In the first person: Spanish Peaks

There’s a brilliant site out there: In the First Person. It’s a repository of kerjillions hundreds thousands of first-person narratives: Oral histories, memoirs, diaries, letters.

3,350 collections
650,000 pages of full-text by more than 15,000 individuals
pointers to some 3,500 audio and video files
index of 30,000 bibliographic records
and 20,500 months of diary entries
and 63,000 letter entries
and 17,000 oral history entries

Hm. D’ya think there might be anything useful or worthwhile in there?

So I went poking through, looking at the names of collections. Maybe I’ll find some interesting stuff to look at and feature on this site. You know, a kind of regular feature or something.

And then I found this: Spanish Peaks Library District Oral History Interviews. Location: Walsenberg, Colorado. A Gold mine! No, the Spanish Peaks area is not a place where people mined for gold. But it was a major mining area…. for coal. My grandpa grew up in Walsen Camp outside of Walsenberg, and then later his parents moved into Walsenberg proper. My great grandparents are buried in the Walsenberg Cemetery.

This is a personal goldmine.

The collection is housed and hosted at the Spanish Peaks Library District web site.

These are people who are contemporaries of my Grandfather and Great-Uncle… but who stayed in the Walsenberg area. They talk about growing up in the area. There are children of miners and children of ranchers. People who mention the 1914 Miner Strike at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. (My Grandpa also talked about that).

Then I looked around at this site of photographs, and did a search for Walsen (Walsen camp was the mining camp where my Grandpa lived.) I saw a bunch of photos taken by a person named Charles Ball. My Grandpa talked about Charlie Ball. Uncanny. Here’s an image of an engine inside one of the mine buildings. I am listening to what my Grandpa says about him. Charlie Ball was in charge of the electrical plant. He used to mend all the kids’ toys. And there was a big piston engine, about thirty-inches in diameter, that my grandpa described in great detail. This might be it. If it is, I might’ve—by random surfing around the net—found the image of an engine that perhaps inspired this boy to become a mechanical engineer.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 14, 2006 in • Online Oral History CollectionsOral History ProjectsPersonal History
3 CommentsPermalink

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Susan, I came across your blog while kicking around experimenting with the new GoogleBlogSearch.  It was delightful to read about your experience with our oral histories!

There’s a lot more material here that we haven’t digitized, but we’re working on it.  (About half of the oral histories are still being typed up, and eventually, they will also be indexed and searchable from the website, as will local obituaries.)  Stay tuned and please feel free to e-mail me anytime if I can research something specific for you.

Beth Harper  on 10/06  at  03:55 PM


Thanks for stopping by and commenting. And hooray for Google blog search and other tools that make it easier to discover these kinds of connections.



Susan A. Kitchens  on 10/16  at  08:46 PM

Hello, my brother and I are currently the owners of the Power Plant and seven acres that it sits on. We have owned this property for the last 11+ years and are interested in any old photographs and videos that you may have access to. We will try to contact the Spanish Peaks library metioned in this blog. Thank you for the information.

Memo Sanchez  on 10/23  at  07:48 PM

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