Telegram Staff Writer
Jerusha and Reuben Estes came to Rifle in the 1890s in a covered wagon from Nebraska with their seven sons and three daughters, and settled on Taughenbaugh Mesa.
Mary Jane Estes Mead, who is 79 years old, now lives on Taughenbaugh Mesa. She said her great-grandfather, Reuben Estes, visited the Rifle area a few times before he decided to settle here.
“The first time they came by this place, they went past here. But they came back,” Mary Jane said. “Reub was always looking for greener pastures.”
Reuben was a sportsman who loved racing horses. His youngest son, Bryan, was his jockey.
“They came from Kentucky,” Mary Jane said. “But this was just country racing out here ” from town to town.”
Mary Jane’s grandfather, James Franklin Estes, married Maude Taughenbaugh, uniting two of the most established families in the area.
The Taughenbaughs settled on the mesa in the late 1890s.
“They probably met at a dance at the little Beaver Creek Schoolhouse,” Mary Jane said about her grandparents. “That was the social life back then.”
The little school saw a lot of Estes and Taughenbaugh children over the years. It was the only school in the area, and it went through the eighth grade, which is as far as Mary Jane’s grandfather and her father, Jesse Estes, went in school.
“But he could do math in his head so fast, they both could,” Mary Jane said. “It was math I didn’t learn until I went to the high school. They were just so smart.”
In 1926, James and Maude moved the family to town. Jesse had asthma and he couldn’t stay on the dusty mesa with all the grain, Mary Jane said.
Maude Estes ran a maternity home on Railroad Avenue where Rifle Middle School is now.
“A lot of babies were born there,” Mary Jane said.
Mary Jane grew up on East Avenue. Her father delivered coal. When he first started the business with his father and brother, Jesse delivered coal in a wagon. Then he took it by truck all over the state.
“We didn’t even think anything about it,” Mary Jane said. “We used coal to heat our home. We used coal to cook. We used it for everything and we never thought it might pollute.”
When Mary Jane married Norman Mead, she moved to his family home on Taughenbaugh Mesa, where her aunts and uncles still lived.
Today the only remaining Estes in the area are Mary Jane’s brothers Leigh and Jimmy, and her 93-year-old cousin, Lesley.
“After all those people, that big family,” Mary Jane said, “the Estes are almost run out in Rifle.”
Thank you to Mary Jane Estes Mead for sharing family information for this story.
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