By 1939, both the Barrick and Kiser family had established themselves in Moffat County. The original two families had lived in northwestern Colorado for over two decades and the children born there were now old enough to start their own families. Vernon, the oldest son of the Kiser family and Frances, the eldest daughter of the Barrick family married on October 29, 1939. Both were first generation natives of Moffat County.
To support themselves, Vernon took jobs wherever he could in the 1940’s. He and Frances moved several times around northwestern Colorado to be where the work took them. World War II had little impact on Vernon and Frances as he had broken his arm as a child and it failed to heal properly.
His disqualification to join the military was a blessing as he became a father in 1945. Kenneth Clyde was born on July 10, and by that time Vernon had settled into a career as a heavy equipment operator. In 1949, Vernon began working for Henderson Construction where he would remain for the next 22 years.
However, World War II did have an impact on other members of the Kiser and Barrick family. Vernon’s brothers, Loren and Hubert Kiser and, the brother of Frances, George Jr. and two of her brother-in-laws, Lewis Hurlburt and Ed Annon served in the military during the war. All survived the war, but they, and their families, all relocated outside of Moffat County after they returned.
1950-70 The Hahn’s Peak Years
Vernon’s work with Henderson Construction was largely with a small mining company. One of their mining claims was Hahn’s Peak in nearby Routt County. The idea was that because gold had been found in a radius around the extinct volcano, perhaps there were veins of gold in the mountain. For many years Vernon was employed to build and maintain roads on Hahn’s Peak for the mining operations on the mountain. Almost all of the roads on Hahn’s Peak were carved out by Vernon.
Vernon and Frances had three more boys during his tenure with Henderson Construction. Michael Warner was born in 1950, Roy Dean was born in 1953, and Paul Alan was born in 1957.
Because Hahn’s Peak was about an hour and a half from Craig, Vernon lived in a trailer house at the base of the Hahn’s Peak during the week. During the summer when school was out the family would join their Dad and live at the camp for the summer. Once a week Frances and the boys would come into town to wash clothes, shop, and maintain the yard at the house, then head back to Hahn’s Peak.
1960-80 677 Colorado Street
Much of the Barrick family had moved out of Moffat County during the 1940’s and 50’s; however, the Vernon and Frances built a home at 677 Colorado Street in Craig, and From 1958 until 1978, that house was the anchor of the Kiser family. All their boys attended school in Craig, played sports, and graduated from Moffat County High School while living in that house.
Henderson Construction closed it’s doors in 1972, and eventually Vernon took a job at the Moffat County Road Department where he moved up to the Assistant Road Supervisor. By 1976, all of their boys had graduated and left Craig, so Vernon and Frances decided to move to Great Divide and manage one of the county’s remote road maintenance stations.
Of their four boys, Mike Kiser was the only one who returned to northwest Colorado to stay. He was a helicopter mechanic for the Army and was stationed in Germany. After his tour of duty he worked a couple of years as a mechanic for the City of Sandy, Utah. Mike married a woman he met in Utah and they moved back to Craig. In 1975, they had a daughter, Carey.
In Craig, he took a job with the Moffat County Road Department and later became a member of Craig’s volunteer fire department. Unfortunately, while Mike was in his 30’s he was stricken with a hereditary autoimmune disorder that put him in the hospital for weeks at a time and he had to stop working. Eventually, Mike moved out to Maybell where he lived for the rest of his life.
1980’s to 2015-End of an Era
Craig’s story is similar to the story of Radiator Springs in Disney’s fictional town in the animated movie Lightning McQueen, Craig is the town that saw its glory days when U.S. Highway 40 was the best route between Denver and Salt Lake City. Once Interstates 70 and 80 were built, Craig became more isolated even though the two-lane highway is shortest route between the two major cities.
For a person graduating from Moffat County High School, Craig’s career opportunities are limited and the community can’t absorb 100 new job seekers every June. A diploma for many graduates is an order to work for the family business, a signal to scramble to find a local job, or a ticket to pack and leave northwestern Colorado.
Since the Barrick family emigrated to Moffat County in 1913, at least 24 Kiser/Barrick family members lived in northwestern Colorado. By 1990 there were only five members living in the county. The rest left the area for military service, college, better jobs, or just to discover other places.
The family members still living in Moffat County were Vernon and Frances Kiser, Mike Kiser, Virginia Barrick Hurlburt (sister of Frances,) and George Dean Jr. (brother of Frances.) Vernon had retired from the Road Department and he and Frances purchased a small ranch on the Yampa River west of Maybell. Mike Kiser and Frances’ sister, Virginia Hurlbert, also moved out to Maybell. The five survivors of the Kiser/Barrick family were all natives of Moffat County.
For several years Vernon and Frances enjoyed the return to life on a ranch until Vernon began having health problems. Vernon, the first child of the Kiser/Barrick clan to be born in Moffat County, died at Craig Memorial Hospital in 1996. He was 77. Virginia died in Maybell in 2004. She was 76. George Dean Jr. died in Craig two years later. He was 84. Frances, the last of the first generation of homesteader’s children died at her home in Maybell in 2008. She was also 84.
After his mother’s death, Mike Kiser remained at the home west of Maybell. He had been married twice, but he had been single for most of the last half of his life. Although he lived with chronic pain, he had been feeling healthier lately. Local people had seen him taking long walks near his home on Highway 318. He had been out on Thursday, November 19, 2015, but no one had seen him since. His brother, Roy, tried to call him on the weekend and when he couldn’t get ahold of Mike he asked the Moffat County Sheriff’s Department to check up on him. They found him dead of a heart attack in his home.
Mike’s passing ended a century of the Kiser/Barrick family in Moffat County. The Kisers and the Barricks that were born and raised in northwestern Colorado weren’t really noteworthy. None of them ran for political office, none of them were high-profile citizens, and rarely did you see their names in the local papers. They attended the local schools, worked at local jobs, were involved in sports in high school, and they quietly raised families.
This July the Kiser and Barrick families will come together at Hahn’s Peak to say goodbye to Mike, and say goodbye to our home in northwestern Colorado.
ALSO: Part I – Pre-Homesteading
ALSO: Part II – Two Family’s Destiny Unfolds