(Story written long, long time ago)
Few pioneers of this rugged country are alive today. Many dramatic tales they could tell are forever lost to coming generations.
One of these early day settlers was Charles B. Estes who lived in the Surface creek valley for 71 years. He was noted throughout the valley for his fine horses.
Shortly before the famous bank robbery in Delta in 1893, Estes became acquainted with the members of the McCarty gang who staged the hold-up. These men, to avoid suspicion, worked around the area as cowhands for the big cattle outfits. They had thoroughbred horses that they kept in excellent condition. These animals were beautiful and swift of foot.
Estes was particularly smitten with one of the horses, and he did his best to buy the animal from the owner. McCarty refused to sell the horse at any price.
There were three members of the outlaw gang one of them escaped by out-running a local posse. The other two men were killed by a local hardware dealer, Ray Simpson. In the melee, the horse that Estes coveted was wounded and later bled to death on Delta’s Main street-Estes deplored the death of the beautiful animal but wasted no sympathy on the two deceased bandits.
When Estes met the members of the McCarty gang, it was the second time that he had had passing acquaintance with notorious outlaws.
The first time was in his native state of Missouri. He was born at Springfield, November 22, 1866. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. Richard Estes.
While he was a young boy there, his mother fed three strangers in their home. Mrs. Estes guessed their identity. She told them she knew a friend of their mother, Mrs. Samuels. They admitted their identity-the James brothers, well-known outlaws, and Bob Ford. Before they departed, they each left a $10 gold piece on the table.
The Estes family left Missouri by covered wagon for Colorado July 5, 1879, in the company with several other families.
Young Estes saw his first Indians at Wichita, Kansas. A month after they left Missouri they arrived in Canon City, Colorado, -just in time to be caught up in the excitement of a jail break.
With his father and brothers, Estes started a freight line from Canon City to Buena Vista, Colorado. This they operated for several years. Later they moved from Buena Vista and stabled another freight line at Leadville, Colorado.
Around 1881 the family moved to Gunnison, Colorado where they bought land and constructed a house near the Thornton ranch.
The lived at Irwin, Colorado, where the snow was so deep at times that they had to get their firewood from the tree tops!
Later they moved to the North Fork valley, and in 1887 the family settled in the Surface Creek valley.
Charles Estes married Cecelia Donovan April 12, 1896. They were the parents of nine children.
For over 25 years, Estes rode the range for the Bar I ranch that ran cattle from Crystal Creek to Alkali Creek.
He was deputy water commissioner for many years under H. C. Getty and Charley Luellen.
Many old timers remember when Estes helped to care for a sick cow or horse-and many men benefitted in a horse trade through Estes’ knowledge and experience.
The longtime resident also hauled the first load of lumber to build the Eckert Baptist Church. The beloved pioneer died this year, February13th.
Surviving children include a son, T.A. Estes of Montrose; three daughters, Mrs. Robert (Kathryn) Butler of Eckert, Mrs. John (Josephine) Doughty of White, South Dakota, and Mrs. Andy (Helen) Olivero of Chowchilla, California. There are 14 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.