John McClure (1801-1881)
and the Colorado Connection
    To get closer to solving this puzzle, I began by doing web searches on Huerfano County and on one of the first
    websites I found was a story entitled ‘The History of the Georgia Colony By Benton Canon’.  It is found at http:
    // The credits said it was contributed by: Lonnie Dockery. I emailed both
    Lonnie and Karen Mitchell, the web master.

    Lonnie wrote me back and we began exchanging emails and this was his connection to Colorado and to our
    John McClure and The Georgia Colony –

    “My ancestors, John and Sarah Erwin, left Union/Towns County Georgia and went with a group to LaVeta

    Sometime around 2001…I went out there (from North Carolina) looking for their graves. I found them, and
    looked for anything else I could find on them. In the library, under a table, was a box full of loose papers. I
    sat on the back-room floor and went through them. That’s where I found the story by Benton Canon.

    I also got a book on the First Baptist Church of LaVeta and my ancestors were mentioned there…”
    After looking closer at the McClure family tree, something struck me as odd.  John McClure (1801-1881) was
    born in North Carolina but had died in Huerfano County, Colorado. All of his children and the rest of the family
    thereafter were all born in the Southeast, certainly not the Southwest.  There had to be a story there.  

    I wanted to know why he had gone west. He was after all 69 years old, not exactly a spring chicken anymore.
    Was the move west precipitated by reconstruction after the Civil War? It might have been because of a land
    dispute, there is one in the family history. Most pioneers went west for gold or land.  Did they go for the riches or
    the free homesteading land?

    What happened to him after he went out there?  Where was he buried? Could I learn anything about his life and
    reasons for the cross country journey?
In the story by Benton Canon, John McClure’s name appears as “John McClure and Family” under the part that begins

“Herewith is and [sic] incomplete list of Southerners, who settled in Huerfano County in the seventies, or not much after:”

    The article about John that appears in the Heritage of Union County mentions that by the fall of 1870 the family
    resided in Colorado. That matched with what I was able to learn next.

    Lonnie sent me a census page where on Page 21 of Census report for The Valley of Cucharas River Tributary in the
    County of Huerfano, Territory of Colorado (Colorado became a state in 1876).  The date on report was August 8,
    1870, and sure enough, it listed John McClure (age 69), along with wife Margaret (age 39), daughter Mary (age 29)
    from his first marriage.

    The fourth person listed among the family, on line 38, is a name that might be William ‘Carok’ (age 14).  I wrote to
    John Andrews (Rootsweb) and he replied:  “… he is son of she (Margaret) and James A. Clarke. They are in the
    1860 Census of Macon County, NC, in the Tennessee Valley amongst what I presume to be other members of the
    family.  John, Sarah and rest of their family are in Towns County, GA in 1860”.  I pulled both census pages and
    located Margaret and James Clark. There is no William listed.  I did find the McClure’s in Towns County. Joanne
    Black and I do not think this is the correct family or the correct Margaret.

    Others listed on the 1870 Colorado census page are: Adeline (age 4) and Charles McClure (age 2) – children from
    John’s second marriage (to Margaret).  It also showed him as Farmer as occupation owning $4500 in Real Estate
    and $2500 in personal estate.

    I cannot find John or Margaret beyond the 1870 page. I also could not locate information for Charles after 1880.

    Daughter, Mary, eventually married in Colorado to Charles Wayman. The 1880 Census for Huerfano County Precinct
    7, Santa Clara, shows she married Charles Wayman (Waiman) in Colorado.  Also listed are children: Jenee, Annie,
    Francis, William, Samuel, Julia, Rachel, Vivian, and Henry T. She is buried in Thomas Rogers Cemetery.

    The 1910 Census for Ignacio, La Plata County, CO, shows daughter, Adeline, married William Bassett Sisley (on
    December 28, 1882, per email from Louise Adams ( in Colorado. Also listed are children
    Margaret, Ruth, George, and Samuel. The family stayed in Colorado and appears again on the 1920 Census in
    Archuleta, County on line 39 and finally in 1930 in the Rio Arriba New Mexico Census on line 39.

    In my search I found several articles on a single website that all gave me great insight into the folks from Georgia who
    went all the way to Colorado after the Civil War.  The main article was
    only the beginning. I also found more information about the pioneers from Georgia who headed west and a good bit
    of why. There is even an article on the apache connection and the Georgia Colony is mentioned in that article as
    well.  It is a wonderfully robust website with tons of information and I heartily urge you to explore all the great work
    Karen has done.
    Several photos taken back in the day came from a photographer named Davis and were done in nearby Walsenburg
    CO.  John’s daughter, Rachel Matilda McClure-Gribble, had beautiful pictures taken there.  It is unknown at this time
    when she went to Colorado or why.
From one story I learned there were two places called Cucharas in the area. Did they live in Cucharas or Cucharas Camp?

After writing to Carolyn Newman at the Huerfano Historical Society, I received this reply:

    I can perhaps help you a bit with your ancestor John McClure.

    You noted that in the 1870 census his post office was Butte Valley.  There were two Butte Valleys — probably
    this one was the very small early settlement on the Huerfano River.  Nothing here now except a ranch house —
    not an old one.  It was called Butte Valley because it was about one mile east of the Huerfano Butte.

    You also mentioned Cucharas and Cucharas Camp.  Cucharas was a mostly Hispanic settlement and grew when
    the railroad had a terminus there.  This settlement disappeared and the railroad left.  Cucharas Camp is really
    spelled Cuchara without an S.  It is a mountain resort community now and almost certainly would not have been
    where the McClures lived….

    You mentioned the Georgia Colony.  There is quite a story about the Georgia colony…  John McClure is listed
    as a member of the colony.   The person who wrote the newspaper stories and has done the most research is
    Nancy Christofferson Phone 719-742-3325.  Mailing address PO Box 12, La Veta CO 81055.

    John McClure is not listed in the obits compiled from local newspapers…

    My contact information:  Carolyn Newman, PO Box 4, Walsenburg, CO 81089.  719-738-2840. Good luck on
    your search.  
    As I continued to mine the internet and Karen’s website, John’s name appeared again; this time on a document for
    the Francesco land grant.  

    During the years John McClure lived in Huerfano County, he saw many changes.  Along with the rest of the nation
    the area was growing.  [Source: Huerfano County History Articles by Nancy Christofferson] The vicinity of La Veta,
    was at one time the center of activity in Huerfano County. That was in 1876, when the construction of the railroad
    was all important, but Colorado statehood was pretty good news, too.

    When engineers for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad began seriously surveying for a route across La Veta Pass
    around 1873, they found nearby the community of Spanish Peaks with a population of about 200.

    This community centered around the 10-year-old Francisco Plaza, the commercial hub for many plazas and ranches
    on the Cucharas and its tributaries, Middle Creek and the Wahatoya.

    The plaza in La Veta was named for John M. Francisco.  Francisco and his partner, Henry Daigre, built their ranch on
    land purchased from the Vigil-St. Vrain Land  in 1868 for $37,710. Their ranch/fort was already completed by that
    time (some, such as John Albert, say on the ruins of an earlier fort built by the Spanish) and their main business was
    supplying the Denver mining camps with cattle, sheep, hogs, flour, vegetables, barley, hay, beans and other crops.

    Col. John M. Francisco and his partner, Henry Daigre, purchased the land in the Cucharas Valley from the Vigil-St.
    Vrain Land Grant. Originally, the partners claimed an area from the summit of the Sangre de Cristos east to North
    Veta, and from the top of the West Spanish Peak north about 10 miles.

    The plaza maintained its agrarian lifestyle until 1870, when more settlers began populating the area. Francisco and
    Daigre lost much of their land to squatters, and much more to Congress, which forfeited their claim to their original
    purchase. The partners were allowed just 1,720 acres of their former lands, and homesteaders filed on the rest.
[John Alexander McClure's sister]
and baby, Charles Harris.

The photo was taken in Durango.

Rachel is holding her grandchild,
Charles Harris, Born 1892.  

The young woman is Jennie Gribble-
Harris, Rachel's daughter.

Rachel spent a lot of time at her home
and was a wonderful grandmother.
Every Friday she took her butter and
eggs into Durango in a little 2-wheeled
cart and often brought back small
treats.  She was very neat and clean, a
good housekeeper, and a great cook.
Rachel Matilda McClure Gribble
[John Alexander McClure's sister]

The photo was taken about the time her
husband died in Walsenburg, Colorado.  The
closest "big town" to La Veta, in fact the county
seat of Huerfano County ca. 1880s
    Dr. James Erwin wrote a letter for all the settlers in support of their claim on the land they developed.  I also found
    a copy of this letter on Karen’s site and have included it on the Vigil-St. Vrain Land Grant link. (above)

    If you are interested in the history of the area there is also a large document on the History of Huerfano County on
    its 125 year anniversary by Nancy Christofferson.
Buried Where?
    One of the biggest road blocks I came to was finding where he was buried. I checked cemetery listings for all 18
    cemeteries that I found listed in Huerfano County and came up blank.  I concentrated my initial search on LaVeta
    and unfortunately early on I ruled out the Old Georgia Colony Cemetery (also known as Old Irwin Cemetery)

    I began to wonder if he may have died and been buried at home.  Home funerals have been the practiced in this
    state. Most families perform the duties of a funeral director by themselves including notifying the coroner, filing the
    death certificate and handling arrangements for the service.

    I received the following email from Joanne Black, contributing writer to the article on John McClure that is found in
    the Heritage of Union County book:

    1881 was too early for death certificates in Colorado.  I don't know of any source for that county that has
    those types of records. I had hoped to follow land transactions to see if he might have sold land that would
    have given a clue to his selling off his holdings (if he had any) just prior to his death, similar to what Thomas
    did before his death.  Unfortunately, no land records have been filmed by LDS for Huerfano Colorado.  So
    far there isn't anything to suggest that he would have died elsewhere, especially given his advanced age of
    81.  It has always bothered me that he isn't found in the 1880 census; the copies I have seen of that census
    are nearly impossible to read.  I did check other areas for him such as Georgia and North Carolina, but it
    doesn't seem probable that he left Colorado.  No tombstones found for either him or Margaret.  Many of the
    cemeteries in that area are in very poor condition and not much more than a pasture.

    The birth date and death date for John are from the Gribble family Bible that belonged to Rachel McClure
    Gribble.  This Bible was not personally examined by me, but the information supplied to me by Russie
    Hastings who viewed the Bible.  As I recall, the story of the Bible is that a family member (I think it was her
    uncle) had the Bible, but would not allow it to be photographed or photo copied. She hand wrote the
    information from the Bible while visiting them once…

    I don't know where the supposed marriage of our John to a Sarah Allen came from.  I think there is even
    another name floating around out there for her, also undocumented.

    It would be nice if the basis for that info could be established or confirmed in any way.

    (The information on her Sarah’s name is repeated in various other sources on the Internet, including the NC
    Marriage Collection 1741-2004 found on  This document says they married in 1822.)


                           There was still no joy on where John McClure was buried at this point. closing
    It  took a long round-about way to find out who currently owned the land and that it was a dedicated conservation
    easement property. Meaning it should always be a working cattle ranch.  I sent a letter to the current owners but
    did not hear back.  

    I finally found photos of the two unknown graves in the Thomas Rogers Cemetery.  

    On the bottom, under the name ‘McClure’, it says “Courtesy of the Davis Family and Boies Almont (a local
    mortuary)”.  I wrote to the Boies Ortega Funeral home in Walsenburg, Colorado and received a very nice reply.  
    They were unable to help me determine if the Unknown McClure graves are the ones I am looking for.  However
    the lady who answered me did offer this information:

    “As for the markers set up.  Mr. Wayne Davis, a retired school teacher, now deceased, came in to speak to
    the manager...asking him for assistance in marking the unmarked graves at the cemetery.”

    And in a second communication -

    “It was quite a few years ago when Mr. Davis asked Mr. Boies for his assistance in getting the markers.  I
    believe Mr. Boies provided the markers, but Mr. Davis placed them.  Mr. Boies and Mr. Davis are now
    deceased, so I can only take a guess that it was around 1992 or 1993.  I'm basing this on the fact that Mr.
    Boies retired in 1995, and it was during the time when he didn't have an assistant, so it had to be around
    that time.  How Mr. Davis knew where each person was buried is beyond me, I do know that it was after his
    wife's death.  That's about all I know.”

    I received photos and a web link for John’s daughter, Mary, who is buried in Thomas Rogers Cemetery. http://www. is the main page and Mary Wayman is listed along with a picture of her
    headstone.  I took this as an indicator that I was in the right place and continued to look for evidence.
    A little more emailing and a little more digging and emails from Karen Mitchell and Louise produced two heretofore
    ‘UNKNOWN’ McClure graves in the Thomas Rogers Cemetery.

    According to Boies Funeral home, it was J. Wayne Davis [d: Nov. 25, 2008 in Walsenburg, CO] who placed the
    markers on the Unknown McClure graves in Thomas Rogers Cemetery.  He did this some years after his wife, Alice
    Ruby Davis, (whose mom was a Rogers) died in 1987.

    Her obituary read: Surviving Alice (according to the LaVeta Signature) was husband J. Wayne Davis, daughter Shelly
    (David) Daniel of South Fork, gr. daughters Sandy and Pam; daughter Laurel Davis of Ft. Collins; sister Mary Francis
    Kravic of Walsenburg and Maude (Elbert) Roush or Metarier, LA.

    I feel it is definitely the right family as Alice’s mother was Anna Rogers (d: 1930) daughter of Santa Clara Pioneer.  
    Santa Clara is near the old Rogers home.  I wrote to Shelly and got a reply.  After some further correspondence she
    sent me a full plot map of the cemetery!
    There they were!  Mary Wayman, her infant, and the Unknown McClure graves were all grouped together. (See jpgs
    for map and legend.)  I do not know who the second Unknown McClure grave is but feel certain that one of those is
    John McClure. Since I was unable to determine when his wife died, she may be the second McClure grave, next to
    her husband. Perhaps with a little more digging I could determine what other family member could also be buried
    there.  That may be a job for a future historian.

    In the end I decided that John went to Colorado for many reasons, stayed because he loved it and is buried there
    somewhere under the big Colorado sky.  Pretty cool.