Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Dr. Kate Yont - A Life of Service

Post by Doris McCraw aka Angela Raines

Headframe - Cripple Creek/Victor Mining area
Photo (c) Doris McCrw

In 2014 a friend from the museum in Victor, Colorado, gave me the name Kate Yont. The museum had been given some of her items but they had no record of her in the area.  To me, that was like being given the keys to the kingdom. Off I went on the journey to find this woman and what connection she had to Victor. The following is what I found on the journey of exploration.

In 1873  Katherine Eliza Geiger was born in Jackson, Michigan to John and Mary (Ver Planck) Geiger.  She attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and graduated in 1896. She moved to Denver, Colorado in 1897. That same year she received her Colorado license #2514 to practice medicine. She was twenty-five at the time.  1897 also saw her marriage to Jesse Grant Yont, an 1895 graduate of the University of Michigan.

Jesse Yont, according to some records graduated with a law degree, but he also played football while in college and with two ‘professional’ teams in Denver: Bently football 1894

Around 1900 he was living in Victor. His family probably came with him. While there is no record of Kate practicing medicine in the area, there is a high probability she did in some capacity.

Jesse in a football uniform

The next time we hear of Kate is when Jesse fell about 60 feet in the Strong mine in the Cripple Creek/Victor area on June 6, 1903. The newspapers state he was scalped from the fall but did not crack his skull. There was some question about whether he would survive. He did recover but according to family stories, he was not mentally the same after. This was also the first record I found of Kate in the area.

The family returned to Denver and Kate resumed her practice. The couple separated/divorced around 1920. There were two children from the union and they both remained with Kate, however, family stories do say the son would. periodically visit his father.

While in Denver Kate was the assistant gynecologist at St. Anthony’s Hospital. She also was involved with the Flower Mission, a nucleus of the Visiting Nurses Association, worked as the resident physician at the Florence Crittenton Home, and was well-known to the Italian community for helping in their naturalization process.

She died December 7, 1943, in Denver. Colorado.

As I said, an unexpected journey and a story of an almost forgotten woman.

Until Next Time: stay safe, stay happy, and stay healthy.


Friday, February 10, 2023

On This Day in the Old West: February 10

 On February 10, 1846, the Mormons started their long march west with 3,000 families and around 2,500 wagons. They would end by traveling 1,300 miles to reach their “New Jerusalem.” Whether your characters were sympathetic to the Mormon plight or followed the more popular dislike of the sect, they would probably have heard of Joseph Smith’s group.

The Mormons had been thinking about moving out of the western borders of the United States for some time before Joseph Smith’s assassination in 1844, but this act solidified their resolve. In 1845, mob violence in Illinois resulted in the legislature revoking their charter, so they had to leave. Brigham Young, who was emerging as the new leader, conducted a census that fall, and counted 3,000 families who agreed to accompany him West. He divided the church members into smaller administrative groups of tens, fifties, and hundreds, following the pattern described in the Old Testament.


The groups planned to leave Illinois in the Spring, but further hostilities forced their hand, and they started out from Nauvoo on February 10 instead. Several thousand people crossed the frozen Mississippi River (dry-shod, as the Hebrews in the Bible crossed the Red Sea). Their suffering was intense. On one evening of the trek, nine babies were born, their parents barely able to provide shelter from the elements for them. Wagons collapsed and people died from exposure. It took 131 days for the convoy to travel 310 miles to the relative safety of the Missouri River, where it divided Nebraska and Iowa. It was now June, 1846.

The group remained in that area (near modern Omaha) for some time, and Young decided that, since the neighboring Native tribes were friendly, they would spend the winter there. However, when winter arrived, scurvy claimed as much as 15% of the camp members. Brigham Young’s son later called this settlement “The Valley Forge of Mormondom.” Even Young himself became sick in February of 1847, and began to doubt, but a vision of Joseph Smith sustained his beliefs.


In April, 1847, an advance party of 25 wagons, led by Brigham Young, left the “Winter Quarters,” headed for the Rocky Mountains. They traveled across the Platte River, creating a new route along its north bank rather than risk encounters with other travelers along the Oregon Trail. The first half of the journey, along the plains, was far easier going than the mountains looming past Laramie, Wyoming. But the Mormons kept marching, lightening their journey with evening singing and dancing around their campfires. 


Like many others in his band, Brigham Young came down with “mountain fever” along the way. On July 24, after 111 days of travel, a wagon carrying the prostrate Young reached the valley of the Great Salt Lake. As he looked out over the area, Young declared, “It is enough. This is the right place.” Even as this group was reaching their destination, another band of 1,500 people (with nearly 600 head of cattle) was leaving their “Winter Quarters” headed west. 


Over the next two decades, nearly 60,000 Mormons would journey to Utah Territory. Thousands came by wagon, but thousands more pulled simple handcarts across the forbidding terrain. Many died along the way, and survivors would find that the nation they sought to escape would soon expand its borders to encompass them. However, the Mormons had found a permanent home. Save for a brief period during the “Utah War” in 1857, the sect has called the Great Salt Lake home since their arrival. Depending on when your characters lived, they might associate the Mormons with the lake, or with the great march West.


J.E.S. Hays

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Classic Country Ballads of Lost Love - February #westernfictioneers #countryballads #classiccountrymusic

I grew up in the late 50s and 60s listening to the country music of that era. I stuck with country music through the 70s. I made it into the 80s but, by the late 80s, country music as I knew and loved was headed in a direction that, with a few exceptions, I wasn’t interested going. So I didn’t. (Get off my lawn.)

The old west gunfighter and trail ballads, drinking songs, and revenge songs had an influence on me that was, and still is, every bit as strong as the impact Louis L’Amour’s books left with me. My lifelong interest, perhaps fascination bordering on obsession, with everything old west—truth, legends, and myths alike—have roots in those old cowboy and country songs.

I’m inviting you to read along with me this year as I post one or two nostalgic-for-me country ballads on the first Wednesday of each month. I will share a snippet of trivia about each song along with a YouTube video.

Each month, I will include a link back to the previous month’s article as reference to those songs. The common thread that runs among the songs I’ve chosen for this musical memory lane excursion is tragic lost love.

January – Marty Robbins – El Paso and Feleena

This month’s tragic lost love ballad is by Faron Young – The Yellow Bandana.

Faron Young, publicity photo 
By Mercury Records - Billboard, page 1, 7 November 1964, Public Domain, 

The song was ranked #18 and peaked at #4 on the Billboard Top Country Singles chart of 1963.

The song has a pleasant, upbeat, catchy tune with ¾ time, which is deceivingly happy for as sad as the lyrics are. A cavalry soldier falls in love with Roseanna. He gives her his yellow bandana to wear as a memento until he returns. He returns and discovers the yellow bandana…


If the video doesn't show on your device, this is the URL to Faron Young singing The Yellow Bandana -

As an aside, a yellow bandana as part of a cavalry soldier’s uniform likely came out of Hollywood in the John Wayne / John Ford westerns era. Soldiers did wear handkerchiefs, neckerchiefs, scarves, sashes, etc., but generally speaking, other colors than yellow, and these items weren’t necessarily standard military issue.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time