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Chapter One
Family Backgrounds, 1825-1891

My parents and grandparents were typical of their times, good, sound upper middle class Americans of widely varying origins and backgrounds. Their stories were the stories of the making of Colorado.

My paternal grandfather, your great-great grandfather, John Henry Zisch, was born in Germany, somewhere near the French border about 1825. He came to the United States in the late 1840's, as an established copper chemist to work in the new copper smelter in Ducktown, Tennessee. This was the first copper smelter in the country. On the boat enroute to America he married a young lady, whom he had known in Germany, I do not know her name, but she became my father's mother. This grandfather of mine was a chemist, and his hobby was landscaping and gardening for which he was rather well known, in that part of Tennessee. It is of interest to note that his son, my father, also became a Chemist, with gardening as one of his principal hobbies. Then, unto the third generation, I became a chemist and my hobby is gardening; even though I was past sixty before I knew this was true of my grandfather.

My grandparents had five children in Ducktown, Laura, Katie, Anne, John Henry (believed to be born around 1859 according to later discussions), and Wilhemina. Grandma died in Ducktown and Grandpa married a young widow from New York, she raised my father and was the only mother he actually knew.

As a lad in Ducktown, my father's closest friend was a boy of similar age named John Ketchersid, the son of a well to do local doctor. When these two boys were fourteen years of age, Dr. Ketchersid sent John, his son, to college in Nashville, Tennessee and insisted upon sending my father also. In those days boys went to college very young, girls hardly at all. The two boys stayed in college about three years, both joining the Phi Delta Theta Greek letter fraternity. Father majored in language, especially Latin. During his adult life he had no occasion to use or speak Latin, but years later while in delirium, on his death bed, he conversed in Latin alone, the doctor being the only one who could understand any part of it.

In 1876, when my father was 17 years of age, the family moved west to Salt Lake City, Utah; grandfather to be employed as chemist at the new copper mines and smelter at nearby Bingham Canyon, which were started by the Mormans and were to eventually, in my lifetime, become one of the greatest copper producers in the world. The Zisches were not Mormans, they were Baptists.

Grandma Zisch soon died in Utah and the family returned to Tennessee. During this sojourn in Tennessee, my Aunt Kate married young Napoleon Ketchersid who became a doctor instead of his brother John, my father's pal, who was supposed to become a doctor, but became a banker. Shortly, the Napoleon and John Ketchersids along with the Zisches went west, the Ketchersids to settle in Hope, Kansas, the center of the wheat belt, Napoleon to become a prominent doctor and surgeon and John to become a prominent Banker. More of the Ketchersids later.

After a short stay in Hope, the Zisch Family went on west to Golden, Colorado where my grandpa had been engaged as an assayer-chemist at the then new smelter. While in Salt Lake my father, as a lad, had become so interested in assaying and chemistry that he made friends with one of the night shift chemists at Bingham Canyon and stayed up nights learning the profession for many months. Modern lads are seldom so interested it seems. So when the family arrived in Golden, he had sufficient smelter experience to obtain work in their various departments as a helper and eventually in the laboratory, after his father died, which was soon after arriving in Golden with a sudden attack of typhoid fever. The two girls, Laura and Wilhemina (Mina), then returned to Hope Kansas to be with their older sister, Aunt Kate Ketchersid. Aunt Mina soon married a farmer, Milton Mosley in Abilene, Kansas.

For a short while Aunt Laura, then kept house for my father in Golden, but soon choose to move into Denver to work for the Zangs, of the then famous Zangs Brewery.

Rather than live alone, my father then rented a room in the home of one James Mullen, a railroad engineer for the Central Pacific, which later became part of the Colorado and Southern Railroad. This brings us to another step in this tale, for James (Jim) Mullen had a beautiful young daughter, Catherine Theresa, who soon married this young Zisch (John Henry, my father) and became my mother.

My maternal great grandfather, your great-great-great grandfather, Sylvester Cart, was born in Kentucky about 1826, of a slave owning family, his people had originally come from Germany during the American Revolution. He married a young Nancy Jane Nevious of French-Scotch parentage. He was 19 years of age when they married, she 14. He was a giant of a young man, over 6 feet 4 inches tall, she very small, they used to tell me, that he could easily span her waist with his fingers and that she could easily stand underneath his outstretched arms. However, she grew to be tall, when I knew her she was almost 6 feet herself. They soon had two children, and about 1850 joined a party to go to California; they used horses, not oxen. Traveling was very slow in those days and they made many lengthy stops enroute during the next several years. In those days, immediately preceding the Civil War, it was often hard to go from one state to another especially along the so-called border states.

Eventually the Carts arrived in Golden, Coloradowith now eight children, having had six additions to their family enroute from Kentucky over the years. Their original intent had been to join the early gold rush to California, but by the time they came near Colorado, the gold excitement in California had somewhat subsided and the rush was on to the newly discovered gold mines in Colorado, so they went with the new rush. They stayed just a few weeks in Golden and then joined the rush on up Clear Creek Canyon, to the new and booming gold camps of Gregory and Russell Gulches, known now as Central City. They arrived there in 1863. Not meeting with luck as gold prospectors, within a few months they moved back down to the foot of the canyon and took up a homestead a few miles east of Golden, adjoining the east end of Table Mountain.

Here Great Grandpa and Grandma Cart lived the rest of their lives, both living well into their nineties. Shortly after they took up their homestead, other homesteaders joined together and started No. 1 Irrigation Ditch Company. This was the first major distributing irrigation ditch in the northern part of Colorado; the only ones preceding it were those down in the San Louis Valley that were started by the Spanish people from New Mexico. Of course there were a few short, individual or one man ditches here and there that had been started around what is now Denver, but this was the first one taking water out of the mountains, in this case Clear Creek, and distributing it to many farms. Grandpa being from the South knew nothing of irrigation and did not realize its basic value to western farming, so he was not interested, though his neighbors begged him to join them. As a result, he later had to buy secondary rights to the ditch and often these did not furnish him with adequate water. He therefore became mainly a grower of grains, with a few acres in other crops. Such are the gambles of life; if grandpa had joined in the organization of this ditch, he would have been a wealthy man, as would his family.

The Carts had, I believe, a total of eleven children of their own, of which they raised eight to become adults. Above this they took in four or five other children and raised them as their own. Remember that those were wild, rough days, few if any doctors, Indians and poor sanitation, people thousands of miles from home often neighbors did not know even where their friends came from to contact in case of death. So it was customary, when some form of death would leave little children without parents, neighbors would take them in and raise them as their own. This grandma and grandpa did with four or five, of these one or two died in childhood. As a result, in their later years, grandpa's and grandma's memories became confused. I recall when they were in their old age, we kids used to have lots of fun listening to them argue between themselves as to how many children they had, this was when they were in the eighties and nineties.

Grandpa Cart, having been in the new booming mining camp of what we will call Central City, immediately realized the miners would pay high prices for fresh vegetables. He started raising vegetables and took them up to Central City once a week and for a few years made good money you might say he was the first man to furnish fresh vegetables to Central City. He would load them up in his wagon in the afternoon, get up the next morning long before daylight and drive his wagon up the crude roads some twenty miles to Central City and sell his vegetables. He would take three horses, one as a spare to help over the steep places.

The Cart children eventually scattered far around the West, but many married and settled as farmers in the rapidly growing Clear Creek Valley between Golden and Denver. In my young days we used to spend quite a little time with these various relatives as we kids played with a gang of children all over that country, almost everyone was related in some manner or another.

The youngest Cart child was Minnie who was the same age as my mother, even though she was my mother's aunt. Aunt Minnie married a young farmer in that neighborhood, a James Lee. His father had an apple orchard on the high land on the south side of Clear Creek, across from the present Mt. Olivet cemetery. Uncle Jim's (Aunt Minnie's husband) dad had planted the first apple trees ever planted in Colorado. Some say this is not entirely true, that there were earlier apple trees down in the southern part of the state and this could easily be the case. Be that as it may, it is true that these Lee apple trees were the first fruit trees planted in northern Colorado. When I was a boy, I used to visit on this Lee place a great deal. We would climb these 'first apple trees' and eat their apples and think nothing of it. In recent years, modern changes on the place have removed these original trees; this is pitiful, but it is true that the old trees had stopped bearing well. At this writing Aunt Minnie, at ninety, still lives on the old place, with her married son, cousin Will Lee.

One of the oldest Cart children, Maragret Jane Cart, had been born back in what is now West Virginia in 1848. She was to become my grandmother, my mother's mother.

My maternal grandfather, James Mullen, was born in Providence, Rhode Island about 1847. His father and mother came from the northern part of Ireland, across from Scotland so were Scotch-Irish. The name then was actually Mac Mullen, which changed to Mullen after coming to America. Grandpa used to say they simplified it, because they were to lazy to write the longer name. His mother, my great grandmother, was Catherine Kelly. As an aside, this should interest our son John, he went with a girl named Kathy Kelley in California.

Grandpa, James Mullen, as a young lad came west, working his way largely as a tinker across the country and landed in Golden, Colorado. He was a Catholic, that is where the Catholicism came into my mother's family. He started to work for the old Colorado Central Railway, which later became the Colorado and Southern, and became one of their first engineers pulling trains on the narrow gauge line between Denver, Golden up Clear Creek Canyon to Black Hawk, Central City, Idaho Springs and Georgetown. He married Margaret Jane Cart. They had four children, Catherine (my mother), Nancy (my Aunt Nannie), James Seeley and Leola. Aunt Nannie passed away in 1958 in Seattle, Washington. Uncle Seeley now is retired living now in Los Angeles and Leola, as the widow Mrs. Fred Tunze, is living in Englwood, Colorado.

Uncle Seeley, my only blood Uncle, has been quite a character. He went to the then Sacred Heart College in Denver, it is now Regis College, and was studying to be a Catholic priest, but abandoned this idea and went to Colorado School of Mines, at Golden. There he became a Sigma Nu, was the second man to become Sigma Nu in Colorado. About his junior year he and about six of his pals left Mines, transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where he graduated as a mining engineer. In some way or another he eventually went into the teaching game, of all things for a mining engineer, teaching commercial courses. He and I have always been very close. In a sense as a young man I tried to follow somewhat in his footsteps for a while in many respects.

My mother at one time went to school at St. Mary's Convent in Denver, on California Street between 15th and 14th streets, a Catholic School. It was still in existence during my lifetime, but was torn down and replaced by stores many years ago.

My father and mother were married in 1884, she being only sixteen years of age. She then abandoned the Catholic religion in deference to my father who was Baptist.

I should go back a moment to my Grandpa Mullen. As engineer, he pulled the very first train up Clear Creek once the famous Georgetown Loop, which was between Georgetown and Silver Plume and was one of the famous engineering feats of that day. During very recent years this has been abandoned and torn up, though you can still see parts of the old road bed. He also pulled the pilot engine that piloted the first train over the South Park Division of the Colorado and Southern up Platte Canyon up to Breckenridge.

On my mother's side, our grandparents seemed to live rather long lives, our Cart grandparents as well as the Mullen grandparents, passed away in their nineties.

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©1958 James H. Zisch, ©1974 James H. Zisch, III