Select Page

Charles parents John and Anna were both born in the Bern Switzerland area before migrating to Tuscarawas County Ohio in the 1830’s. They probably lived in the Sugar Creek area that is known for both its Amish and Swiss heritage.  They were later married in 1848 and their third child Charles was born on May 29, 1862.  The family later migrated to Hiawatha Kansas along the Oregon Trail and Pony Express route.

Sometime in the early 1890’s, Charles is reported to have worked as a foreman in the Cotopaxi Mine located west of Canon City   This mine is best known for the Russian Jewish colony of immigrants that worked there in the early 1880’s.  Charles could most likely speak German and as a result he had a job there as a foreman for a period of time.  Some of the miners were Russian at the time and there are some similarities of the Russian to German language.

Charles had heard of Sarah who was 27 at the time while living in the area.   Sarah had excellent horsemanship skills as evidenced by medals won by her at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo.  We know that she was intelligent, hard working, in good physical condition. They met in 1893 or 94 and after a reasonable courtship period agreed to be married.   Charles and Sarah were wed on April 4, 1894 in Garden Park Colorado where Sarah grew up and had friends and family.  The certificate of marriage shows that Charles and Sarah were wed in 1898 but this does not make sense for two reasons.  First, the same certificate shows her to be 27 at the time which doesn’t line up with her date of birth in 1867(1894-27=1867).  Second, there were three children born before 1898 and given the obvious respectability of both families this would not make any sense.

Charles Zimmerman and Sarah Zimmerman (Felch)

After Charles and Sarah wed, they may have lived in the Canon City area for a couple of years.   Charles and Sarah then moved to the La Junta and Ordway area in the lower Arkansas Valley of Colorado.  La Junta was primarily a farming area but also had some large railroad facilities there at the time presenting many opportunities for employment.  Their son Francis later in life described his father as a farmer, gardener, stock raiser, and freighter although it would not be unlikely to have found work with the railroad. Sarah would take seriously the duties of homemaker, mother, and family doctor.   Charles and Sarah’s first three children were born in Olney Springs, the second three in La Junta, the seventh one Francis was born in Ordway, and the last one Charles Othniel was born in the Myton Utah area.  

  • Anna Magdalene born March 1, 1895
  • John Colburn (Johnny) born March 12, 1897
  • Rosezella Samena born February 22,1899
  • Irene Amanda born November 30, 1901
  • Ned Avard Zimmerman born June 16, 1903 (passed away six months later)
  • Sarapeta Zimmerman born April 18,1905 (passed away about the age of one and a half)
  • Francis Moroni Zimmerman born October 4, 1908 in Ordway Colorado
  • Charles Othniel Zimmerman born February 20, 1911

Charles Othniel was named in part for his father Charles and maybe also for Charles Othniel Marsh, the man that had employed Sarah’s father Marshall for so many years. Sadly Charles collapsed and died while working in the field at the age of 17, most likely the result of a heart attack.   His grandfather Marshall was plagued with a bad heart all his life.  

The picture below includes an Emma who was older and grew up with the family and may have been adopted early on.  

Francis was not healthy when he was born, possibly suffering from tuberculosis or consumption as it was known at the time.   In those days, consumption was a national crisis and by this time Colorado Springs with its “Rocky Mountain Air” had become a major location for its treatment.  Sarah took Francis to Colorado Springs and placed him in one of the the large array of tuberculosis sanitariums  Fortunately he would survive go on to lead a happy healthy life although he did have a bout with typhoid fever at the age of five.

The name Francis Moroni was named in part for the angel Moroni demonstrating that the Charles and Sarah had by 1908 had become Mormons, more formally known as Latter Day Saints(LDS). Their religious conversion would lead to a different direction in their lives.  They would complete the conversion in early October of 1910 when they would take their wagon pulled by donkeys all the way to Salt Lake City and they were sealed in the temple.

 

 

 

Left to right: Rosezella, Charles, Emma (at top), Irene Amanda, Sarah, Francis (baby), Anna Magdalene, and John Colburn.

Left to right: Rosezella, Charles, Emma (at top), Irene Amanda, Sarah, Francis (baby), Anna Magdalene, and John Colburn. Based on the appearance of Francis, the picture must have been taken around the time the family packs up and heads to Utah in 1908.

Picture of the Vernal area looking northeast toward the Uinta Mountains taken in the fall of 2016.

In early 1908 the family made a decision to relocate to the Uintah Basin in Northeast Utah along the southern boundary of the  Uinta mountain range, the largest east west range in North America.  The family moved their belongings by train as far as Price Utah, the closest train station to the Roosevelt area.  From there they either purchased a wagon or arranged for transportation over the somewhat difficult route to the Roosevelt area.

The Ute Indian reservation originally included a number of tribes from a large area including much of the mountainous and western part of Colorado.  The reservation was originally around four million acres in size and today it is about a quarter its original size.  A number of separate actions gradually took away much of their land and we can speculate that Charles and Sarah were aware of the news of homesteading possibilities.  Initially the basin was ignored but later homesteading in the basin was encouraged by Brigham Young and a large LDS community was developing there.   The basin was very dry but a number of irrigation developments were occurring which was assisting farming in the area as well.

The family arrived on March 18, 1908 and initially lived east of Roosevelt Utah.  That fall they relocated to the southeast side of Vernal in what is called the Naples ward and continued to live there until about the middle of 1910.  They then relocated to land that they obtained in the Myton area about 10 miles west of Roosevelt.

The family lived in two tents pretty much the first seven or so years they lived in Utah.  JoAnn and I lived in Vernal from 1980-84 and experienced extended periods of subfreezing temperatures in the winter. We were in a heated insulated home and I still remember frost developing on the insides of north facing double pane windows in the winter that we would regularly scrape off with a car window scraper. We even installed an “engine heater” for the truck that you would plug in so you could get it started on cold winter days.  I can’t even imagine living there in a tent in the winter.

The large tent had one window with a heating stove in the middle.  At meal time they folded up Charles and Sarah’s bed so that they would have room to serve meals on the dining room table. The children all had beds and there were “rag” rugs. The floor was dirt but Sarah figured out how to get a clean floor. She periodically took a bucket of water and with a little bit of cow manure mixed in, she would work it into the floor. It would take about three hours to dry but when it did it was a hard surface that could be swept and cleaned. The tent had wood framing around the bottom for stability and it could be moved on a flatbed pulled by oxen or tractor. The smaller tent was used only for its cook stove and food preparation.

 

 

Looking north at Uinta Mountains with the irrigated Lake Fork River valley in the foreground.   The picture is within a quarter mile of the location identified as where the family lived for about two years.  Picture taken early fall of 2016.

They lived in this area for about two years under the promise of irrigation water.  As you might suspect this did not happen so when it came time for school to begin in the fall of 1913 they loaded tents and all their belongings onto a hayrack and pulled it with oxen into Roosevelt.  They registered Anna, John, Rosezella, Irene, and Francis into school.   Charles and Sarah located a place to put up the tents and when school was over the new homesite was open for business. The historic records show that they had located their tents on property owned by the City of Roosevelt. We found this location just a couple of blocks west of downtown where the old city park with the swimming pool is today. We were there only a few days after unusual torrential downpours had flooded many parts of Roosevelt and some evidence of this damage still visible.

 

The next phase in the lives of the Zimmermans would lead to eventual permanent home.  In the spring of 1914 they bought one acre of land just west of Roosevelt and moved their two tents onto this site.  Within another couple of years they would build a permanent structure on this site.   We were lucky to learn that an original descendent Joan Crozier lives on this site with her husband Mr. Crozier and they graciously gave us a tour.  The house Charles built burned down many years ago and a new house was built on the original footprint. There was a very old barn possibly original on site…I wonder if Sarah may have kept a horse here.  The old barn is on the left below and on the right is Joan Crozier and JoAnn.

Charles was a farmer and a stock raiser from what we can tell from family records.  He also was a freighter hauling supplies from Price and lumber from the timber mills.  He even hauled in Christmas trees. In order to take care of his family and make additional money he cut firewood. Most likely he also farmed in the summer and did other kinds of work in the winter.  No doubt he was  hard worker and a devoted husband and father.

Sarah followed in Amanda’s footsteps. Even with children and a house to take care of, she went further.  She became a midwife delivering babies, and acted as a doctor especially in the 1918 flu epidemic.  She even removed teeth, and helped “lay out the dead” (like an undertaker). Francis recalled a single day when his mother delivered a baby, pulled teeth,  and took care of a recently deceased person.

When Sarah passed away on July 29, 1928 her funeral was one of the largest ever attended in Roosevelt.  She was deeply admired and everyone spoke of the good work she had done in many ways.  Charles moved to the Salt Lake City area after Sarah passed away and died in 1946.  They are buried next to each other in the Roosevelt Cemetery along with a few other family members nearby.

Sarah had one more surprise up her sleeve.   Sarah kept a set of letters that had been written to her father Marshall back in the 1880’s from Professor Marsh of the Yale Peabody museum.  She knew that these were important letters and had hung onto them probably for around 30 years.   Today we have full access to these letters because she not only kept them but late in life she made sure that they would be retained for future generations.  She knew about Earl Douglass the great dinosaur excavator and in 1925 she met with him near the end of his career and near the end of her life.  She gave him the letters which he was very interested in, letters about the great quarry. She had a great memory and recalled many aspects of the days she helped her father in many ways.  Earl Douglass took notes about their visit. Sarah was the only one in the family to see the dinosaurs her father had excavated and she understood how important the work her father had done. Those letters today are housed at the University of Utah library.   The letters her father had written to Professor Marsh are housed at the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven Connecticut. Both sets of letters have been transcribed and are available online.

Special thanks to the following descendents of Charles and Sarah:  Chalyn Frederick, Peggy Redington, Jimmy Zimmerman,  and Joan Crozier.  Thanks to my wife JoAnn who went on this and many other research trips and made every effort to help us learn more. Special thanks also to Joan Alexander and Natalie Kinsey-Warnock in Vermont, and most recently Loretta Bailey who are major contributors to the story.   It is wonderful when we have had personal contact with some of the people we talk about historically.   Peggy said that “I did go to Salt Lake once with my grandma Jean to go see Aunt Rose in a nursing home and take her magazine’s.  I met Uncle Zip (francis) once when he came to grandma’s house in Tremonton to bring her the family history book he wrote.”