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“With no schools when they first arrived, the younger children studied at home and recited their lessons to their mother at night while she sewed. Each child would recite her lesson until she missed a word or forgot her multiplication table when down she went and the next one tried. They lined copy books with such mottoes as ‘Honesty is the best policy’, which they laboriously wrote or rather printed, line after line. Sarah heard every word and never lost a stitch while she hummed ‘How Firm a Foundation’”.
Communication was extremely difficult. John came down with Mountain Fever while in Wyoming and wasn’t heard from for six months. “Then one day Mrs. Williams saw John Frink come riding at a gallop and waving a letter which was from Mr. Williams written months before. Mr. Williams reached home almost as soon as his family received the letter.”
Another time Sarah received a letter from “her folks in Arkansas saying they would be in Pueblo on a certain date on their way to Washington. Upon looking at the date she found that her people had gone through Pueblo the week before. In sympathy with her, her children were mad at fate and could not understand how that night at family worship their mother gave thanks for His many blessings.”
“Sarah was starved for the church and its activities. She carried her faith and her religion about with her and imparted it to her children along with their daily studies. Father Clark of the Baptist faith travelled on foot over what are now Fremont, Pueblo, Custer, Costilla and Huerfano Counties preaching the Gospel. When he would come to a community as to Rye, he would talk in some home where the neighbors for miles around would come to hear him. Sarah had the only Bible in the neighborhood and it was loaned from place to place. The visiting minister would tell of interesting happenings since his last visit and in that way give the neighbors the news of the day.”
Faith could not save everyone. Rattlesnakes were quite numerous on the prairie and the William’s dog was trained to protect the children from them. If the dog found a snake near the children, “he didn’t kill it there because it might bite one of them, but he grabbed it and took it away to kill it.”
Laura Williams Halsey remembers a man (John Frink) who, “upon seeing a rattlesnake tail extending out of a hole, grabbed it intending to pull the snake out and snap its head off, but the head was just inside, and the snake bit him, killing him and leaving his wife and five children. No one ever tried to pull a snake out of a hole after that.”
“A gala occasion was experienced whenever new people came. The settlers would greet them cordially and trading would commence. They always had something desired by the settlers, and they would gather up something they had to trade.” Laura remembers riding to the Huerfano to see the apples on a tree a newcomer planted along the River.
In 1875, a wagon train arrived with a chicken pen in one wagon. People came from all around to see the chickens. Laura Williams Halsey was seven years old and amazed to see a chicken for the first time. She “was very proud and pleased when the new arrivals gave her a newborn chick.”
A year later, when Laura was eight years old she saw 300 Indians being moved from one reservation to another. She vividly remembers the Indians “moving slowly across the foothills. Belongings of the Indians were placed on the travois-wheel-less carriages made of two long poles with sticks place between them crosswise. Squaws pulled these devices while the braves either rode their horses or walked at the head of the caravan.”
Laura Williams Halsey also remembers when the first coal oil lamp was brought into their log house. “Her father made the family go outside the house when he lighted the lamp, lest it explode.”
Eventually, Sarah earned enough money to buy a new Singer sewing machine. Tallow candles had replaced the dip wick and she took her family ‘on the road’. Sarah’s skills were in demand in the Greenhorn Valley. “Mother made dresses and wove rugs. We moved in with the families while mother sewed for them. It wasn’t much trouble to move, because we didn’t have much. We had the only Charter 8 Stove (which was the first cook stove in the Rye area), sewing machine and the Bible in the Valley. We just loaded them into the wagon with our bedding clothes and utensils.”
“John Williams was away most of the time trading horses in New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and the western part of Colorado. When he would return form these trips he would go to George Sears Store on the Greenhorn and find out where his family was living. He said that his family moved so often that when he went out to harness the horses the old hens would lie on their back and stick up their feet to be tied so as to be ready to be moved.”