by Nancy Christofferson
LA VETA- La Veta used to have more than her share of characters and one of these was Albert Parks.
Parks deserved to be a character, or perhaps was destined to be one, because he was born in Hogeye, Arkansas. His birthdate was Sept. 3, 1869.
When he was in his 20s, Albert headed west to make his fortune mining in the Cripple Creek area. He’d heard a miner could make as much as $3 a day there. From there he wandered down to Cañon City, and ended up in La Veta around the turn of the century.
Albert was a prospector at heart, and spent much time in the mountains. He also bought or homesteaded some land about five miles southeast of La Veta. He raised crops and livestock, including hogs (perhaps in honor of his birthplace). Whether he was often dissatisfied with his crops or had some plan all along, he often raised a crop of corn just to let the hogs loose on it. He did the same thing with his potatoes. Albert also homesteaded a mountain place in Bonnett Park.
Parks evidently never married. In 1907 his sister Emma Oldham moved from Springdale, AR to make her home with Albert. She brought two of her daughters, Katherine and Juanita, and two years later the other two, Annie and Eulah, joined them.
Albert and Emma had a sister named Linda. She and her husband, Captain Gideon S. White, residents of Vinita, OK, were annual summer visitors at the Parks’ ranch home. White was a native of Tennessee who fought in the Civil War with a company of volunteers and in postwar years worked as a deputy for the court of the famous Judge Parker in Arkansas. His job was to capture criminals and suspects roaming at large in the Indian Territory and haul them back to Fort Smith. He later became a school teacher for some 20 years. His trip to La Veta in the summer of 1914 proved to be his last as he contracted typhoid and died. He is buried in the La Veta Cemetery. His funeral was one of an honored soldier, with 19 military guards.
Emma Oldham died the same year. In 1913 she had married G.F. Estes, the second of his three wives, but she died just a year later. Soon after her death, her daughter Annie married Edward Merritt of Walsenburg. Six years later Eulah married and in 1923 Katharine committed suicide while attending college. Juanita married a man named Corbridge and left the area.
The crux of the matter is that Albert had plenty of company for about 10 years, and then none. Like a true bachelor, however, his needs were simple and he took care of himself.
Hopefully, Albert was a better prospector than he was a farmer/rancher. He borrowed some money and then defaulted on the loan. The land was sold in 1928 to neighbors Andrew Duzenack and John Bowdino to settle the debt. Albert returned to the mountains to find his fortune.
Soon after Albert purchased the Bullseye Mine on the northeast face of the West Spanish Peak. Later he bought the Whale and Whale Extension farther west on the same mountain – the mines owned by Robert Todd Lincoln and his father-in-law back in the 1880s. These mines had been operational for decades, and had occasional “revivals”, but the mineral was too inferior to make much money. He was seeking gold, silver and lead, and the latter was the one found in abundance. Albert must have thought there was pay dirt in there somewhere, though, because he held onto these mines.
Whether Albert ever owned a car or truck is unknown – what is known is that he walked to work in his mine every day that he could. This is a pretty good hike for anyone, but Albert was getting old.
In the 1940s Albert moved into a three-room apartment in what was then referred to as the Dobies. We call it Francisco Fort Museum. He occupied the same rooms as did Colonel John M. Francisco 50 years earlier. He was still walking to the Bullseye mine on a regular basis. He retained his interest in minerals and donated a large collection to the museum when it was formed in 1957 and he was evicted from his apartment.
In the 1960s Albert was losing his edge and entered Trinidad State Nursing Home. Many of his La Veta friends gathered there on Sept. 3, 1969 to celebrate his 100th birthday. When he died the following autumn at age 101, he was La Veta’s oldest citizen.
As late as the 1980s, Parks’ hikes up the Wahatoya Valley to the Bullseye were still legendary among the ranchers along his route.
Wins over 20 awards at the annual Colorado Press Association convention, including General Excellence for the second year in a row World Journal Staff Report