The story of her Smith family there in rural Moffat County was told by Frances in her autobiography “From There to Here”, a self-published book written in 1985. I am in the process of integrating two version of that book that Frances wrote, adding illustrations, and plan to make it available online this year. But this story is not about those years from 1918 until 1923 when Frances and her family moved “lock, stock, and barrel” across the Continental Divide to Weld County, Colorado. This is about a trip Frances made back to Moffat County in 1980s in search of that cabin on Blue Mountain.The murderer, A. S. Wilson, ran from his home, afraid for the repercussions of his actions, and late that night or the next appeared at Quay’s remote homestead. He told Quay, “If you know what I’ve done you won’t want to help me,” to which Quay replied, “I don’t care if you nailed Jesus to the cross for it’s been 90 days since I’ve seen a living soul. Come on in.” So, Harriet had an interest in that part of Colorado.
Frances saw an opportunity to look once more for the old Tom and Nora Smith homestead, so driving a almost new, two-wheel-drive yellow Dodge Omni, Bob and I embarked on a trip from Fort Collins, Colorado, to a remote area ninety miles northwest of Craig, Colorado, with Frances and Harriet in the back seat, a weekend adventure we’ll never forget.
Harriet’s preparations were simple. She packed butter sandwiches for all, home grown pickles, and brought her nightgown and walking stick.
Toward noon, following the hand drawn map Frances held in her lap, we found ourselves on a rough, dirt road out in the middle of nowhere, feeling frustrated, when in the distance Bob spotted a pickup truck and beside it a man mending a wire fence. We drove up beside him and got out to talk, describing our mission and asking for his advice. He pointed off to our left and said that there was no road, we’d have to drive across the open prairie, but if we headed in the direction he pointed we’d come to place where the land dropped off, and if we’d park on the top of that ledge and walk down the steep slope, then turn around and look back we would see several dugouts in that hillside. Oh, how fortunate we were to come across that young man who knew about those dugouts!
So off we went driving that little Dodge Omni across the prairie. I remember how the scent of hot sage filled the car. It was great fun bouncing and laughing and all of us full of hope and behaving like teenagers. Only now, in retrospect, do I know how lucky we were that our catalytic converter didn’t start a prairie fire.
Sure enough, we came to a ledge where further travel in the car would not be possible. We parked and got out, ready to explore, only to realize that Harriet could not safely climb down the slope. We decided to spread out a picnic lunch and make it comfortable for her while we scrambled down the hillside in search of the dugouts.
Frances and Harriet talked all the way back and we knew Harriet held out hope of locating an old friend or two but Bob and I were tired and wanted to get home that same night so we more or less convinced Harriet it would be too difficult looking up friends from fifty years ago. I am sure she was disappointed. We continued eastward. I don’t remember our route back to Fort Collins but I believe we turned south and stayed in Colorado coming back along the Poudre River route.
That’s the end of my tale of our great adventure with Frances and Harriet but that’s not the end of the story about Blue Mountain and Bare Valley. Bob’s older sister, Mary Simms, organized a return trip there with many Smith relatives in 2011. After much research, they located and marked with metal signs several homestead sites, hopeful that later generations of the Smith clan will visit and find evidence of this time, now about a century ago, when the Smith family homesteaded on Blue Mountain, Moffat County, Colorado.