3/03/2009

Ancestry -- Clues To You


I've been doing a lot of work with my ancestry lately, and the further into it I get, the more I learn about myself. I have started to see that my love for nature did not spring from nowhere: my ancestors were people who lived close to the land; many of them were ranchers and farmers.

My great-great grandfather Frank Baxter (the man on the top) was born around 1880 and his family came from New York to Colorado in 1883. They lived in the mountains west of Fort Collins, ranching and farming, according to historical records. At some point Frank moved down to Fort Collins, and eventually to LaPorte, where he ran a general store and post office. In a 1979 interview with his daughter Norma Salisbury (my great-grandmother) and his son-in-law Walter Salisbury (my great-grandfather), I learned Frank ran stables and was involved with horses.

Norma moved to a ranch back in the mountains outside town with her husband, Walter, whose family also homesteaded in Colorado, and their property was up Rist Canyon near Stove Prarie Road.

After my great-grandparents got married, they lived on what was left of the once 900-acre ranch that my great-grandfather's family had homesteaded. They lived there for years running the ranch and enjoying the beauty of the Colorado mountains. It wasn't all idyllic, of course: my great-grandfather, grandfather, and great-uncles hunted deer, elk, and even bears for sport, just so they could hang the heads on their wall, which is something I find hard to deal with. Their love for animals appears far different from mine. But I could sense a deep love for nature in my great-grandfather's words nonetheless.

Walter reluctantly moved back to town after suffering a stroke later in life. His doctor recommended he come down from the high altitude (about 7,000 feet). My great-grandfather didn't think it made much difference (Fort Collins is at about 5,000 feet, after all) and he had another stroke and two or three heart attacks after the move to town. I think he was heartsick for the mountains. He couldn't stand the growth and the noise of the city and he was far removed from the life he once knew. Reading about this was hard for me; I only knew my great-grandfather for a short while, up until I was seven. I remember he would give us a quarter and a cookie every time we came to visit. I don't like to think he was not happy in his final years.

My artistic bent certainly came from my grandparents on my father's side, and perhaps other ancestors I don't yet know about. And my musical talent likely came from my ancestors four generations back on my mother's side. Or, at least, they had a large part to play in passing this on to me, as did others before them. One of my musical ancestors was Clerin Woods, my great-great-great grandfather (the man on the bottom).

According to the Fort Collins Museum, Clerin was a cow-puncher on the great plains. Along with being a rancher, Clerin played the violin for local dances and his wife Emma played piano. Surely Clerin and Emma had something to do with my love of music.

I love knowing these stories. It makes me feel more rooted, more at home in some ways. Sometimes it helps to know where we came from so we can move forward more surely on our path into the future.

2 comments:

Kimberly W. said...

This was a very interesting story. It really makes me want to know more about my family's past.

Katrina said...

I'm glad it sparked an interest in your family's history, Kimberly!