Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Anna Dudley, Pioneer
“Mrs. [Anna] Dudley was an ornery old gal, and just as tough,” Leonard Fleming said. Perhaps she had to be, for she was married to a criminal.
Carl Dudley was a miner and horseman, who supplemented his earnings by thievery. Married in 1900 to Mrs. Dunbar, of Baggs, Wyoming, he left her after a year to pursue the rumors of riches in the Battle Lake mining district. By 1903, he filed for divorce, but by 1905 he was married again, this time to the “ornery old gal” Fleming spoke of.
Anna Dudley had a grown son from a previous marriage, and was probably pregnant with Dudley's child when the two moved in together in 1905. The tone of their marriage is a sad foreshadowing of things to come: in January, Dudley is arrested for stealing provisions from a railroad tie camp in Hog Park, Wyoming. Dudley used a four-horse team and wagon, and tracks clearly led to his ranch. Some of the stolen items were found in the cabin when authorities searched. Lucky for the newlyweds, the case was dismissed due to the crime being committed over the state line.
In 1909, Mrs. Dudley's nineteen-year-old son died of unknown causes. He was apparently working at the Three Forks Ranch at the time of his death, and Mrs. Gardner (who was childless, and had recently lost her husband) buried him in the family plot with a grand granite monument, something Mrs. Dudley certainly could not have afforded. Mrs. Dudley inherited her son's homestead claim, which she proved up on in 1917. Knowing an opportunity when one is presented, Mrs. Dudley also filed on her own homestead claim, which she patented in 1910. By 1916, Carl Dudley had abandoned her and daughter, Mary, and when Mrs. Dudley tried to prove up on Carl Dudley's homestead claim, she was challenged in court. Making the best of the situation, Mrs. Dudley moved into Columbine to send Mary to school full-time. She took over as proprietress of the Columbine Hotel and Restaurant.
Rural Colorado could be a difficult place for a single mother, homesteading a ranch nine miles from town. “She would put a dog collar on her little girl's neck and chain her to the cabin,” Fleming reported. She wasn't above a little deception to make a dollar: “Mrs. Dudley asked Mr. H. R. Temple if he wanted to buy half a beef, so she sent it down by stage driver. She had a colt tied in the barn, and it jumped over the manger and broke its neck, so she butchered it out and sold it as beef!” This toughness was necessary in the wilderness: repeatedly, the stagecoach would fail to make it through, and Mrs. Dudley and her daughter would snowshoe the nine miles from Columbine to their home.
Mrs. Dudley made the acquaintance of homesteader Barney Chesterman sometime before 1917, and took a certain liking to one another. Apparently, they were not very discrete about the relationship, and in July, 1918, the pair were jailed for “maintaining improper relations” as one local newspaper delicately put it. Bluntly stated, it was adultery, and after paying their $750 bonds, Mrs. Dudley filed for divorce on grounds of desertion from Carl Dudley. In April, 1919, Chesterman and Anna Dudley married in Steamboat Springs. Whether they had more children, were happy or unhappy, or simply found life easier together than apart, is unknown.