Archive for the 'Oral history & oral tradition' Category

From the Archive: Ellen Michaud Remembers

by Lesley Drayton, Curator, Local History Archive

The Fort Collins Local History Archive has hundreds of interesting oral histories in the collection, the bulk of which were recorded in the mid to late 1970s by community volunteers eager to capture the stories of many of Fort Collins citizens who had witnessed the many changes in the city from the turn of the 20th century on up to the nation’s bicentennial.

One especially compelling oral history was recorded by Jill Boice in the summer of 1974 when she listened to the many fascinating stories told by Ellen Michaud, a retired nurse who had come to Fort Collins at the age of 14 in 1909.

Ellen Michaud in 1979

Some of Ms. Michaud’s more humorous memories involve early driving habits in Fort Collins:

“Well, my father owned a car in 1916, a Ford. And that’s when I learned to drive a car…I taught myself. I just simply went out. And first I tried backing it up, and driving it up, backing it up, and driving it up. And then I got real brave and I drove it around the block…

A lot of people thought [cars] were useless…for a long, long number of years there was horses and buggies and cars…and people just drove wherever they wanted to. You drove up, well on College Avenue, you just drove, that’s all. And streetcars run down the middle of it—and you usually would drive on the right hand side. And then you could go to the corner or you could turn around in the middle of the street; it didn’t make a bit of difference…there wasn’t so much traffic then. And you could just come and go as you please.”

This photograph of Wellington in 1915 shows several modes of transportation

Do you remember your first driving experiences?



by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

As a museum, one of our primary goals is preservation. We preserve tangible evidence of our world and our lives through artifacts, specimens, documents and photographs. But we also work to preserve the intangibles that come with our collections: the stories. That’s my favorite part, not just the “what” that identifies an object, but the “why” that tells me why it matters. That’s why I love StoryCorps.

StoryCorps, an independent non-profit, has been working since 2003 to collect the stories that people want to share. In just seven years, StoryCorps has added 30,000 oral history interviews to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The organization is involved in a variety of oral history initiatives, but anyone can share a story. You can hear StoryCorps‘ interviews on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” listen online, subscribe to their podcast, or watch animated shorts of their interviews on the StoryCorps Youtube Channel.

What stories would you want to share?

From the Archive: Rosalie Kelly Remembers – The Railroad

by Pat Walker, Research Assistant, Fort Collins Local History Archive

The Fort Collins Local History Archive has a large collection of oral histories taken in the early 1970s. Rosalie Kelley Remembers is a series of excerpts taken from an interview with Rosalie Kelly, a descendant of North Park pioneer families the Pinkhams and Allards, May 22, 1975.

Rosalie Allard (later Kelly) in 1923

“I want to tell you a little bit about that early railroad because I have some memories there. My father and mother were great hands to take us to Denver and we’d go on the railroad as far as Laramie and then they’d get a sleeper, and that was a lot of fun. But you never knew when you were going to get to Denver, because the railroad might be stuck… the tracks weren’t good and for a long time they didn’t even have a rotary snow plow and we found ourselves one time in Harrison’s Cut, right out on the Laramie plains, two days and two nights, with a whole train load of people. And everybody that went on the railroad always took a great big lunch (laughter), thinking, “Well, we might get stuck,” and we usually were. But this time I remember, it seemed so long and we got so bored… and I looked out the window and here came my dad and another man (they had borrowed from the train crew… snow shoes and gone down–up–up the hill to a little town called Albany) and… each one had a gunny sack over their shoulder, and I know the first thing dad took out of that gunny sack and gave to us was an orange apiece. And that was a real hey day.”

Colorado & Southern passenger train No. 9, snowbound near Como, Colorado. Photographed by Otto Westerman in 1904.

Mrs. Phibbs Remembers: Living in Upper Boxelder

by Pat Walker, Research Assistant, Fort Collins Local History Archive

The Fort Collins Local History Archive has a large collection of Oral Histories recorded and transcribed in the early 1970s. Mrs. Phibbs Remembers is an ongoing series of excerpts taken from the interview with Alice and Sidney Phibbs, May 22, 1975.

“Now the people that lived in the area at the time on the north side of Red Mountain, Fred Maxwell had a big ranch. And on this side of Red Mountain some people by the name of Viele had a ranch and then on up, the Barbours had a small place and then ours. And then as you went north from our place, three miles and back a little bit towards the east, the Ted Carpenter family that owned the transfer place here. They lived there for a number of years….. When we moved up there, there was a German family by the name of Lindike. Then the Carpenters bought the place from them. They had one daughter, Lindikes did, her name was Ruth and she afterwards married a young man from in there, over around the area of Logan’s store area; his name was Johnny Boyle….

This Grandpa Logan and his wife had the ranch just west of ours…and they had aquired acres and acres and acres of land over on Dale Creek Road and Grandpa moved over there and built a new store, living quarters in the back, and I remember when the store was dedicated. ‘Course big dance, and I had my first silk dress and my first gold locket.” Mrs. Phibbs recalls that her mother made the dress from silk given to her by her aunt for the occasion. “It was pink china silk and another aunt had sent me the locket for Christmas…. [The dress had] a yoke in it and full around there and then it was trimmed around… they were great for usin’ little fancy braids in those days, and the braid had pink and blue and the little gold in it.”

Alice Helene (Kirby) Phibbs, daughter of Katharine Philippi and John E. Kirby,was born on January 6, 1901. She married Sidney Terrance Phibbs in 1947.

Upper Boxelder School on the Maxwell Ranch circa 1913. The people are identified as: (left to right) Clarence, unknown, unknown, Lloyd Kerwood, unknown, unknown, Elroy, unknown. This was the first school Lloyd Kerwood attended.

The Ted Carpenter & Son, Moving & Storage Company, 132 Laporte Avenue, Fort Collins, Colorado circa 1950. Ted and Myrtle Carpenter moved into town from their ranch in Upper Boxelder circa 1919. Ted started his moving company in the mid 1920s.

Another perspective on artifact looting

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

We’ve written several times in this blog about artifact looting, most recently in regards to the June raid and arrests made by Federal agents in Blanding, Utah. That story in particular has sparked a lot of  interest and emotion, especially here in the West.

People who illegally collect artifacts from public lands offer a variety of justifications, many of which are being used by the folks who were caught in the Blanding sting: it’s a time-honored community tradition; the artifacts will just end up in a box in some archaeologist’s lab, so why not pick them up; we’re just doing what everyone else does. Whatever the justification, the fact still remains that it is a crime to remove artifacts from public land.

Removing artifacts also destroys much of what those artifacts can tell us, scientifically. Without context — where an object was found, what was found with it and around it — all we’re left with are disconnected fragments. Archaeologists and museum professionals have weighed in on this subject in regards to the Blanding cases and artifact looting in general.

But there’s a third consideration that received scant, if any, ink in the Blanding saga, and that’s the voice of the people who are the cultural and spiritual heirs of these artifacts. And while there’s no such thing as a “pan-Indian” perspective or opinion on how to treat artifacts, there are those who believe that these objects retain a spiritual quality that goes beyond antiquities laws and scientific processes. From this point of view, the question of what to do with an artifact has a simple answer: Don’t pick it up. It doesn’t belong to you.

Last year, the Fort Collins Museum began a film project to document Native American elders speaking on this topic. The resulting film, “Meeting in the Center with Respect,” debuted in May 2009 as part of the opening of the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, a place that’s also home to artifacts ranging from 12,000 years old to those of the historic era. It’s an opportunity to hear an often unheard voice and to get a different perspective on what meaning objects have, and how their connections survive across time, space, and cultural disruption.

The situation in southeastern Utah only highlights how much education still needs to be done to help all of us understand the ethical responsibility we have to protect, respect, and conserve ancestral sites and artifacts.

Final installment (for now) of the Fort Collins Memory Project

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

KarlMeissnerOur last story from the inaugural Fort Collins Memory Project workshop comes from Lew Arlen Meissner, whose family, like many in this area, were Germans from Russia. Enjoy his story here, and if you missed any of the previous four stories, browse back through the last month and be sure to check them out too.

Fourth installment of the Fort Collins Memory Project

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

This week’s story of immigration from the Fort Collins Memory Project comes from Kathy Moddelmog, who recalls her parents’ move to Fort Collins after being married in Chickasha, Oklahoma. Read her story here, and be sure to enjoy the previous stories too (look in the “Oral history & oral tradition” category over on the right for links to the other stories).


Third installment of the Fort Collins Memory Project

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

The third installment of the Fort Collins Memory Project comes from Stan Schilling and Marol Klein-Goodwin — stories of hard work growing up on the farm (beets for Stan, wheat for Marol) and the strong traditions of the Germans from Russia, including music and dancing the Dutch Hop. Find Stan and Marol’s story here.

A truck load of beets heads to the beet dump

A truck load of beets heads to the beet dump

Second installment of the Fort Collins Memory Project

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

edward-garbuttThis week’s story from the Fort Collins Memory project comes from Ann Garbutt Ryan, whose ancestors were early immigrants to the Laporte area. Enjoy Ann’s story here, and if you missed last week’s debut story, you can find it here.

Stories from the Fort Collins Memory Project

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator

We recently held our first workshop session for the Fort Collins Memory Project (see the post from April 1st for more information about the project). On April 18th, we spent all day with six different people from the community who came in to share their stories of immigration. Participants brought in photos, documents, and objects which we photographed and scanned; we recorded audio snippets from each participant explaining the various elements of their story; and then combined everything into an interactive slideshow using Memory Miner. All in an hour and a half to create each story! Each workshop participant left with a CD of their slideshow, which will also become part of the Museum’s Local History Archive.

We are also publishing these stories on our website, one story at a time, over the next few weeks. The first story is from Kirsten Hovorka, who traces her family back to Denmark and England. You can see her slideshow here. Click any of the thumbnail images to see a larger photo. Many of the slides have audio, too; in the blue box to the right, click the underlined link to listen to Kirsten’s recollections. 

The workshop was a great experience — it’s always a gift when someone shares their story with you. Our stories are all so various, and yet we hear in each of them something that resonates with our own. Because we only had an hour and a half to put together each story, we had to put limits on the process, which created another interesting dimension — to see what people chose to show and talk about, given that they had to “edit” their story into a small space. Rather than a comprehensive family story, what we created together were very personal windows into people’s lives. Because history is more than dates and names; everyone’s history has a heart.

March 2023

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 48 other subscribers

Flickr Photos