Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Young James Nix
Settles Into Life in Colorado
Bankston (1834-1924) was the fifth child of John Souther and Mary
"Polly" Combs Souther. As a
widow, she traveled from Choestoe to Colorado in 1873 and settled there
her son James and daughters Martha Jane and Nancy Ann.
Her brother, William Souther (right) was
already in Colorado. On March 11, 1884, Elizabeth married John
of Norwood, Colorado.
Elizabeth Souther Nix left
County, on March 24, 1873. The widow
William Nix (1837-1864), she anticipated that a better life lay ahead
for her and her
three children, James, almost 14, Martha Jane, 12, and Nancy Ann, 10. Her brother, William Souther, was already in Colorado, and
doubt influenced Elizabeth
to move west to what they considered the land of promise.
A record of the journey was made in
the form of memoirs from James Nix who saw the move as a great
adventure. Last week’s column covered
their journey by
wagon from Choestoe to Cleveland, Tennessee, and westward by train from
Tennessee to Colorado, including their itinerary and the wonders James
family saw along the route.
When they arrived in Denver,
on April 8, 1873,
only fifteen days after they had departed Choestoe, they received a
welcome. Three to four inches of snow
was on the ground. Seeing it spread
across the prairie with herds of buffalo running in it was “a wonder”
young lad. The story continues:
James Nix recounts how they took the
narrow gauge D & R G train from Denver
to Pueblo, Colorado.
“It looked like a toy train,” he wrote.
they hired mule teams and wagons and “pulled south to Apache Creek”
camped for two days. From there they
went northward to Muddy Creek to join other members of the Souther
family. James got a job working at what he
“mixture of ranching, sawmilling, and cowpunching.”
His work brought the lad, the main
breadwinner for the family of four, fifty cents a day and a soddy for
live in. There they remained until about
January of 1876.
The family’s next move was to St. Charles, Colorado,
eight miles southwest of Pueblo. He hired out as a work hand on a farm
there. They were at St. Charles when the Custer Massacre
place in the Black Hills on June 25, 1876. He noted in his memoirs, “Those were exciting
The Atkinson, Topeka
and Santa Fe Railroad extended its
line to Pueblo, Colorado in March of 1876. Instead of the dinky line the family had
taken three years previously from Denver
when they arrived in Colorado,
James wrote: “Now it seemed that Pueblo
was connected to the world by a real railroad.”
The grasshoppers descended on the
crops in late summer, 1876 and did so much damage that the farmers were
discouraged. His mother, by that time,
had been able to purchase the land they lived on. But
with the loss of crops from grasshoppers,
they made the decision to move to “sunny Kansas.” With
their team and wagon and sparse
household goods, James, his mother and two sisters went down to the Arkansas River, to Los Animas, Granada, Fort Dodge, Great Bend, Hutchinson, Wichita, and Union Center. There
a heavy snowstorm overtook them. He does
not explain how they kept from
freezing as they camped out in the storm, but they survived. After the storm abated, James looked for
work. The family only had $5.00
remaining of the money they had when they left Colorado.
He wrote, “We started out one afternoon after the storm lifted,
and praying to find work. But prospects
They came in sight of a nice two-story
farmhouse at the Elk River. James asked the owner for permission for his
family to camp by the river. Seeing that
there were womenfolk in the wagon, the kind man invited them to the
they were fed. They brought their
sleeping rolls from the wagon and bedded down that night in the front
the farmhouse. The next morning, the
man, whom James calls only “Mr. Fred”, asked James and his family to
assist him with the rest of the corn gathering and husking. He even allowed the Nix family to live in his
old house which Mr. Fred was then using as a place to store the
corn. They quickly moved the corn to a
shed, cleaned out the house, and settled into it. James
notes, “This was a bonanza. The house had
a fireplace. You seldom saw a
chimney on a house in Kansas
days. Mr. Fred offered me fifty cents a
day to help him with his corn crop.”
When the corn was finished, he employed James to herd cattle,
of the Souther horses.
In the spring of 1877, James
acres from Mr. Fred down in Corley County,
south of where they had wintered.
But the summer of 1877 brought ague
and fever to James and his sister Martha Jane.
James recovered well, but his sister remained weak.
He took her by wagon to Benton
where they bought a load of apples. They
peddled the apples along the route back home and made more than enough
cover their trip. The change of venue
and the adventure of that trip helped Martha Jane get over her
the severe fever.
In the spring of 1878, James rented
acreage from Isaac Todd. John Thomas,
transplant to the west, rented Mr. Fred’s acreage.
It was in the summer of 1878 that his mother
received $50.00 from Georgia
(probably on sale of some of her land there).
They bought cattle with the money and were successful with the
that summer in Kansas.
“Uncle Bill Souther, my mother’s
brother, came to visit us in the fall of 1878 and stayed over the
winter. In May, 1879, we sold out what we
started for the state of Washington,”
James wrote. As they made their way
westward again, they retraced the route through Wichita, Kansas
and on to Pueblo, Colorado.
They went up into the Greenhorn Mountains
to visit relatives,
James’s uncles, Bill Sullivan and John Thomas.
These kin had gone west from Choestoe after the Civil War.
Elizabeth Souther was evidently not
afraid of work. Nor was her son,
James. By May, 1879, he was twenty years
old. Since age 14 when his mother, two
younger sisters and he had arrived in Colorado,
he had been the major breadwinner for the family.
Jones; published July 15, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville,
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Jones is a retired educator,
freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA
Updated September 20, 2008
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