Five bright sunbonnets: The life of Emma Doud Gould
Seventy-six years old with 42 grandchildren makes for an epic story at any time. Perhaps being born on July 4, 1857 was a portent.
Spring 1865 found Emma Jane in Waterloo, Iowa with sisters Ida, Eva, Etta and Nellie in a Conestoga wagon, wearing sunbonnets heading west. Their day laborer dad was rock solid and kind; their mom, well, “she wore the breeches.” Their home sold, the proceeds were swapped for a mule team and wagon, actually marked, “Pikes Peak or Bust.” Mom’s trunk carried the vittles – bacon, beans and flour.
Native Americans were still restive, thus their 60-wagon train circled up nightly in defensive positions. Campfire discussions seemed always to turn to gold. Their journey was staccato in nature, as horses could only travel 20 miles daily. Saturdays were days of rest, the women cooking and washing. Wagon boss, Mr. Pen Ward, was their paid guardian, a hard-driving man.
Reaching Denver, many wagons scattered. Emma writes, “there was no law, disputes being settled by hanging or six-shooters.” With only 20 cents to his name, her father took to the hills above Blackhawk, cutting logs and her mother cooking in exchange for room and board at the sawmill. Later, near Ft. Lupton, Mr. Doud worked a farm, eventually renting it, growing his own herd of cattle.
Still virtually gypsies, Doud struck gold of a different kind in 1870. Offered a 10-room roadhouse in Parker in exchange for his mule team and stock, he moved the family south. In the thick of Douglas County commerce where two stage lines intersected, Emma’s mom and sisters provided room and board to the human menagerie passing through. Their place was called the “20-Mile House.” The sisters attended a one-room schoolhouse, with slate boards for their notebooks. McGuffey Readers provided substance.
When Emma was age 14, the Douds moved down the stagecoach line to Parker and a place called “17 Mile House.” Loyal customers followed them. Among them was a freighter/bullwhacker driving 10 oxen to Denver. A handsome Civil War veteran he was, described as well-built and strong in his buckskin pants and sombrero. “Over these oxen, LeGrande Gould’s whip would snap, sounding like a pistol shot.” Two years later and after Gould settled onto his own Cherry Creek homestead, 16-year-old Emma and LeGrande wed during a raging blizzard. Emma wore green silk and her mother advised, “Married in green; You shall live like a queen.”
Not exactly. Their early life was restless. They moved often and far, including Box Elder, South Dakota, and back to a farm in Valmont, Colorado near Boulder. With a family of seven children, LeGrande died in 1899, making Emma a 44-year-old widow. Again, she heard her mother’s voice, “Never sit down with a tear or frown: paddle your own canoe.”
Valmont was good to Emma. On leased land, she grew crops and raised cattle, saving money enough to buy her own place. She accommodated quarrymen as boarders and kept 15 cows. Her butter took first prize at a Chautauqua Fair. Never happier, her final days were spent in the garden and among her children scattered about the county. She had been bountifully blessed and she knew it.
Note: All quoted material is taken from My Life, an abbreviated version of Emma Gould’s diary.
As it turns out, The Connection serves residents of the Wildcat Mountains, a name pioneers and historians gave to the high country paralleling I-25 from Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree south to Castle Rock. Since the first territorial road (Daniels Park Road) bisected our mountains, there was no shortage of colorful characters parading through what are now private properties on the ridges of Douglas County. We bring these grizzled and gutsy settlers alive again, vividly sharing their stories of grit and achievement in these Castle Pines.