River Readers Book Club Begins “Letitia, She’s Iron, Stone and Beautiful Flower!

Happy Camp Author, Barbara Ann Black’s book about her mother, Letitia!!

BY Judy Bushy
The Book that the River Readers will be reading January eighth is the new book, Letitia; She’s Iron, Stone, and Beautiful Flower. This wonderful story of Colorado Homesteading 1916 to 1950 is by Barbara Ann Black (Brown) by Naturegraph in Happy Camp. The cover is a painting by Navajo artist, Chester Kahn, as well as illustrations. He drew pictures while tending sheep as a boy. Barbara also herded sheep as a child; it seems particularly fitting!

We are certainly grateful for many who inspired Barbara to write about her mother’s life and persistently kept after her, with persuasion and encouragement! It was a great eye opener to hear so many aspects of ranch life in Colorado when Barbara was a child.

Homestead cabins didn’t have running water or bathrooms, and electricity wasn’t brought there for many years. She writes of the independence of her mother and sisters, and even in today’s modern feminism climate, it is hard to imagine three sisters setting out to homestead vast acres as a ranch. Heading for California to make their stake and returning to the homestead in the Great Depression are challenges they met. There was time they had to start over from scratch and flat broke.

Today’s children would feel definitely deprived if they had to do chores, feed or water animals, collect eggs, etc, saddle the horse and rider ten miles to school! Barbara did that daily for some years and felt bad if she was tardy! They didn’t have television, iphones many of the things we take for granted today either. There were many things about sheep raising, and then they went to cattle, branding calves, finding the cattle that strayed off, chickens, turkeys and other ranch life. One doesn’t think of Prairie Dogs as a threat, although the grasshopper army was and then came dust bowl years. It isn’t all rattlesnakes, storms and hail. You’ll meet horses Barbara has ridden and trained at a very early age, and natural phenomena of the Colorado ranch. Vignettes of her Dad and mother and then the appendix of sayings, recipes and neighbors to their ranch in Colorado conclude the story.

It is a heartwarming story of ranch life that you will enjoy and feel grateful for conveniences that they never dreamed of! You will see why May 17th is an annual time to celebrate with chocolate cake for Letitia. WE read the Prologue when we begin the book, with more reading as well as discussion through the days.. I’m grateful that Barbara shared the book, and her heartfelt memories of her mother with us. My copy has already been borrowed by a couple of others interested in the story. Everyone is welcome to the River Reader’s on Tuesday at 11 at the Marble Mountain Gift Co.

Marble Mountain Gift Co had sold out of the book at the book signing for Barbara Ann Black’s 90th birthday but she has more no for $14.00.

Celebrating “Letitia” and her daughter, Barbara on Tuesday at MMGC

The picture from the book cover of “Letitiia” written by her daughter, Barbara Ann Black (Brown)

Tuesday the Book Club, now christened the River Readers, meet at eleven o’clock each Tuesday at Marble Mountain Gift Co. Tuesday is BOOK DAY in Happy Camp since the Happy Camp Branch Library is also open on Tuesday afternoon.
Special Meeting at 10 Tuesday
This week we will be meeting, and inviting you to join us, for a special book signing. The book is “hot off the press!” It is Letitia, She’s Iron, Stone and Beautiful Flowers, Colorado Homesteading 1916 to 1950 by Barbara Ann Black. Those who have read it already say that it is a truly heartwarming book!!

Barbara wrote this book about her mother, Letitia Brunia Black, born the second daughter of Allie and Franz Brunia in Olivet Iowa, May 17, 1889.

Letitia was one of five children. At home they spoke Frisisian and Dutch (which they called Holland) and by four years of age when she accompanied her sister Bertha to school, English was acquired. When she graduated from high school in 1908, she took “normal training” and passed the examination for a teacher certificate to teach at a one room rural school. After teaching, she entered nurses training in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

After excelling as a nurse for few years, she was asked to be superintendent of a new private hospital while only in her mid twenties. When friends came back from Colorado where they’d taken up homesteading claims, this appealed to Letitia and her two sisters.
It is clearly evident that Letitia was one of women’s lib forerunners, and even though her father was adamantly opposed to his three daughters homesteading, they went anyway!
The 3 N (three nurses) ranch began! Even today, I believe, people would be astounded with three single independent young ladies each taking up 320 acres, which they were able to double in 1916 to 640 acres each!
Later, Bertha wanted to no longer be partner in the stock raising and the cattle were divided in 1922. With such hard working and attractive ladies, soon Henrietta met William (Bill) Barry, married and moved with her husband.
Barbara says her father, was “one of the West’s colorful pioneers in the years before her birth.” His family was in an oxen-wagon train, which stopped for the birth of William Marion Black. He was the fourth of nine children. Then local Shoshone or Paiute made it known the wagons had to move on, except the Blacks. They stayed, built a log cabin and opened a stage coach between Boise and Silver City for sixteen years. The story of his life, his first family, and how he lost the ranch where he had been “prospered in his undertakings…until he had five thousand acres of fine ranch land” and his value of a million dollars in today’s prices, plus 5,000 head of cattle. Then Depression hit. In the new place where he started out again, he convinced Letitia, Barbara’s mother, to marry him, even though he was 58 years of age and she was 35. She had always wanted children.

One might think that they’d settle down to quiet life, but there were more adventures, heading for California for a time to “Make their Stake.” Letitia withdrew their funds to travel back to California just the day before that bank closed, what they found when they returned to the ranch, and beginning again are told. There are further accounts as Barbara and her parents worked on the ranch, raised the livestock and all the difficulties they were yet to face!
One of my favorite pieces is a poem by Letitia Black about Barbara Ann, You are the idol of my heart From all others set apart. Child of nature you are blessed With a fund of happiness In the open spaces you belong With your heart so full of song You trip along on merry feet, Scarcely taking time to eat, But I’m sure that you would stop Right in the middle of a hop, To partake, to partake’ Of a piece of chocolate cake. So Tuesday we will have chocolate cake at River Readers for Barbara’s 90th birthday! It was specially made by Leona McLaughlin.
Wish that I could tell you of the millions of things I’ve learned from Barbara’s story. You simply have to read this story of the hardworking homesteaders’ rural ranch life with all its blessings and hardships. It makes for a very heartwarming story!

Thanks to Barbara Brown of Naturegraph Publishers

Barbara Brown of Naturegraph and James Buchner of Klamath River Resort Inn at Happy Camp Chamber office

Barbara Brown of Naturegraph and James Buchner of Klamath River Resort Inn at Happy Camp Chamber office

Life on the Klamath goes on, much the way it was in the days of ‘Dear Mad’m”, plus a little new technology. We are all so grateful for Barbara Brown of Naturegraph Publishers who has kept her story available to all her new fans and also published, Dear Mad’m Who Was She? by Pete and Liz Lismer!