Ida: Her labor of love, by Carol Crawford McManus

Review by Allen Best

Colorado lore – July 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Ida: Her Labor of Love
by Carol Crawford McManus
Published in 1999 by Western Reflections Press, Ouray
ISBN 1-890-43718-2

T HE SETTLING of the West at some point became a family affair. Families tended to be large, with infant mortality high, and residences as transient as the men. Possessing strong wanderlust by nature, families sorted through the possibilities of the landscape in search of an easier life.

All these characteristics applied to the Herwick family in spades. Ida, the mother, married Josiah Herwick when she was 15, and she was either pregnant or nursing — and sometimes both — for the next 25 years.

Those years took them from Nebraska to Kansas, which is when the supposedly easy money of Leadville got Josiah’s attention. Looking for the next big thing in 1881, he took his family by wagon up the Arkansas Valley, across Tennessee Pass, and down into the valley of the Eagle River. There, beyond the reaches of the railroad, they homesteaded at the foot of what is now the Beaver Creek ski area.

But like so many, Josiah was always seeing a fortune around the corner. That proclivity took him — and his nearly barefoot and usually pregnant wife — from sod dugout to log house hither and thither across the landscape, to Wolcott, Eagle, Edwards, State Bridge, Battlement Mesa, and more. The five years they spent at Glenwood Springs was the most firmly planted they ever were.

During these times Josiah was hunting deer and elk for miners, cutting timber for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, introducing sheep to the range, patenting oil shale claims, and grading irrigation ditches. He was always hard at work on a new hustle, always sure he was on to the next big thing.

This is a fine book that weaves family history with regional development.

The author, a descendant of the couple, had only scraps of family lore to work with. Mostly, she studied courthouse records and old newspapers in putting together the travels and travails of the family, and then wrote a novel as seen through the ever-suffering eyes of the matriarch, Ida.

“Is all the information contained herein the gospel truth?” she asks in the book’s preface. “No. Could it have happened that way? Yes. I have gone to great lengths to ensure the historical accuracy of the material. The events actually happened, but how they unfolded in the lives of the Herwick family was left to my interpretation.”

Although Central Colorado plays a limited direct role in this book, this is a fine work, an easy read, and deserves a broad regional audience.

— Allen Best