Museum of Northwest Colorado: An Austrian transplant to Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

Museum of Northwest Colorado: An Austrian transplant to Craig

Mary Pat Dunn, Museum of Northwest Colorado Registrar

“Goat Mary” Beseda Salinas, grins happily as she grasps a squirmy little kid from her small herd of goats. Mary lived in Craig until her death in 1990 at the age of 96.

Thanksgiving always brings up discussions on immigrants, pilgrims and Native Americans in between bites of turkey and pumpkin pie. Though the first "Americans" date to thousands of years ago, research is still bringing to light their early patterns of migration onto this continent. Emigration from European countries started in the 1500s and that European migration, though considerably lessened today, has still continued over the centuries.

"Goat Mary" Beseda Salinas, grins happily as she grasps a squirmy little kid from her small herd of goats. Mary lived in Craig until her death in 1990 at the age of 96.

In 1900, 43-year-old Frank Beseda came from Austria with his wife and their eight children. Little Mary, who would later become known as Goat Mary in Craig, was 6 years old at the time she came to the United States. It is doubtful she or other members of her family knew much English — if any. The family ended up settling in Waco, Texas, where after 14 years, they were finally able to pass the citizenship test and become naturalized citizens.

At some point in time, Mary ended up in Craig, first living up on Thompson Hill, and then later moving out east of Craig above where the Bear Creek Animal Hospital is situated. Anecdotes and stories about Goat Mary are limited and not much is known of how or why she moved to Craig. She kept a small herd of goats, which she prided herself on maintaining. Though a naturalized citizen, Mary somehow still retained the look of her Slavic nationality about her. Her speech retained that distinctive accent that reminded others that for the most part, we all originated from some other place.

That can be part of the fascination and attraction of new cultures and peoples taking citizenship in our country. Each brings a distinctive fresh slice of cultural differences to enrich our already multi-national country. As new people strive to learn the English language, adjust to our national customs, and study for the 100-question citizenship test, they can also bring a new perspective to our ever-changing land. But they can also reinforce what we know to be true. The U.S. is indeed the home of the free, accounting for the largest influx of immigrants in any country today, as people seek to better their situations and lives.

The Museum of Northwest Colorado is hoping to document the many more known ethnic groups that settled in our area, helping to make it what it is today. If anyone has stories of Mary Salinas, or knows more specifics about her history, the museum would appreciate hearing from you. Meanwhile, finish up that leftover turkey, and be thankful that we live in a land, where with all its imperfections, we can still gratefully acknowledge our responsibility as citizens to carry on a tremendously rich heritage of freedom.