Telegram Staff Writer
Ted Morgan admires his ancestors for the hardships they endured. When he tells the stories of their lives, he often stops and comments on how hard it must have been.
James Porter came over the Continental Divide from Golden with his brother Frank in 1882. James settled a 160-acre ranch near Divide Creek. The area had just been opened to settlers after the Ute Indians were removed in June of 1882.
James Porter married Coral Wendell in Morrison in 1885. When they came back from Morrison, they herded 400 head of cattle with them and 30 horses. The trip took almost two months.
James bought an extra 120 acres and earned a 40-acre parcel for improving on his land. All told, he had a 360-acre ranch. But it was covered with sagebrush and had to be cleared by hand.
“They had a real tough go of it out there,” Ted said about his great-grandparents.
Coral went to Denver to have the first of 10 Porter children in 1885. When she returned, she came back on the narrow-gauge railroad.
The kids all went to school at the Little Blue Schoolhouse on Divide Creek. It wasn’t big, but it accommodated the families in the area.
When the kids wanted to go into town, they would often go to the rail tracks and flag the trains down for a ride, Ted said.
In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt went hunting with James, stayed on the ranch and spoke at the Little Blue Schoolhouse.
James organized the Citizens National Bank in Glenwood Springs in the late 1890s. He started the Union State Bank of Rifle in 1905.
“In those days, all a bank was, was a bunch of people pooling their money together and making loans,” Ted said.
In 1908, James grew tired of the hard country life and moved himself and his family into the town of Rifle, where they lived in a big brick house on Whiteriver Avenue. He was made president of the Rifle bank in 1910.
“People have no idea how hard life was for them back then,” Ted said.
Ted and his wife, Cheryl, remember their own tribulations. They grew up in Rifle proper and still remember struggling to get to school in the winter, and yes, trudging through knee-high snow.
“School was never canceled for the city kids,” Ted said.
Ted grew up in the same house his great-grandfather built on Whiteriver Avenue.
Although the Porters moved to town, they never lost their connection to the ranching that brought them to the Western Slope.
Ted remembers helping his grandfather Earnest Toland and father Troy Morgan run cattle on the Roan Plateau as late as the mid 1960s.
He said his parents met on the range.
“He was cowboying,” Ted said. “And her father was selling mules. They got to dating as dating would go then, and they were married.”
Today, Ted still owns the old Porter house on Whiteriver Avenue and rents it out.
Thank you to Ted and Cheryl Morgan for sharing family information for this story.
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Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon closed around 9 p.m. Thursday for a flash flood warning.