Edith Mae Osborn Ottens
March 17, 1906 - May 13, 2008
By Linda Counts Duncan
Edith Mae Osborn was born on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1906 in Yampa. She died May 13, 2008 at her home in Craig at the age of 102.
She was the third child of nine born to Charley Bluford and Effie Mae Osborn. She was preceded in death by six of her brothers: Everett, Marion, Floyd, Lowell, Bill and Kermit. Her brother, Kenneth Osborn, formerly a rancher south of Hamilton on Deer Creek, currently resides in Hayden and her sister, Naomi Durham, continues to ranch in the Axial Basin.
As a young child, Edith had vivid memories of traveling house-to-house with her mother to try to make extra money selling milk products. When Edith was 6 years old, she remembered that they lived between Yampa and Phippsburg. Her mother took their cutter (open sleigh) and horses and went to Phippsburg to sell milk, cottage cheese, butter and cream. The children went with her. When her mother went to the houses, the ladies came out to meet her and she would dip milk into their containers out of the can. The cream cans were five gallons in size. The butter was in square pats, and the cottage cheese was in a lard bucket. Edith's mother warmed stones on the back part of the cook stove and then wrapped the stones in a blanket for the children to warm their feet on in the bottom of the cutter.
The Osborns moved to the Craig area a few years later, and Edith's father ran a freight company using a team of horses and a wagon. Edith's mother opened a bakery in a building on the Victory Highway (East Victory Way) near Fortification Creek where she baked and sold fresh cakes, pies and bread, daily.
Her parents bought a ranch from the Jarvis family out on Deer Creek south of Hamilton when Edith was about 10 years old. The Osborn children rode horses over the hill to the school building on Morapos Creek and then later were able to take a team and wagon up the road on Deer Creek when a school was established there.
As the editor and writer for the Craig High School publication, The Maverick, Edith was nicknamed the class "poetess" when she graduated as valedictorian of the class of 1925. The high school was located in the current vacant lot at Seventh and Breeze streets in Craig. Before graduating from high school, she took the test to be certified as a teacher. She enjoyed teaching in the winter in many of Moffat County's rural schools for six years after she graduated from high school. She attended Gunnison College for several summers to complete a two-year program of study.
Edith married John Albert Ottens on Aug. 30, 1931 in Rifle. Many longtime Moffat County residents will remember the Ottens' family during their nearly 50-year tenure as the proprietors of the Hamilton General Store and Post Office. Albert's father, Paulus Ottens opened the Hamilton Store in 1919, and Albert was store-owner and postmaster from 1933 to 1968.
Edith recalled an evening of "crime in Hamilton" sometime between 1933 and 1939. She said, "One evening, some men came to our door saying they had run out of gas. In order to get into the gas pumps, Albert had to open the store to get the keys. He was tied up and gagged. They robbed money from the store and Post Office, and they also robbed and beat the Axial store owner the same night. Still tied, Albert managed to make it to the house where I untied him. The FBI was called in (since it was a federal offense) and the crooks were apprehended in Meeker."
Another tragedy occurred in 1943 when the Ottens' store was destroyed by fire. According to an article saved from the March 17, 1943 Craig Empire Courier:
"All the mail in the post office was destroyed and the large stock of merchandise went up in flames. The loss was estimated at $8,000. Mr. Ottens has already reopened his store in another building in Hamilton and hopes to be able to rebuild at the former location."
Edith remembered that the fire was discovered in the evening. She took a car to find help, but no one was at the Texaco Camp. The only phone in the community was in the store building, and the fire had engaged the entire back of the building by the time it was discovered. Edith commented that even though all records of accounts payable had been lost in the fire, people whom they had no idea even owed money paid what they thought was owed. Albert was convinced that he was overpaid and the community's actions impressed them greatly.
In the fall of 1943, the new building (currently home to Hamilton Community Center) was rebuilt. Albert and Edith held a grand opening party upon the completion of the new building. The party was held after the floor was in but before counters and shelves were set up. For the party, Albert bought a barrel of peanuts, which were gone by morning. They had a dance that lasted until the sun came up.
Albert and Edith retired to St. George, Utah, after selling the store in Hamilton in 1968. They were fortunate to experience many years of happy traveling, visits by relatives and exploring warmer climate passions such as hiking and rock hounding together before Albert's death in 1982.
Edith and Albert were blessed with four children: Shirley, Emily, David and Beverly. Shirley married Craig native Glen Sherman and resided in Craig and the Los Angeles area until her death in 2001. After Emily's husband, Rick Yantis, died, she relocated from California, where they lived for many years, to the Chicago area to be near her extended family. David and his wife, Peggy, are retired and are traveling. Beverly married Wesley Counts and is known to many in the area through her work at Moffat County Social Services for more than 30 years.
Edith returned to Craig in 1997 to be close to her family and friends. She was the proud grandparent of 13, and the great-grandparent of 22.
Her memory will be honored at the annual Osborn family reunion in Craig on Saturday; at a memorial service the following day, at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Craig Church of Christ; and through the Albert and Edith Ottens Memorial Scholarship Fund which has been established by the family at the Bank of Colorado in Craig. Donations directly to the bank or to Grant Mortuary in her loving memory are welcomed.
Her ashes will be interred at the St. George, Utah, City Cemetery.
Life is a book-wherein we read,
records of varied speech and deed.
A book among books is the one of life,
stating a soul's conflict and strife.
Thousands of books are yearly begun,
while the living each year see thousands done.
We, each in our time, have a book to write;
write it we must in black or white.
When we take up the pen,
the pages are fair.
Sad! Sad! To have lain it down in despair.
If we blot one chapter by word or deed,
should we lose hope in life?
Written by Edith Osborn in January, 1925
'The Maverick' - Craig High School; Vol. IV. No. 4