Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ollie Ozias, Midwife in Early Fort Collins

Recently I came across an interview recording I made in 1988 of "The Baxter Girls", the four daughters of Larimer County, Colorado pioneer Frank Eugene Baxter (1852-1937). I reviewed the video in preparation for having it transferred to DVD to share with their relatives and came across a most interesting story, one I had forgotten.

In response to the question "Were any of you ladies born at home," Leone Baxter Thayer seemed a bit surprised by the question and then told me "We were all born at home!" She went on to explain that their mother was attended by a midwife, a woman named Ollie Ozias (she first said Annie Ozias), who, I was told, birthed many babies in the communities of LaPorte and Fort Collins in the early days of those towns. I was intrigued by Leone's description of this spunky little lady whose entire focus was on the baby "and you'd better not get in her way." Leone's memory of Ollie Ozias was so good because Leone was eleven years old when Ollie attended the birth of Leone's youngest sister, Veda in 1916. In fact, Ollie was there when Leone's older sister, Norma Baxter Salisbury, gave birth to her first child, some twenty years after she was born in 1902. When I heard that I commented that Ollie must have seemed like one of the family by then and Leone's thoughtful comment was, no, she was not special to us that way for she birthed all the babies in our area.

Leone described Ollie as a small, intense woman who wore her long, dark hair pile high on her head and moved quickly and with purpose as she attended the mother and newborn baby. About Ollie's personality, she said she knew Ollie had been married for she had a young son but she couldn't imagine a man putting up with Ollie's assertive ways. She thought the very traits that made Ollie a great midwife would make her a difficult wife.

I searched the local Fort Collins and Larimer County historical archives for information about Ollie Ozias and only found her name and Fort Collins address in the old city directories but never any reference to her occupation, midwife. Finally, there was an entry that told me Ollie Ozias was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Veneman. Searching for Veneman I found Ollie, born Mary Olive Veneman in March 1861 in Ohio, the fifth child of Andrew Veneman and Ellen Martin Veneman. She married Joseph W. Ozias about 1879 and gave birth to her only child, Carlton in 1881. She and Joseph Ozias divorced but I don't know what year. By 1900 she was living in Fort Collins with her son, Carlton, and Joseph Ozias lived out his life at the National Military Home in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Thanks to a young woman on whose user name is evenemon I have these family photos of the Veneman family to include here. I still have not found any record of Ollie Veneman Ozias as the venerated midwife in early Fort Collins and LaPorte. There must be many families who owe this woman a thank you and perhaps some will see my post and validate her importance to the history of our area. I would like to make sure she is not forgotten by including details of her career in the historical documents of the local archive.

Ollie Ozias died December 27, 1942 and is buried at Grandview Cemetery in Fort Collins. She was 81. God only knows how many babies first felt Ollie's sure hands on their little bodies.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

♫ Diggin' Up Bones ♪

On October 31, 1972, Halloween, we moved out here in the country to our little piece of heaven on earth, a small acreage with an old farm house that had most recently been a migrant workers' shack, a barn, silo, granary, and chicken house. My in-laws helped us buy the place from the nearby landowner, F. G. Martinez and his wife, Gertrude, who lived east of us at the Martinez Corner, a ninety-degree-turn on the highway that has been the site of many car accidents over the years. Bob and I were both working full time so we built on our house evenings and weekends. With limited time, energy, and money the construction of our home became a lifestyle, a long, drawn out affair that allowed us to keep the costs down but sometimes drove us a bit crazy.

We've long been interested in the history of our place and thanks to the land abstract we received from Mr. Martinez we can track the change of ownership over the years but have yet to identify the builder of the house and barn or the year they went up. We were fortunate to hear from a couple of people who lived here around 1918-1925, renters who farmed the land for awhile and moved on. The house itself revealed a few of its secrets including an old photograph that Bob found inside a bedroom wall when he was tearing out the plaster and laths upstairs. On the back of the photo someone wrote "Billy and Jack Schwartz". I've included the photo here.

I've been keeping notes about the place since 1973 but made little progress in reconstructing the history of our place until recently with the advent of the internet and the use of Now I know who Billy and Jack Schwartz were and have learned much more about the August Gross family who lived here in 1920. My hope is to gather enough information to write a history of our place and flesh it out with the names of the various owners and renters. I'd like to know who planted the old apple trees and the seckel pear tree that is about 100 years old now and barely hanging on.

In about 1974 we disassembled and discarded the chicken house whose construction was much inferior to the other buildings here. We had the silo torn down for it was crumbling at its base and presented a hazard to our horses. The old barn is on its last legs too, temporarily propped up by wood poles wedged in place along the east side. The combination of strong west winds and cribbing horses took it's toll.  In 2011 we had a new roof put on the granary and braced the building on the east as it was starting to lean that way, just like the barn.

In addition to the dome we built a new pole barn on the place and an enclosed garden surrounded by cedar fencing. Aside from that the most obvious improvement to the place is the addition of trees, lots of trees. It's been almost 100 years since Billy and Jack Schwartz lived here and we've been here for forty-three. We love our home and would like to think we gave new life to this hard luck farm and made it a place of good memories for many, the Russell Place.