Our community lost two very important and interesting seniors last week — Nick Gray who turned 100 in February and Berniece King McClanahan who would have turned 100 on Dec. 14. I heard that Berniece was really looking forward to her upcoming birthday. My condolences to the families of these two amazing people. I feel so fortunate for having known them.
Not long after we bought our land on Horsefly in the 1980s and began learning more about the area, I started researching deeper; interviewing people whose families homesteaded and went to school there. It was all so fascinating and I hoped to one day write a book. That hasn’t happened yet, but I do have enough material—someday.
That’s how I met the fascinating Berniece King McClanahan.
I arranged a trek with the help of people such as Berniece Trone Roberts Frasier, Violet Sly Haskill Becker, Fritz Brennecke, Warren Trone and several others. Each of them mentioned the John King family who were well-known for raising awesome vegetables. Finally on the day of the trek, I met Berniece and her husband Bill McClanahan. She was so much help, talking at the various stops, telling stories of growing up in the area.
One of those stops was at the location of the Mountain View School. I was able to photograph her with a couple of classmates, Warren Trone and Berniece Frasier. I learned that one of McClanahan’s teachers at Mountain View was my aunt Lula Ensign McNew.
I decided to get several of the former residents of Horsefly together for lunch at my house, along with Aunt Lula and Uncle Melvin. That was so much fun and I learned a lot. My one mistake was not having a recorder going the entire time—and of course I was too busy to sit and take the notes I wish I had taken; however it still remains one of the most important days in my life!
In an interview with Warren Trone he told that Berniece, Marie, Mable and Bob King used to ride their horses to the Mountain View School. He also told that a lot of the families who lived on Horsefly attended dances at the Howard Flats School.
Berniece Frasier enjoyed the long winter evenings when neighbors would get together at each other’s homes, saying “There were no boundaries because the fences were covered with snow. The grown-ups would play cards by the light of oil lamps while the kids would go moonlight tobogganing. Some of the neighbors I remember were the Haskills, Albins, Hoveys, Hermans, Kings and Hendricksons.”
Frasier also recalled cutting seed potatoes in the big cellar at the Hendricksons and going to dances down at Leopard Creek. “Dad would heat up rocks, bricks or sad irons and put straw in the bottom of the sled with the warm rocks and blankets and we would all bundle up and go.”
Trone said, “Old John King, he got to haulin’ his produce down to Montrose. It was quite a trip by wagon...Leave about 4:00 in the mornin’.”
Years ago, W. F. Wilcox used to write an interesting column in the Daily Press, entitled “Coxey’s Column.” One of those columns told of visiting the King homestead for Sunday dinner. I think it would be appropriate to write about that column for next Tuesday’s History Page in memory of Berniece King McClanahan.
I just have to give a shout-out to the Magic Circle Theater for their outstanding performance of Young Frankenstein. I overheard the comment on our way out, “That was brilliant!” and I cannot think of a better word to describe it. From the stage sets to the orchestra, from costuming to casting it just could not have been better. We are so fortunate for all the opportunities we have in this amazing little piece of heaven that we know as Montrose!
Marilyn Cox, a native of Montrose County, grew up on a farm and was always surrounded by countless family members who instilled the love of family and history. She retired from the Montrose County School District and, for 21 years, served as curator of the Montrose County Historical Museum.