A tailing tale of a fire and a runaway Ford Model T

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Life in the Early Days

By Maggie Magoffin

From “Life in the Early Days” By James K. Ramstetter (1910-1996). Permission of use granted by Mary Ramstetter

The fire at Guy Hill Grange

It was a nice February afternoon. The weather was cool. The year was 1919. The yard was full of about twenty buggies, each with a team of horses tied to posts. I don’t believe there were any automobiles there. Most of the people had gone inside and gathered in the large kitchen and the dining room which was also quite large. All were waiting for the upstairs hall to warm up as my grandfather had built a fire in the hall stove when all the people started to come in. John Wickstrom was Grange Master, and my grandfather, Henry Ramstetter, was secretary of the grange. The grange had been organized during 1915.

The upstairs hall was a very large room with six windows on the west side, two on the south side and no widows on the north end and east side of the room. At night the room was lit by about ten wall-mounted kerosene lamps, each having a mirror in back to reflect the light. A small table with some books stood near the stove and was believed to have been the cause of the pending trouble.

The numerous conversations going on in the dining room suddenly ended when something fell over with a loud bumping noise upstairs. My grandfather hurried upstairs to see what was going on and soon returned and reported that the upstairs hall was on fire. He told all the men to do what they could to put the fire out, but to him the most important thing was to save his papers and records. He proceeded to gather them up while the men folk went into action!

We were fortunate to have a large watering trough used to water passing teams of horses out by the road. The grandparents milked a small herd of cows, so a number of milk cans of the five and ten-gallon kind were on hand. A path went up the hill to the house to an outside entrance to the large upstairs sleeping room on the east side of the hall. We soon had a steady brigade of two-man teams, each carrying a milk can full of water.

All the women and children were outside observing the fire which had started to burn through the outside of the north end of the hall. Pretty soon a considerable quantity of water was coming through the wall, and the fire was out.

Everyone went back inside as though nothing had happened. The grange meeting was held in the crowded dining room. The meeting was concluded with the usual delicious luncheon, and then everybody got in their buggies and went home.

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

I was on my way home from school driving a horse and cart. About half way home I could see up the road a ways and noticed a Model T Ford sedan coming down the road way too fast. I figured that its brakes had failed. The road was only one track wide so I turned the horse and cart around and started back down the hill. We were moving as fast as we could, hoping to reach a turnout so the car could pass.

The car was gaining on me, while I was whipping the horse to make her go faster. The driver had his head out the side window and was shouting, “Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!” I thought he was going to collide with me for sure. He suddenly swerved the Model T sedan into the bank to avoid hitting me. The sedan rolled over on its side and stopped. I turned the horse and cart around and came back to the car. I got out of the cart to see if I could help in any way. The driver asked me to climb up on the side of the sedan and open the door. I was only thirteen years old at the time, and the door was too heavy for me to open. The river then asked me to help get his wife up through the window. The engine was still running, even though the car was lying on its side. I told the driver to shut the engine off. He did.

His wife was a very large woman and had trouble fitting through the window opening. With me lifting, and him pushing, we finally got her through the window. We got her turned around so she was sitting with her feet hanging down over the side. I got back down on the ground, and he asked me to lift her down to the ground. I got hold of her as best I could, but she was too heavy.

I yelled, “Oh, God, Lady, I am going to drop you!” Drop her I did. She was unhurt, but shaken.

This was a one-track road. No one could get by. Quite a few people going both directions were waiting. One fellow volunteered to go back to Golden to get a wrecker, which took about an hour’s time. Actually there were enough people around who could have righted the sedan without any trouble. They got the sedan out of the way so people could pass. I turned the horse and cart around and headed home. The horse was in a hurry as she was late for her evening feed.

From Maggie: If you have any interesting stories about family or acquaintances who have lived or still live in Gilpin County or the surrounding areas, please contact me. You can reach me at 303-881-3321. Email me at, or mail me at P.O. Box 746495, Arvada, Colorado 80006-6495.

Be sure to check out my website for past columns at

The first two books in my Misadventures of the Cholua Brother’s Series are available on my website, on, and for $12.99 ea. + shipping. They can also be bought through the Gilpin Historical Museum and Mountain Menagerie in Central City. Watch for the release of the third and final book in the series Bonanza Beans available Spring 2016

Cholua Brothers Mining Company specialty coffees can also be purchased at Mountain Menagerie in Central City or from their website at

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