Dyer, Henry Mead
Age: 21, credited to Brandon, VT
Unit(s): 12th VT INF
Service: enl 8/17/62, m/i 10/4/62, Pvt, Co. G, 12th VT INF, m/o 7/14/63
See Legend for expansion of abbreviationsVITALS
Birth: 05/05/1841, Brandon, VT
Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Yes, application 5/24/1904, CO
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)
Remarks: Died in Seattle, WA
Great Grandfather of Janet Casselman Dyer, Loveland, CO
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Henry M. Dyer
Obituary(Del Norte, Colorado, Prospector, January 11, 1929)
Was Pioneer Trail Blazer of San Luis Valley and Prominent in Commercial Activities
Monday morning of this week Mrs. Charles W. Donnen received a wire from her brother, Dr. Harry C. Dyer, telling of the death of their father, Henry M. Dyer, which occurred during the early hours of the day, following an attack of heart trouble at Seattle, Washington.
Funeral services were held Wednesday, January 9th at 3 o'clock p.m., and interment took place in Seattle.
The above brief item of news brings with it deep sorrow and grief, not only to the daughter Mrs. Donnen, the sister, Mrs. Hannah Douglass, only surviving member of this western pioneer family, now in her 93rd year, and other relatives, but to hundreds of men and women who have had the good fortune to have lived beside and with "Hank" Dyer in the Del Norte section from the early 70s until 1918, when he retired from active business and removed to Seattle.
He was a Vermont Yankee, while his ancestors came from England in 1635. He carried with him the admirable traits of both, intermingled with these was that indefinable something possessed by the western trail blazers, which spread the mantel of tolerance over that which was evil and weak and raised truth and integrity on a pinnacle, a beacon light that all might see and thereby be guided.
In the commercial world his word was his bond which his judgment and keen insight were eagerly sought by his colleagues in any business venture. He was a good neighbor, a loving husband and father. To his acquaintances he was a friend indeed and the needy or oppressed never appealed to him in vain. His never failing fund of wit and humor were the delight and pleasure of all with whom he came in contact, and many of his sayings are proverbial in this community where he lived so long and was loved so well.
Last summer in August he returned to Del Norte and spent several days visiting relatives and friends. He talked over the pioneer days with pioneer friends, jollied all alike and took great pleasure in the material evidence that this valley was prosperous, its people happy and that he had taken part and aided in the movements which made this condition possible.
Now, as this world's sun has gone down, the curtain draws on this long, useful well spent life, the earthly end having come without a prolonged siege of suffering, we say "au revoir," not goodbye. Henry Dyer is not gone. His spirit remains here to combat evil, uphold the good and glorify the "Creator until time shall be no more."
Note--A historical sketch of the life of Mr. Dyer written by one who grew to manhood in the San Luis Valley and was personally and intimately acquainted with the deceased for many years, will appear in the next issue of the Prospector.--Ed
MEMOIRS FROM THE LIFE OF HENRY M. DYER, DECEASED
Being a Brief Resume of the Activities of One of the Pioneers of Colorado
by Jack Horton
(from The San Juan Prospector, probably issue of Jan. 18, 1929)
Henry Mead Dyer, whose death occurred at Seattle, Washington, January 7, 1929, lived to the ripe age of 87 years, 8 months and 2 days, having been born at Brandon, Vermont, May 5, 1841, of English parentage, his ancestors having landed in America in 1735. (note: ancesters landed in 1635)
The high lights of his long and useful life make a history of intense interest, one that awakens longing in the heart of the adventurous and wonder and admiration in those who have no contact or knowledge of he vicissitudes and hardships experienced by the pioneer of the great west.
His boyhood and youth were spent in the place of his birth, where he went to school and was prepared to entered medical college in his early 20s, but the Civil war broke out and he volunteered for service with the Green Mountain Boys. Following the cessation of hostilities he was of the opinion that he was too old to take up the study of medicine. The experiences of the war had developed his adventurous spirit. The call of the wild and the West were in his veins.
From the close of the war until 1869 he remained in the Green Mountain state employed in various occupations. During this year he believed that he had amassed a sum of money sufficient to take him west into the land of promises and the vast unknown. Cutting home ties, he traveled to Des Moines, Iowa by steel rail. Here, being desirous of saving all the money possible, he searched for a chance to earn his passage on to Denver by some kind of labor. Fortune favored him as he found an Omaha man who wanted a driver for a team of horses and wagon which was being sent across the plains. "Hank" immediately qualified for the place and was inclined to be proud of his occupation until he was informed by an attendant at the outfitting Station that his horses were the poorest, no-account plugs that he had ever seen start for Pike's Peak. Undaunted, however, he took his place with thirty-five other outfits at Omaha, Nebraska, which formed the caravan making the start for Denver. Included in this party was H. A. W. Tabor and his first wife.
Makes Acquaintance With Road Agents
Arriving at Kearney, Nebraska, which was then on the out-edge of civilization, their unit was the only one permitted to proceed. They reached the first stage station at 1 o'clock in the morning, the ground being deeply covered with snow and here a weird scene of desolation and destruction met their gaze. Road Agents, the terror to all travellers in the pioneer days , had been there just ahead of them. In Inn keeper had been killed, the bartender chased away, the stage horses stolen and the premises ransacked. The only living creatures were an ox, which had been beaten nearly to death and a Newfoundland dog. The caravan halted, awaited the break of day, prepared breakfast and ate with rifles across their knees. The tenderfoot Yankee never blinked an eye, but thought that if adventure was what he was after he was getting his.
The journey continued over the seemingly never ending prairie, each day the monotonous squeak of wheels rolling through snow and sand, every night the camp watch and precaution against attack from Indians and road agents.
Denver was finally reached very late in 1869 or in the first days of 1870. Here the members of the caravan broke up, scattering hither and yon in the land of their dreams. The young Vermonter, like nearly every other mortal who braved the crossing of the plains in those days, was lured by the fabulous wealth in gold, said to exist under nearly every bush and tree in the Rocky Mountains. He did not linger long in Denver. He went to the mining camps. First to Black Hawk, later to California Gulch and Leadville. Here he learned how gold and precious metals were secured in stream and in the rock-ribbed hills. This did not appeal to his Yankee idea of gaining wealth.
Sells Bucks and Gains Small Fortune
He returned to Denver. His short sojourn in the West had given him the idea that the sheep and wool industry was and would continue to be one of the great industries of this country. With this opinion in mind he returned to Vermont, purchased a carload of well bred rams and shipped them out to Denver. This venture proved profitable, as did several subsequent shipments. This year found him with a considerable sum of money, and a love for the West which would never cool.
The bucks were secured in Vermont at $2.50 per head and quickly sold at Denver for $50.00 each.
Associates with Maj. Head at Conejos
During the course of his ram-selling business, one lot was purchased by Major Head to be delivered to Conejos in the San Luis Valley. "Hank" successfully made the delivery and thus was probably one of the first, if not the first white man to take steps necessary to improve the grade of sheep raised in this Valley.
This sheep transaction brought him in contact with Major Head, a character, and leader of affairs among the pioneers of Southwestern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. The major employed Mr. Dyer to look after his sheep interests. This was in '71 and '72 and these two years gave the Green Mountain boy thrills enough to last most mortals a life time.
Race for Fort Saves His Skin
There was a constant war fare between the settlers and renegade bands of Ute Indians. Every community had its stockade and fort with ammunition and firearms a plenty, but even with these it was nearly impossible for the stockgrowers to prevent the Indians from stealing large numbers of animals. Occasionally a member of the community would be ambushed by the Indians, and killed, and many a red men's soul has winged its flight into eternity shortly after a bulled pierced an innocent looking sage bush waving on a knoll, which was not deceiving to the keen-eyed and straight-shooting pioneer.
Shortly before the Major secured the services of "Hank" a Mexican sheep herder had killed an Indian and the tribe was very surly and treacherous. The new man was instructed to keep a "skinned eye" for any sign of trouble while he was looking after the flocks. On one occasion he, with two or (unreadable--ink blot) boys, were tending a herd (more ink blot) on the range near Conejos when word reached them that Indians were coming. Enough for the herders. They made tracks long, wide and fast for Conejos and the forts. Different with Henry. He would drive the sheep in, which he started to do. He had not proceeded far when a messenger, riding one horse and leading another, appeared and told him that Major Head instructed--"let the sheep go and come to headquarters forthwith." Mounting the riderless horse the race started for Conejos. The two riders urged their mounts, but the war party of thirty to fifty Utes gained. A shot now and then told them that some hard-riding brave was getting very close. As the point of safety appeared arrows came flying through the air and fell in front of them. At last the fatigued horses and fear-crazed men went through the gates of old Biedel fort while the doors were shut against a shower of arrows and bullets.
After this event Henry didn't need any urging to leave the lambs at play and hot-foot it to the fort when Indians were coming.
(To be Concluded Next Week)
Issue of Jan. 25, 1929 The San Juan Prospector
A Draft is Cashed in a Land Without Money Houses
On another occasion he secured a draft and went into New Mexico to buy sheep. The journey was taken and arrangement for the purchase of the sheep made without any great difficulty, but when the transaction was closed each owner of the sheep bought would demand U. S. Currency or gold in payment. This would entail a long, hard trip to Santa Fe. Such condition was explained to the old Don, who had assisted in buying the sheep. He said that he thought "mother" could cash the draft. Accordingly Mr. Dyer accompanied the Don to his domicile, where he met the folks of the house and was given food and welcome. He was then ushered into a large scantily furnished room, which was poorly lighted. A chair was placed in the middle of the floor with its back to the door. Instructions were given to sit in the chair and not turn his head. Following a short wait, after having complied with the request, the Donna of the household came into the room carrying a money container. She was dressed in the customary black, and wore moccasins on her feet. Around her ample waist a brightly colored girdle gathered closely the material of her wide skirt and this--save several pieces of filagree jewelry--was her only adornment. A heavy rawhide thong hung from the girdle to the end of which was attached a large brass ring securing a large number of keys. These were for the locks to the rooms and commissaries of the household and she had absolute control of the same.
The draft being properly endorsed, payment was made in $1.00, $2.00 and $5.00 bills. Mr. Dyer, after noting the largeness of the roll of bills, fearing that he might be held up, remarked that bills of a larger denomination would have been preferable, whereupon he was told to again take his seat. The Donna again came in, this time bringing $5.00, $10.00, $20.00 bills and some gold, and took away the smaller currency. Mr. Dyer often remarked that he supposed if he had received the change all in gold and then asked for diamonds he would have been accommodated.
Goes Into Sheep Business Meets Deluge
With the sheep purchased in New Mexico as a foundation he went into the sheep business for himself. As headquarters for his operations land near the present town of Alamosa was selected. Matters went smoothly for a time and indications were that the business would prove very profitable. One night the sheep were bedded in the corrals at headquarters, the men in charge went peacefully to sleep, awakening in the morning to find everything covered with water. The Rio Grande had gone on a rampage, spreading water for miles on both sides of its banks. The land which had appeared like a desert now looked like a minature (sic) sea. The sheep, together with horses wagons and chattels, were taken out of the water soaked region as quickly as possible and driven to Raton Creek. Here new headquarters were established where, even if a flood did come, the water had a chance to drain off.
Goes Farther Into Southwest--Views Aztec Ruins
During the course of the events mentioned Mr. Dyer, in company with two or three companions, made a trip into the Durango and Aztec sections which were then claimed by the Southern Utes, who very viciously opposed encroachement (sic) of the white men. This trip proved one of no little excitement and gave the members of the party very fair knowledge of those sections of Colorado and New Mexico. All considered settling there but gave up the idea because of the menacing attitude of the Indians. In the course of the party's travels the members came upon and viewed many of the Aztec and Cliff Dwellers' ruined habitations. One particularly well preserved Cliff house was entered where a perfect loom was found. This was carried outside by one of the men, who carefully took it apart to see how it was made. These men were among the very first white men to lay eyes upon these ruins which have become Nationally known and famous during the past few years.
Locates in Del Norte--Is Taken for a Holdup
Late in 1872 he sold his sheep interest to a nice advantage, and decided to locate in Del Norte, or Loma as it was then better known, as the community was showing signs of becoming a big town. Shortly after arrival he bought some land and desired that the deed be made a matter of record at the county seat. Conejos was then the seat of government, and Conejos county covered almost the entire Valley and surrounding mountains. Taking the deed bright and early one morning he straddled his favorite saddle horse and departed for Conejos. Reaching a point somewhere near where La Jara now stands, he noticed a team of horses hitched to a buggy drawn off to one side of the road. The buggy was occupied by the driver only. His horse was becoming weary so he rode over to the outfit and asked the occupant if he might ride with him so that the horse would be rested. The driver readily granted the request, but suggested that Dr. Dyer proceed to a near house and secure something to eat. The noon hour being but slightly past, this seemed to be the sensible thing to do so the advice was taken. While the meal was being eaten he noticed the team and buggy starting down the road. Believing that too much time had been taken in consuming the food, he hastily left the table, mounted his horse and took after the buggy on a high lope.
The driver, noting that he was being overtaken, stood up in the vehicle, lashed the team into a run and, while his long black coat tail streamed out behind him, tore over the road at a much greater speed than the rider could maintain. Henry wondered what was the matter with the "darned fool" and resolved that he would eventually catch up with this queer individual and find out the trouble. But each time he spurred his jaded horse into a faster pace a scene similar to the first followed and the queer one reached Conejos far in advance of his pursuer.
Arriving at the county seat the deed was placed on record and the Yankee retired after the rough ride of the day. Arising the next morning he asked a passing stranger if he knew this queer person and described his outfit. Amid peals of laughter, the man asked, "Didn't you notice that this man wore the dress of a priest?" Henry answered that he did not. "Yes, that is the Reverend Father in charge of this parish who has been raising funds with which to build a church here. He carried with him a large sum of money and he mistook you for a hold-up"
Lays Out Townsite
After looking over the situation at Loma and Del Norte he came to the decision that the best location for a town was west of the cliff of rocks standing west of the present townsite. Title was secured to this land and the ground was laid out into town lots with himself the most heavily interested. Although he spent a great amount of energy and almost all his capital in promoting this company West Del Norte and Loma fell behind while East Del Norte forged to the front. Realizing that he had made a mistake in this venture he gave it up and turned his attention to other commercial pursuits.
Marries Yankee Girl and Locates on Myers Creek
In 1873 he returned to Vermont where he married Martha Cheney, the lass who was his boyhood sweetheart in Brandon. Coming back to Del Norte with his bride, he was desirous of entering into the cattle raising and dairying business. Some time was spent in casting about for a suitable location for such occupations, but finally the Dyer Creek, a tributary to Myers or Embargo Creek was chosen. Here homestead entry was made upon land in 1876, at which time there was only an Indian trail leading up the creek. The first frame house ever constructed in this section was erected for the dwelling place on this land, and in connection with the stockraising and dairying business a saw mill was installed. The combination of industries proved profitable. Lumber was in great demand, beef was sky-high in price and dairy products were a luxury for which the people eagerly called.
The only neighbors in the Myers creek section were the Gredig family, the Bachmann family and the Ramon Martinez family. Later James Davies, Sr. purchased the Martinez land.
Residence on Dyer creek continued for three years, during which time purchase was made of the land on Myers creek now owned and farmed by Charles Rowe and the ranch just west of Del Norte, now occupied by James Simpson. The later place Mr. Dyer improved and moved on to it in 1879 and 1880.
Mrs. Martha Dyer passed away in 1894 leaving a young son, Harry, now Dr. H. C. Dyer of Seattle, Washington, and a small daughter, Daisy, now Mrs. C. W. Donnen of Del Norte, and the husband to mourn her death. In 1896 he married again for his wife, Miss Mary Cation, who died six years thereafter. Later he married Miss Margaret Woods, who survives him.
In the 90s he disposed of his land holdings west of Del Norte and bought land just east of town where he made a success of cattle raising and dairying until 1920, when he sold out to the Aydelotte brothers and removed to Seattle, Washington, where he was near his son, Dr. H. C. Dyer. Here he purchased a home, retired from active business pursuit and leisurely and pleasantly awaited the last summons.
Henry Mead Dyer was a force for good in any community. He was a charter member and Pay Master of the Del Norte Masonic Lodge. Was elected a member of the board of County Commissioners of Rio Grande county in the 80s, this position he held for a long period of years. He was one of the original incorporators of the old Del Norte Creamery Co., and took a pardonable pride in the fact that under his direction and management the institution paid substantial dividends to those interested. He entered into any movement for the betterment of mankind or the advancement of this country with energy and sound judgment.
So endeth the earthly history of the man who stood foresquare with the world, saw the humorous side, and found contentment in the performance of daily duties and met the hardships of existance with a will and a conquering smile.
Contributed by Jan Dyer.