington County, Virginia at the age of 86.
His will specifies the division of his land between his children
including William R. Phelps, Lou Mann, and Ida F. Branch.
area of Virginia is rich and green with an average annual rainfall of 44 to 47
3, 1887: New Land Office at Lamar
opened for business. “Never in
the history of the wonderful West has there been such a rush of settlers and
people into a new territory.”
8, 1887: William R. Phelps dug
holes for the corners of his house on his homestead.
He settled on the Northwest quarter section of Section 11, Township 30S,
Range 45W, near Vilas CO.
11, 1887 to May 21, 1887: William
R. Phelps built a sod house on the land while his wife Lou Kestner Phelps and
their five children lived in Hartland, Kansas while waiting for the house to be
finished. They moved into his first
house on May 21.
1887: He planted one acre in corn
and garden vegetables. The corn did
not mature due to the late start.
1887: William went to work near
Vilas for a month and visited his home on weekends.
He worked for J. M. Smith doing general work.
25, 1887: A glowing article appears
in the Neosho County Journal (Kansas) telling how wonderful the new Land Office
in Lamar is and how great the homesteading opportunities are in Southeast
14, 1887: William went to Trinidad
to work to get means of supporting his family and stayed there until February
12, 1888. In Trinidad he worked on
the Railroad and in a sawmill. He
also worked for Mr. Scoggs 20 days in a sawmill near Powell.
1888: Charles McFarland built the
second home for the family, according to the testimony of William R. Phelps.
This was a 14x16 ft dugout. Walls
were six feet of dugout and 4 feet of sod.
Had a board roof and sodded dirt floor.
One door, one window single sash with four panes 12x14".
April 1, 1888: William went to Coolidge to get freight and was gone 8 days.
April 5 to May 10, 1888:
The VILAS DEMOCRAT runs the required notice that William R. Phelps has
filed notice of his intention to make final proof in support of his claim on May
Spring 1888: He plants five acres of corn and ½ acre in garden.
He has seven acres broken and prepared for cropping.
He has also set out 100 cottonwood cuttings (probably to meet the Tree
Culture aspect of the homestead act).
May 29, 1888: William R. Phelps is accompanied by Bernard North and Joshua
McFarland to Trinidad to file the necessary Testimony documents for the
Bernard North and Joshua McFarland
testify that they know William R. Phelps has been on his land for the stated
time and has met the requirements. They
both testify that Joseph Mann lives closer to William Phelps than they do.
Joshua McFarland testifies that a Mr. Brant (actually was Oscar Bryant) also lives closer to William Phelps than he does.
Note: Joseph Mann was married to William Phelps’ sister Lousana or Lucy. In 1889, William Phelps' sister Ida Phelps Branch also started a homestead near him. However, Alfred and Ida Branch only stayed one year before moving to Marion County, MO
William Phelps testifies that he
also has a “Tree Claim” in Section 32, Township 30S, Range 45W. This appears to be some sort of claim on the trees but not
the land. Trees would have been a
valuable item. Especially since he
testifies that the land he is homesteading has no timber on it.
He testifies that he has one cow
and the only farm implement he lists is a hoe, which he has had for two weeks.
June 7, 1888: The Receiver’s Office at Lamar Colorado records the receipt
of $200.00 from William R. Phelps for 160 acres at $1.25/acre.
The Cash Entry number of 1782 is given to the claim.
further record of the activities of William R. Phelps until the Land Patent was
approved Jan 30, 1891 and granted April 15, 1891. It must have been a hard existence but they held on long
enough to get their claim on the land.
2, 1889: Alfred and Ida Branch sell
the land Ida inherited from her father John Phelps in Moccasin Gap, Holston
Virginia to Ida’s sister Pallie Scott for $325.00. They leave immediately for Vilas Colorado on the train.
Alfred builds a sod house upon arrival and plants corn but the corn burns
up in the hot summer winds. Like
William Phelps, he has to leave his family to find work and support.
He is said to have worked in New Mexico in the broomcorn and also in
families from Washington County Virginia surely were not prepared for a land
with barely 25% of the rainfall they knew in Virginia.
least one other family from Moccasin Gap leaves at the same time.
Hardy and Sarah Emeline Kestner Lilly went with them.
Sarah was a sister to Lou Kestner Phelps who had already been in Colorado
for two years.
5, 1889: Fairy Branch was born in
of 1890: Alfred and Ida Branch take
their family by train to Marion County, Missouri.
Not sure why they chose that destination but believe that Ed Branch may
have already been living in the area, having worked on bridges across the
15, 1891: William R. Phelps
receives his Land Patent for his land.
not know when William R Phelps left Colorado. May
be able to find the deeds where they sold the land on a future visit to Baca
County courthouse. By 1900, his
children were living in Marion County, MO near his sister Ida Phelps Branch.
Transcription by Alice Bell Gander
Transcription by Alice Bell Gander
Copyright © 2005 PrairieQueens.com