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.

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