by Nancy Christofferson
HUERFANO — The Jan. 29, 1941 issue of Walsenburg’s World-Independent carried some bad news. Former Walsenburg attorney and State Senator Charles Hayden was dead at the age of 69.
Hayden was a member of two of Huerfano County’s pioneering families, and was born near Badito along the Huerfano River on July 25, 1872. He was one of the five children of Daniel Justin Hayden and the former Mary E. Withington, and he was very proud of his heritage and familial ties.
His father, D.J., according to Charles, was born in Ohio in 1834 and went to work as a cabin boy on a steamboat plying the Mississippi River at a young age. In 1849, still according to his son, D.J. got the fever and joined the gold rush to California. This would have made him 15 years old. Charles wrote that his father did not make it all the way to California, however, and left the ship at Rio de Janeiro. From there D.J. walked across South America to Valparaiso, Chile. There he boarded another ship for the trip home, which was made via the Isthmus of Panama. What he really did for the missing years was not recorded, but he told Charles he’d arrived at the gold fields of Colorado when there was just one cabin at the future site of Denver in 1857.
Mary Withington was born at Fort Des Moines in 1841, where her father was the gunsmith for the Sac and Fox Indian tribes. The family moved to Kansas in 1844 with the Sacs and Foxes when they were relocated there by the government. The Withingtons continued west in early days of the 1860s to settle in Huerfano County. Mary had at least two siblings, Albert and Kate, who made this move to Colorado.
The Withingtons owned a ranch south of the Huerfano, not too far, about seven miles, from the “stuttering Worthingtons,” a name that has been confusing for historians tracing the Withingtons. Apparently the latter family came from England, and the “stutterers” were brothers Charles and Jim. They lived on the later Major Ranch in the 1870s and ‘80s, and the Withingtons lived farther north, nearer Badito.
By the time the 1870 census was taken, the Withingtons had departed from Huerfano County. Mary had married D.J. in the mid 1860s, supposedly at Bent’s Old Fort, but obviously at Bent’s new fort, Big Timbers, since the former had been burnt to a crisp in 1852, and the latter lasted until 1866 when it was destroyed by a flood on the Arkansas River. Charles’s account has his mother riding the stagecoach along the old Santa Fe Trail to the fort, but not from where, and marrying in 1863. The couple then moved to Pueblo where they lived at the corner of Fourth and Santa Fe streets. Around 1864 they moved to the area around Badito on the Huerfano. Their home was between a quarter and a half mile upstream from Pino Plaza, or about halfway between the old communities of Badito and St. Mary.
D.J. built a grist mill using water power from the Huerfano. The mill was three stories high and had a handmade shingle roof. Nearby he’d built a four room adobe house where Charles was born in 1875. Charles recalled people came from as far as New Mexico and the San Luis Valley to have their grain ground since it was the only commercial mill in the region.
D.J. became county judge in 1869, probably by appointment, and served until 1872. After his mill fell down in the 1880s, possibly due to flooding, D.J. turned his hand to farming. This didn’t work out. His wife had begun teaching the local students, who had no school, so she may have held classes in the family home. She taught in Spanish and for second year students she introduced English. She taught for seven or eight years.
Charles learned to speak Spanish well from his mother teaching the language and his playmates speaking it. He also remembered Ute neighbors when a reservation for Ouray’s people was located nearby.
The 1870 census shows Daniel as 34 years old, Mary as 27 and their only child, Dora, as five. Living with them at the time was Mary’s sister Kate, 19, who in 1873 married Charles Otto Unfug [Sr.] of Walsenburg.
In 1884 D.J. was elected county judge, and served until 1887.
D.J. meanwhile kept prospecting for the gold he’d failed to find in Denver. He didn’t find it here, either. In 1892 he took note of an odd geologic formation on Greenhorn Mountain not far from his home. He started digging, and in 1895 discovered tin. The Hayden Mining Company was incorporated in 1895 with $1,200,00 in capital. This didn’t work out all that well either, though work continued for a few more years, and ore was extracted.
Charles claimed to be a graduate of Walsenburg’s high school before there was a high school. How ever he did it, possibly through tutoring from his mother, he entered the University of Colorado and graduated, then completed law school and passed his bar exam in 1899. However, he went to Saguache and became a Spanish teacher instead of hanging up his shingle. In 1901 he returned to Walsenburg to be city attorney. In 1903 he married Freda Flebbe in Denver. Freda had spent time in Walsenburg as a saleslady for Unfug Mercantile and as a teacher at the Beeville School near town. The couple had two daughters, Eleanor Louise who never married and one with no discernible first name who married Mont Cambier.
In 1904 D.J. died at the home of his daughter Mrs. Unfug in Walsenburg and his wife followed him in 1918. They are buried in Masonic Cemetery though Daniel has no marker.
Charles made his home in Walsenburg, living in a brick house opposite the old Methodist Church on Capitol Hill. He soon became county attorney and also served as deputy district attorney. He was elected state representative on the Republican ticket in 1908, and state senator in 1910. His district covered Huerfano, Conejos and Costilla counties. He was re-elected and served at least until 1916. During that time he was still county attorney and maintained offices in the courthouse. After his state and county service he continued his private legal practice through the 1920s and ‘30s.
Charles’s older sister Dora married August T. Unfug in 1886. They had several children, including Dan, Fritz and August Jr., before August Sr. died in 1924. Dora and her youngest son, August Jr., moved to Lakeside, CA, where in December 1940 they died in their home. Rumor said they had been overcome by leaking gas. A month later Charles, on Jan. 28, 1941, was found dead in his car parked near the old Ideal Mine south of Walsenburg. He had died of carbon monoxide poisoning, by his own hand.