Edith Mae Ottens celebrates her 99th birthday three years ago. Ottens, now 102, still lives in the area.

Courtesy photo

Edith Mae Ottens celebrates her 99th birthday three years ago. Ottens, now 102, still lives in the area.

The Osborn clan grows up and out


— As the large Osborn clan of Deer Creek grew, their interests did, as well.

It isn't surprising that nine individuals - even though born into the same family - would develop into adults with different experiences and callings in life.

As the oldest girl - her only sister was born 17 years after her - Edith Mae Osborn lived a very different life from her seven brothers. She learned about cooking, cleaning and other "womanly" things early and spent many of her early years tending to the rowdy boys.

When her brothers headed over the hill to the Morapos Creek School, Edith missed much of fourth grade because she wasn't allowed to wear pants, even in the dead of winter. Her mother claimed, "I only have one daughter, and she will wear dresses."

The following year, at age 10, Edith and her brothers were moved into a house in Rosedale for the school year. Edith cooked, did laundry and kept the house in addition to attending fifth-grade classes. She didn't bother to tell the school officials that she had missed most of the previous year's classes. Her brothers worked when they weren't in school.

Today, no responsible parent would dream of leaving their children alone to keep house or work at such a young age, but in the early 20th century the Osborns' situation wasn't at all uncommon, and they weren't the only children living in town without parental supervision. It's a safe bet, though, that the neighbors looked in on them regularly.

As the family continued to grow, Edith often was left in charge of the younger boys. Sometimes they were more than a young girl could handle, although she did her best, whether it was making the meals or saving her brother Kenneth from an aggressive goose. She wasn't above a bit of trickery to keep things in control either.

Many homesteads of the time did not have a clock, but instead, a "shadow post" was set in the yard and time was estimated by the length and position of the post's shadow. One dark, cloudy day when her mother was in town delivering another Osborn baby, Edith took advantage of the lack of shadow and early darkness to put her brothers to bed. Her ploy worked until the clouds moved on and the sun broke through again.

When Edith was a senior in high school, she still was in charge of her younger brothers in the house in town. Her brother, Kenneth, was in kindergarten and was only supposed to attend a half day of classes, but Edith made a deal with his teacher to keep him all day so that she could attend her classes. Somehow, in addition to keeping house for her brothers and pursuing her education, Edith was able to play basketball and write for the high school annual and newspaper.

The boys all had to join the workforce early in their lives, so Edith was the only one of the children who graduated from high school. From there, she went on to earn her teaching certificate and then taught at several rural schools in Moffat County. She spent several of her summers attending college classes until her marriage to Albert Ottens in 1931. She never lost her love of education and served on the school board for eight years.

Today, age 102, she still lives in her own home, assisted by caregivers. Like her father, she has lost most of her vision and hearing but still enjoys the company of others.

The other Osborn children spread out across the western states. Three of the boys stayed at the ranch and raised their families on the same land they grew up on. Most of them have died, but they left a large family tradition and all kept the sense of humor that pervaded their family homestead.

The eldest brother, Everett used the skills he learned on the ranch to further his career in construction.

Floyd served in WWII before marrying and eventually working for oil companies in Wyoming.

Marion became a partner on the ranch and raised his children on the ranch he grew up on. He died in May 1976. Bill worked the upper section of the ranch and raised his family there.

Kermit ranched the "desert claim" section of the Osborn holdings. He fathered three children. Kenneth also ranched in Hamilton until his retirement to Hayden.

Lowell became a master mechanic and worked on farm equipment as well as automobiles.

The youngest Osborn child, Naomi, who raised three girls and a boy, still lives on the Durham family ranch near the Osborn place today.

The latest generations of the Osborn family still are very active in the Craig and Moffat County communities. They are sharing their love of the land with others and enriching the history of Craig.

Shannan Koucherik may be reached at honeyrockdogs@msn.com


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