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Pioneering Maes Creek

Maes Creek, Huerfano County — In the mid-1850s, Jose Antonio Lujan ventured far from his New Mexico home, thus changing his life and the lives of the six generations to follow. Perhaps scouting for game, he left the San Juan/Taos area and joined friends and relatives on a trip north. In and out of the Pine Ridge reservation, the men lived among Oglala Sioux. About 1856 Lujan married an Indian woman, Makigle (Resting on the Ground), daughter of Red Track and Good Cow. As restrictions on the reservation became irksome and conflicts arose directed at native americans, the Lujan family left. Heading south for the Big Thompson area in Colorado, they remained long enough for three children to be baptized. By then the Civil War was over and, with the feeling of optimism common after a war, the family explored and found good water and good soil, plus warmer winters, at the west foot of Greenhorn Mountain in southern Colorado. First a teepee was the home, then a one-room log house was built along Maes Creek, named for Jose Benito Maes. Just a hop and a skip away over a hill was Turkey Creek, also settled by those leaving New Mexico. Good spring water came up around a large rock at the new home; the family built a well around it, and it is still used by those living on the homestead. The sweeping views across

the valley to the ring of mountains from Greenhorn to the east, the Spanish Peaks to the south, and Big and Little Sheep and the Wet Mountains to the west, caused the early pioneers to stop and settle into a moment of peacefulness. Other families moved to the Maes Creek valley: the Medina, Martinez, and Montes families were among the newcomers. Marriage, homesteading, digging irrigation ditches, farming barley, alfalfa, and beans, and herding sheep, all brought the scattered families together in mutual help and for celebrations. Children worked, although later two schools were established (Upper Maes Creek and Lower Maes Creek), each with 35 to 40 students. The schools do not exist today. Arthur F. Maes, in his book ‘Santa Fe to Maes Creek,’ tells the story of two young boys herding sheep alone. They split up the herd, and each took half before a thunderstorm struck. A couple men, went to help the boys get the sheep across an arroyo before it flooded. When it started to hail, the father protected his seven-year-old son while on horseback by covering the child with his body, but the 11-year-old was caught out in the open. He crawled under the sheep, and was safe from the hail. Hopefuilly the thick wool protected the sheep. Lujan received a land patent in 1884 from the government for the 160 acres he homesteaded. The Maes Creek population never grew enough to warrant a post office or to be considered for a voting precinct. During the 1940s, the families began to disperse during World War II. Some Maes Creek men and women entered the military; others left for better paying jobs. The hardy ones remained. The story, including the St. Joseph Penitent morada, continues next week. Information is from many sources. Myra Vialpando Trujillo gave the first information to the writer with her writeup for the Colorado Centennial Farm designation. Her father, Jess Vialpando, was generous with his time and photos and stories. A cousin, Arthur F. Maes, and his book ‘Santa Fe to Maes Creek’ and photos were invaluable. Chuck Vialpando, Nick Vialpando, and Yvette Vialpando all added details. The History Detective is a service of the Huerfano County Historical Society. 719-738-2840.

Norman E. Wolak

Norman E. Wolak 11/11/1931 ~ 2/11/2024 Norman E. Wolak, 92, of Walsenburg, Colorado, passed away on February 11, 2024. He was born on November 11,

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