90 years of frontier experiences
“I was taught as a child that friends are of more value than riches and I have lived as I was taught. I never cared for style or stylish things. All I want is to be comfortable.” – Sophronia Lewis Smith, 1911 People cannot completely dictate the length of their lives. In 1820, when Sophronia Lewis was born, the average life expectancy was between 40 and 50 years. However, a simple life, hard work, good attitude, and perhaps genetics gave Sophronia the opportunity to participate and experience life over nine decades.Sophronia was born in Kentucky just 28 years after that state was founded. She was a child of the frontier, and during her entire life she would be part of many frontiers.She married Robert Smith in 1839, and in 1849 the couple and their four children moved to Iowa, a state just three years old. In 1859, Robert signed on as a wagon master, transporting provisions from the Missouri River westward through the Colorado Territory to Salt Lake City. With the inception of the Civil War, Robert then enlisted with the First Colorado Light Artillery.The next frontier Sophronia experienced was resettlement in the Colorado Territory in 1867. The family traveled by covered wagon, with Sophronia driving one of the wagons on the 400-mile trip. She and her family settled near Golden.Another frontier called 15 years later. The Smith family loaded their household for relocation to the Divide Creek area in what was to become Garfield County. During this trip, Sophronia rode by horseback, driving before her a large amount of stock. It took 47 days to reach the land they homesteaded. As she recalled the trip nearly 30 years later, she quipped, “It amuses me now to hear people complaining they cannot get to Denver a few hours after starting. They should make a trip such as we had to make over the mountains.”The summer of Sophronia’s 91st year was spent tending her vegetable and flower gardens, raising chickens and piecing a quilt. She remained an avid reader and kept keen interest in politics. She prepared a home-cooked chicken dinner in celebration of her 91st birthday on Sept. 23, 1911. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren joined in the feast, which gave her pleasure with its making.On Dec. 16, 1912, Sophronia died at the age of 92 years. Hers was a life full of simple experience, left warmer with the love of a large family. “Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.
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