Monday, February 23, 2015

Winchester '73 Rifle

An example of a Winchester 1873 Rifle [source: Winchester Guns]

I recently told the story of my second great-grandmother, Annie Dickson.  After Annie's second husband, Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd, died suddenly of pneumonia in 1913, she moved from Wyoming to Los Angeles with her five sons.

My late grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith, left me her genealogy files and family photos. Among her paperwork, I found a letter from her cousin.  This cousin, a child of Annie's son Archie Rutherfurd (1899-1972), relates in his letter a story about events that occurred after Malcolm Rutherfurd's death.  Here is the letter in full:

Upon the death of Malcolm B.O. Rutherfurd in April of 1913, his widow, my grandmother, Annie Amelia Dickson Rutherfurd, made arrangements to leave Douglas, Wyoming with her five young sons and go to Los Angeles, California to be closer to her family.

Ferris Bruner and his father took them to the railroad station.  Ferris was about 14 years old and a very good friend of my father Archie.  They had all of their personal belongings in several large trunks or crates, and strapped to the outside of one of the trunks was Malcolm's Winchester rifle.  This was done probably because it was too long to fit inside.  The station agent told them they could not ship the rifle that way, so they left it with Ferris to be reclaimed when they returned to Wyoming.

In July of 1962, my father, Archie and I made a trip to Douglas.  This was my first time there and his too, since leaving in 1913.  We went to the Ranch that Malcolm and his brother Archie owned and met the current owners, the Pextons.  We asked if Ferris Bruner was still in the area and they said he was and gave us directions to his place.  We looked him up and had a very nice visit for two days.  As we were visiting one evening, Ferris said, "I think I have something that belongs to you" and went in the back room and came out with the rifle, and related the story to us.  I am sure that my Dad had forgotten about it and was rather surprised.  Ferris said that he had never used it and had just been storing it for all those years and insisted that we take it.  I had the rifle appraised about 10 years ago and it was worth about $1700 at that time.

The Rutherfurd ranch in Douglas, Wyoming

I hope someone in the Rutherfurd family still has this rifle, which is over 100 years old by now.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Elizabeth Davock Dickson and the Douglas Hospital

Elizabeth Davock Dickson1 was the sister of my second great-grandmother, Anne Amelia Dickson. She was born in 1868 in Point Edward, Ontario, Canada.

As a young woman, Elizabeth studied nursing in Detroit.  My grandmother told me that Elizabeth also went to New York to obtain specialty training as a surgical nurse.  When Elizabeth's parents, George and Mary Bellangee Dickson, moved from the Detroit area to Douglas, Wyoming in the early 1900s, Elizabeth went with them.  In Douglas, she founded the community hospital.

Elizabeth never married, and devoted her life to working in medicine.  She was known fondly to my grandmother as "Auntie" and was close with her family until she died in Los Angeles in 1952.

Elizabeth Dickson, at left, with her sister Annie.

Among my grandmother's papers, I discovered a newspaper article that describes the origins of the hospital in Douglas and the role that Elizabeth played in its founding.

The Douglas Budget
Wednesday, July 15, 1992

Memoirs of the Old Douglas Hospital
by David Johnstone

The old hospital was located on South Sixth Street.  It faced east toward what was then the only school in Douglas.  It was a combination of Elementary and High School.

Close by was a small building that housed one of the grades and was nicknamed "Chicken Coup" by the children.  Across the street and a little north was the home of Tom Rowley and across the street on the corner stood the fine brick home of John T. Williams, a stockman and banker.

The hospital has been a very nice residence for the day and age.  The living room, dining room and two bedrooms had been remodeled some but not enough to destroy the original home-like atmosphere.  A four-bed ward on the first floor and two rooms for nurses on the lower floor had been added.

The original operating room was small but adequate at that time.  Some of the staff slept on the second floor.  Facing the east on the front was a very fine porch where convalescing patients could enjoy the good old Wyoming air and sunshine.

In the evenings, the off-duty nurses could entertain their boyfriends.  The hospital staff worked and ate together so much that they were like a big family.  Miss Elizabeth Dickson, a registered nurse, owned and supervised the hospital for several years.  Her brother George Dickson was agent at the Chicago and Northwestern station and was later interested in the hardware business.

In 1908, in order to take a vacation to California, Miss Dickson had a registered nurse from Chicago come to relieve her and to supervise in her absences.  Janet Adams2 was her name. She was one of three girls, all of whom were born in Ontario, Canada, and who trained and graduated in the class of 1902 at the Presbyterian and Cook County Hospitals in Chicago.  Mary Brown and Grace Galbraith were the other two classmates.

When Miss Dickson and her father returned from California, Miss Dickson had decided to sell the hospital and retire in California.  In short time Miss Brown and Miss Galbraith came from Chicago to investigate buying the hospital.  A few days later a deal was closed and the new owners took over.

The old Douglas hospital is famous as the spot where the cattle rustler and gambler George Pike died in 1908.  He was a notorious figure in the area, having established a ranch near Douglas where he corralled his ill-gotten animals.  Elizabeth Dickson was running the Douglas hospital when George Pike was brought to the hospital with a abdominal ailment, and her nephew George Roscoe Oliver Rutherfurd remembered peeking into the windows of the hospital to see the commotion inside.  George Pike did not survive, but his legend lives on in Douglas.

The hospital that Elizabeth Dickson founded and ran is now a private residence.  A larger and more modern hospital is located elsewhere in Douglas. 

1 I have often wondered about the origins of Elizabeth's middle name, Davock.  It's not a family surname to the best of my knowledge.  I recently found a clue while reviewing the 1865 Census for New York.  It shows young George Dickson and his bride Mary Bellangee Dickson living in the same household with a widow by the name of Maria Davock and her five children.  I still haven't determined the relationship between the Davock and Dickson families, but it seems to have been a close one.

2 According to a note handwritten on this article by the daughter of this nurse, her actual name was Janet Adamson.  She was almost certainly the same Janet Adamson who married Elizabeth Dickson's brother, George William Dickson, Jr.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Rutherfurds in Douglas, Wyoming

Malcolm Rutherfurd (back), his brother Archie (center) and two farmhands in Douglas, Wyoming

I've been writing about my Dickson and Rutherfurd ancestors and the years they spent as ranchers in Douglas, Wyoming.  Recently, I found a newspaper clipping amongst the files of my grandmother, LaVerne Rutherfurd Smith.  It reveals interesting information about the lives of those ancestors in Douglas, including some anecdotes I'd never previously heard.  People mentioned include my second great-grandmother Anne Amelia Dickson, her second husband (my step-second great-grandfather) Malcolm Brakspear Oliver Rutherfurd, and Malcolm's brother Archibald Aymer Oliver Rutherfurd.  The entirety of the article is posted below.

November 11, 1992
Douglas Budget

The Search for Roots Never Stops
[Column: The View From Pex's Pasture by John Pexton]

The search for one's roots never stops.

As one travels down the family tree, the trail usually weaves all over the country; and on occasion, some interesting stories and events turn up.

Connie and Claude Sipe of [removed for privacy], California were in Douglas last week.  They were hot on the trail of Connie's ancestors, the Rutherfurd family.  I had the honor of helping them climb down their family tree looking for the roots.

We started by going out to where her grandfather, M.B.O. Rutherfurd and his brother Archibald Aymer Oliver Rutherfurd lived.  The Rutherfurd ranch was located on Reid Creek (also called Rutherfurd Creek) 30 miles south of Douglas.  Charles and Gene Pexton are the present owners of the property.

The Rutherfurd trail really starts in Scotland where the brothers were born.  They evidently were from a wealthy family because in reading Archibald's will it mentions a trust.  It is thought that they came to America because of an invitation from the Foxton Family who were also from Scotland.  The Foxtons settled on land presently owned by Jerry Sober and where Tim Pexton lives.  The Rutherfurd name was really Oliver-Rutherfurd as evidenced in the brothers' names.  The "Oliver" has since been dropped.

Buying the ranch from Charles Reid, Sr. (Beef Bolin's grandfather) in 1892, they continued to live there unitl 1909 when the ranch was sold to J.C. Saul.  Do any of you readers know where the M.B.O. Rutherfurds lived between 1909 and 1913?

Connie read for the first time a story about Archibald Rutherfurd.  Since it is the Halloween season, it is a very fitting story to be retold.  Laura Reid, a daughter-in-law of Charles Reid, Sr., recalled the story in an article about Pioneer Cemeteries several years ago. She wrote:

"Archie Rutherfurd was numbered among the early day ranchers of the Laramie Peak region.  In order to get to his ranch, he had to cross a sandy creek bed, which at times had a trick of water, sometimes dry, and occasionally went on a rampage.  Among Archie's friends, perhaps his closest, was a sheepman by the name of Vetter.  While tending his sheep camp one day, Vetter was shot and killed by sheepherder John Koch, an employee of another sheepman.  Koch was apprehended and jailed in Douglas; but upon being made a trustee until the spring term of court convened, he fled the country never to be heard of again.  A short time after the incident, Archie bought a mowing machine in Douglas and loaded it on a wagon to be hauled to his mountain ranch.  Nearing home towards evening, the heavy load pulled by the tired team felt the jar of crossing the narrow creek.  Archie looked back to see if his machinery was okay.  Much to his great surprise and shock, he saw the ghost of his good friend, Mr. Vetter sitting on the seat of the mowing machine."

Mrs. Reid doesn't explain what happened after the sighting, but she does go on to say that, "From that day to this, the creek has been called 'Ghost Creek.'"

Archie (a bachelor) died in 1899 at the age of about 32 in Douglas after a winter's ride to town.  He was found dead in the morning after retiring to his room in the Reid house on North 2nd Street.  He had complained the night before of not feeling well.  Pneumonia was determined to be the cause of death.  Archie is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery.

M.B.O. (Malcolm Brakspear Oliver) died in 1913 and his body was shipped to Los Angeles for burial.  He had married Mrs. Annie. A. Griffin on April 29, 1897 in Douglas. George Dickson and Dr. Mortimer Jesurun were the witnesses.  The new Mrs. Rutherfurd was the former Annie Dickson, a sister of George Dickson who owned a hardware store and Elizabeth Dickson who built and owned the first hospital on North 6th Street.  After her marriage, Annie used the name Annie Oliver Rutherfurd.

Connie never knew where or when her grandfather M.B.O. had died.  You can imagine the look on her face when we found his obituary in the files of "The Douglas Budget."  Connie's dad's name was also Archie.  She said because of personal circumstances and not because of the kind of person he was, his mother always called him by the nickname of "Odd."   He is buried in northern Utah.

The family story goes on and on.  It was such a delight to meet such nice people like Connie and Claude.  I had the opportunity to smell the roses with them as they dug out their family history.