LA VETA — William Bernard Hamilton and brother James Gillespie Hamilton were two of the nine surviving children of James Gillespie (1816-1869) and Cornelia Overton Bernard (1822-1912) Hamilton, both natives of Virginia. There were five brothers and four sisters. The brothers were William Bernard, James Gillespie, John Baskin, Barnard Finley and Seth Hayes. The sisters were Ann Reid Francisco, Cornelia Catherine Riley, Ella Detter Jones and Fannie Buckner Simpson. Of these, eight made La Veta their home at some point in their lives. [These are the children who made the trip from California to Missouri via New York in 1864, though NOT by way of the Panama Canal! A historically correct note was received from an alert reader pointing out the canal was not completed until 1914. According to family journals, the trip was made by crossing Nicaragua.] After James Gillespie Sr. died of typhoid, his widow remained in Westport with the younger siblings, Ann, Cornelia, Barnard, Ella, Fannie and Hayes, ages 20 down to six. Once W.B. and J.G. Jr. were established in what would become La Veta, the rest of the family traveled to Colorado every year to spend the summer. Thus it was that Ann met and married Andrew L. Francisco, the brother of John M. Francisco, builder of Francisco Plaza. Whether she was
enchanted with frontier life or the man who was 24 years older than she, she made the plaza her home for the next 50 years, until in old age she moved to the San Luis Valley to be close to her daughters. She died in 1928. While the rest of the family was in and out of La Veta, John Baskin Hamilton, who was born in 1851, was hard at work in a bank in Council Grove, Kansas. He married Agnes Munkres in 1872. He owned a farm in Kansas for 17 years and also traded with the Osage Indians. In 1910 he retired and the couple moved to La Veta. John bought the old Barnard ranch about two miles east of town between Valley Road and the railroad tracks. Coincidentally, he also bought the adjoining ranch that had belonged to the Dotsons, and W.B. Hamilton had purchased a former Dotson place himself, though on the St. Charles in Pueblo County. While he bought and sold several other properties, John kept this ranch until he sold all his livestock and machinery in September 1930. He also built a place in town. In 1919 he purchased lots from his sister Ann Francisco and began construction of an adobe house of Spanish style to match Francisco Plaza, to which it was physically attached. The newspaper reported the plan was “to help keep alive the historic portion of La Veta” and “make the plaza look as it did in the old frontier days.” As soon as it was completed, John began remodeling and adding onto the structure, then concentrated on landscaping the grounds and planting a garden. In 1923 John was elected town treasurer, and served until 1925. When the new First National Bank was chartered in February 1924, John was on the board of directors. In 1927-28 he was president of the board. John sold his interest just a year or so later. John died of pneumonia Dec. 4, 1930. His widow offered the home for sale in early 1931 but whether it was purchased or bequeathed, the next owner was John’s nephew Yager Hamilton, only child of W.B. and Louisa. John and Agnes never had children. Agnes died about 1952. Barnard Hamilton was a resident of La Veta in 1880 when he was 23 years old and operating a livery stable. In 1882 he had a new livery and residence built, both on Francisco Street. He had married a friend of his younger sisters, Laura Elmore, in 1879. In 1883 he was involved with a mercantile store in Trinidad but later in the year the family was reported to be back in La Veta and living in a tent. They were included in the 1885 census in La Veta as a farmer, a wife and three daughters, living next door to his older brother J.G. Jr. The family moved to Kansas City to live and eventually had seven children, only four of whom survived to adulthood, and all girls. Barnard worked at several jobs in Missouri, streetcar conductor, gardener, dry goods clerk. After Laura died in 1925, Bernard moved to La Veta. He eventually built up a farm of two and a half city blocks in the northeast corner of town where he raised garden vegetables, fruit trees and chickens. At least two of his daughters also owned land in the same vicinity and they called their farm Mountain View Place. Barnard’s home, valued at $315 in 1930, burned down in 1934. Barnard died in 1935. The youngest brother, and the only Hamilton sibling not born in Missouri, was Seth Hayes, called Hayes. He was born during the family’s short sojourn in San Jose, California, in 1863. Hayes lived in La Veta only a short while, though he owned both town and farm property. He too had lived in Council Grove, traded with the Osage, and enjoyed many interests. By 1890 he was living in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he signed the application to enter 240 acres for a townsite. He was a founder of Oklahoma A&M College, now called Oklahoma State University. Two of the sisters were summer residents only. Ann Francisco was a longtime resident. The fourth sister, Fannie Simpson, moved to La Veta after the death of her husband. She occasionally lived in the plaza and served as postmaster in 1916-18. At the time of her resignation, she was replaced by her only child, Cornelia, who then served as postmaster until 1921, and again from 1931 to 1933. Cornelia married Roy Coleman, one time co-owner of the Coleman Drug Store and member of the Coleman Brothers building and masonry family. As to some in-laws of W.B.! He had married Louisa, the daughter of Judge James and Mary Berry Yager. For more than 10 years, W.B. employed an Ed Berry as builder and handyman. Ed had accompanied him from Missouri in 1870. He was probably a cousin of Louisa. It was Ed who was credited with building the first handmade rafters and shingle roof in Huerfano County when he covered the flat roof of Francisco Plaza to receive his cousin Louisa in 1870. He was the one who built homes for W.B. and Barnard, as well as Barnard’s livery and many of the homes in McComb Addition. Ed remained in La Veta for many years, working in various jobs, including town marshal, farmer, blacksmith, wagon maker, bridge builder. He bought a place south of town and built a home beside the lake there. This is now known as Town Lake. His wife was a granddaughter of Albert Gallatin Boone. This active and public minded family has been associated with La Veta and Huerfano County for nearly 150 years.