A tailing tale  

By Maggie Magoffin

Becky Crozier of Golden, Colorado contacted me awhile back and asked about submitting a story about the moving of a historical home in Gilpin County. Becky works with George Nelson, currently of Littleton, Colorado, compiling his memoirs. One of his stories includes his father, Martin Nelson, moving his historical home from Quartz Valley to Chase Gulch. I am saving that story for next week, as this week I want to share with you a few tales about Martin Nelson in his early years.

George has a wealth of stories and I hope to be able to share even more over the coming months. George records his stories and Becky transcribes them just as he tells them to her. As best I can, I share the tales as told by George.

The Tale of Martin Nelson as told by his son, George Nelson

I’d like to say a few words about Martin Nelson and his life. Tell a few stories: some true, some false, some made up, I guess.

Anyway, Martin was born on Dory Hill. That is about two miles north of where the Ameristar is now.

Martin’s father, Nils Nelson, and his two brothers came to America sometime between 1850 & 1860.

Nils, homesteaded 640 acres in Four Mile Gulch and Dory Hill Gulch. He built a two-room log house up there with a large barn. Both structures are still standing and the original house is inside the present home.

In 1870, Nils married Anna Anderson from Golden and moved her up to the old house. During their twenty-four years of marriage, they had six boys and three girls and my father, Martin, was the seventh child, born in 1903.

By then, my grandfather, Nils, had changed his name to the American spelling of Nels and he started up a school in the old school house. He took applications for teachers and I guess he hired some of them. At one time, there were only nine kids in that schoolhouse and six of them were my father, Martin, and his siblings.

After Martin completed the 8th grade, he went to work digging tunnels in the mines on the family property. His three brothers worked in Caribou and his mother and youngest sister were over there so he rode on horseback and then would spend the night and ride back home the next day.

When Martin was 19, he and his brothers worked on the Moffat Tunnel. They had a team of horses and went to work hauling supplies and working for that Moffat Tunnel outfit. He’d load up, hook his team of horses up, and go through Rollinsville, over to Nederland and then down to Boulder and load the wagon up at night. He’d spend the night down there and then get up the next morning and drive back up to the East Portal. It took a full day – kind of a rough ride all the way down and up and back in two days.

Martin’s oldest sister married Gus Jacobs and they lived in Rollinsville. They had three girls and one boy. Gus and Martin were friendly, I guess, as both were horsemen. Gus was from Germany. He and his brother, Ted, married two sisters Selma and May. May had three girls.

In January of ’29, Martin married Dollie Van Matre, and I was born in May of 31.

About that time, Martin and Gus were doing a little bootlegging. Demand exceeded supply, and Martin ran out of shine at one point. His moonshiner was mad at him for something and refused to sell to him anymore. So Martin followed another known booze runner up to Tolland and up into the woods where he hid there until the bootleggers came out and left. Martin found their kegs of whiskey, loaded them up and took them back to Rollinsville. There he unloaded the stash onto the dirt floor of the corral at the stables in Rollinsville. The stables were located down underneath the bar of the Stage Stop. Gus and his family lived straight up the old north road from the Stage Stop. Martin moved an entire load of manure and straw on top of the stash, cleaned up the stable and corral, and dusted everything so that they wouldn’t realize it was fresh. And it’s a good thing too, because the bootleggers missed their stash, and came down hunting for it. They went all through town asking questions, asking if anyone had seen anything. So, Martin left it there six months for things to cool down before he finally started to unload it, selling a little at a time. The bootleggers eventually found out it was Martin who stole their whiskey, so they turned Martin in to a revenuer and he spent six months in the federal pen. I don’t know the exact time and date, but it was about the time I was born. One of my folks told the story later about when Martin was arrested and the revenuers confiscated his new ‘32 automobile.

While he was in the pen, his father and oldest brother passed away. The story goes that his oldest brother, David, fell out of a window at a hotel in Denver. Martin and I weren’t any too happy that they buried my grandfather and uncle up in Central City, so we went and dug them up and took them up to Dory Hill and reburied them.

So Dave, Oscar, Grandma & Grandpa, Martin, Wallace, my brothers, my mother and my stepfather – they’re all buried up there on Dory Hill.

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