Study history for any length of time and you being to realize how easy it is to get bogged down by the passage of time and events large and small; but history, like politics, is local. The histories of the Moreno Valley and Red River are like that, shaped as they were by tumultuous times from mining days to the present. Both communities can boast of scores of colorful women that shaped their growth from mining days of the past to tourist days of the present.
Consider the late Tillie Simion, who may best be remembered for her comment, “Red River is OK for men and dogs but it’s HELL on women and horses!”
This Kansas schoolteacher left her home state during the Great Depression to join her husband Tony who had found work at the molybdenum mine. “It really was horrible when I first came,” Tillie said in a 1978 interview. “No car, no people… Talk about pioneering. I chopped wood and hauled water just so Tony wouldn’t have to when he came home tired.”
In 1944, longtime resident Hank Mutz arrived in Red River on the mail truck and stayed at another of Tillie’s business ventures, the Monte Vista Lodge — a motel that later burned down. She went on a horseback ride with Johnnie Mutz, they hit it off and Hank said with a smile, “I stayed an extra day or so.”
Johnnie continued offering horseback rides while Hank welcomed guests at their Aspen Park Lodge. “We rented a double bed cabin for $3.50 a night,” Hank said. “When you say ‘rustic,’ this was rustic. We sold it for $30,000. I was damn glad to get rid of it.”
Hank soon learned she had married into one of Red River’s founding family “dynasties.” “When I first got here, you couldn’t talk about anybody — the Youngs, the Mutzes, the Pratts, the Gallaghers … they were all related.”
Johnnie’s grandfather Herman Mutz settled in Elizabethtown sometime around 1880. One of Herman’s nine children, Emil, married Maggie Gallagher, herself the daughter of Moreno Valley pioneers, and they had five children. Emil’s sister Augusta married Jesse Young, also one of Red River’s early pioneers.
Johnnie’s cousin, Opal Gallagher Gwinn (who died on May 17 this year) lived as a child in a cabin homesteaded by her uncle Charlie Phipps, then on a ranch up Mallette Canyon. Her parents grew potatoes and hay and sold milk to the Oldham brothers, owners of the Tall Pine Camp. “A lot of people don’t know what you’re talking about when you say ‘Depression,’ but had they been there they’d know. If you had enough food you were fortunate,” Opal once said.
Another son of Red River’s pioneers, Johnny Brandenburg, fell in love with a Raton beauty named Rosemary “Rosie” Frambers who had come to work at the Monte Vista Lodge in summer 1941. He married her in 1945 after returning from a German prisoner of war camp. At the time, about 30 families lived in Red River year-round. “It was not lonely because we were a close-knit group,” Rosie said. “We’d cook up beans and spaghetti or something and everybody’d play cards for the evening.”
Medical services could be a challenge though. “Us young married people went to Raton to have babies,” Rosie said. “Probably the last 2 months before your baby was due the doctors would kind of insist we come down closer.”
Over the pass in the Moreno Valley, longtime residents enjoyed similar friendship and kinship. Another Gallagher, Charlie, married Mae Lowrey, the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth (Moore) Lowrey, the Elizabeth in Elizabethtown. Maude Lowry married Talmage D. Neal. Annie Lowrey married John Haddow and was postmaster in T.D. Neal’s Eagle Nest grocery store.
T.D. Neal’s son Tal married Jeannine MacDougall, the daughter of Laura Heck MacDougall whose family once owned Maxwell Land grant ranchland throughout the Moreno Valley. That first winter, Jeannine says, “I was taking care of myself, my husband and his father. I did not work. I guess I was indoors most of the time. We’d drive down into the Moreno Valley and the snow would be as high as the car on both sides. It was like driving through a tunnel, except with no top. I thought it was terrible! I couldn’t see how anybody could live in this much snow.”
She did find time to visit Laurelle Gallagher, her best friend since the 5th grade at Raton Elementary School who had married Bill Gallagher the previous year. “Laurelle was going through the same thing I was. We would get together, play cards, visit, cook…. We ate together a lot.”
Charles and Frank Springer built Eagle Nest Lake in hopes of turning the Moreno Valley into a farming paradise. Pioneering women like Marija “Mary” Arko, Angelina Andreoli, Ada Marie Swanson, whose mother-in-law once operated a boarding house in Elizabethtown, and their husbands were enterprising farmers. Lorene Arko and her late husband Leo, Jr. continued farming.
The Moreno Valley was later home to many women who also helped build the tourist business, like the late Francis Gherardini, owner of the now defunct Cloverleaf Motel, the late Edith Sullivan, onetime owner of the Laguna Vista Restaurant and Saloon who spearheaded having a pull-off area at the palisades in Cimarron Canyon, and LaVena Lebus, whose husband Roy and brother George built Angel Fire Resort.
“Oh boy, it was hard work,” Edith said, “Lots of nights I’d go to bed and in the morning I’d get out of bed and I’d think my feet would go right through the floor.”
Ellen Miller-Goins, a lifelong Red River resident, owns Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area with her husband.
This article appeared on page 15 of the 2012 High Country Visitor Guide