An Accomplished Ute Maiden
Edith Leroy Richardson
Each individual who researches and writes about someone from the past, finds as you read their diaries, letters, newspapers reports and comments the long decreased start to speak to you about their life and deeds. You hear a kind of small quiet whisper in your heart and mind of what they want you to write and tell the current generation.
Today I would like to share with you the life of a Ute Princess, Edith Leroy Richardson, of Grand Junction, Colorado. Where she was raised, things she learned, and the ideals she carried throughout her life.
It was in Grand Junction at the Park Opera House (present location of the Museum of Western Colorado between 4th and 5th Streets on Ute Ave) on Tuesday, May 29, 1900.
The DeLong brothers, Horace T. and Ira M., had just held their oratory contest. There was a large group of students from the Grand Junction High School competing that night. Awards were given to the boys and another to the girls for oratory and elocutionary skills.
After considerable deliberation the first place prize for the boys was awarded to Walter White for his speech by Patrick Henry on “Give me Liberty or give me Death.” The first place prize for the girls was presented to Miss Edith L. Richardson. Her oratory was declared to be the best recitation given in the city on the story of “the Sioux Chief Daughter.”
As reported in the Daily Sentinel: Edith was dressed in Indian costume as would befit the daughter of a chief, with her black hair hung straight and confined only by a narrow band at the head. It was said that those who had never heard her recite were surprised at her elocutionary ability. Edith held her audience spellbound from the time she came onto the stage until her recitation was finished. Every expression of her face, every motion of her body and every tone of her voice was in strict accord with the subject of her recitation.
So impressed with her presentation and costume, local photographer Frank Dean took a series of photos for a national photo contest. From this event in Grand Junction, Edith was offered many generously attractive offers to go onstage, but she thanked all, but persisted in finishing her education before choosing a life work.
How did an Indian Princess come to live in Grand Junction, Colorado?
Here is the rest of the story.
Edith Leroy Richardson was born July 13, 1881 in Springville, Utah at the home of Melvin and Louella Wood Haymond. She was the daughter of Kate Aldura Richardson and Charles Leroy Parrish. During her life she was always welcome in the Haymond’s home and during her working and retirement years she would return as often as she could to be with the family. Edith and the Haymond’s daughter, Vera, were like sisters and remained so until death parted them in 1977.
Edith went to kindergarten in Springville; the rest of her elementary education was from private tutors on reservations where her mother’s work had taken them. Her later education was in Teller Indian Institute and Grand Junction High School.
Captain Theodore Lemmon, the superintendent of the Teller Institute would drive Edith to and from the Indian School to Grand Junction High School, on the corner of 6th and Rood (present site of the Mesa County Courthouse). A student at the time at Grand Junction High School, Pearl Smith (Ross) commented that Capt. Lemmon would drive his buggy with a high stepping team of horses to the high school. And it was his habit of walking with Edith up the long stairway of the school, buggy whip in hand.
During this time Edith was in the Indian School Mandolin & School brass band. It was said the school band was so good that the local Grand Junction Musician’s Union members complained to the government that the Indian School was taking paying jobs away from them because of the free concerts given by the students.
Also, at the same time as Edith’s win at the Park Opera house, some of the Teller Institute students and staff died of Typhoid and Rocky Mountain Fever. A problem caused by bad water and sewer systems. Two of the students, Peter Armell, age 17 and Samuel Shem age 12 were buried in the Teller Institute Cemetery. Miss Lue H. Childs, a young Teacher also passed and her brother had her body shipped home to Chicago Junction, Ohio. This may have influenced Edith to pursue a nursing career later in life.
About 1903, after high school, Edith began work as an assistant to the Reverend Milton J. Hersey of the Episcopal Church at the Uintah Reservation, Fort Duchesne, Randlett, Utah; she described the condition of the hospital at Fort Duchesne as being extremely crude, with only one hospital ward for all patients. Men, women and children were all placed in the same room, sanitation was lacking, and Henry B. Lloyd M.D. was the only Doctor at the fort. The hospital was understaffed and overworked.
After serving at Ft. Duchesne for a few months Edith made up her mind to attend nursing school in Portland, Oregon where she completed her courses at Good Samaritan Hospital in 1908. From 1909 to 1920 Edith served as a private duty nurse and then went back to Ft. Duchesne to work until 1922.
Edith mentioned in her diary that she had a personal acquaintance with Chipeta, wife of Chief Ouray. She told the story of Chipeta coming to Fort Duchesne, nearly blind and Edith had helped to nurse her. She describes Chipeta as warm, friendly, and cultured. In about 1921, a friend of Edith’s from Grand Junction, William Weiser came and took Chipeta to St. Mary’s Hospital where surgery was performed on her eyes.
It should be noted that William Wesier was the nephew of William Moyer, owner of the Fair Store.
Edith worked at San Francisco General Hospital and Eugene, Oregon from 1922-25 and updated her nursing skills with each assignment.
Kate, Edith’s mother, was not in the best of health, so in 1925 Edith returned to Ft. Duchesne to be near her mother, who passed away in 1927. Edith stayed on at Ft. Duchesne until 1930 when she accepted a position at the Yakima Sanitarium for Tubercular patients in Toppenish, Washington. As a nurse there she contracted the disease and from September 1930 to February 1933 she was on compensation leave while she regained her health. After that time she moved to the Haymond home in Salt Lake City.
In 1937, with Edith’s health fully regained, she left Salt Lake City for an assignment to the Klamath Agency in Oregon, then to Warm Springs, Oregon, then to Ponca City, Oklahoma at the White Eagle Pawnee Agency, where she worked until her retirement in 1950. She then returned to Salt Lake City to be with family, and her adopted Sister Vera Haymond.
While Edith never married, she did fall in love with a Doctor Eli Abraham Kusel of Oroville, California. She would vacation in Oroville and those were some of the happiest times of her life. Edith’s love letters from 1942 and 1943 are in her files at the University of Utah. In her papers, many times Edith repeats that the greatest mistake of her life was she did not marry Eli, and he never married either. Eli died in 1947 in California, and left Edith a diamond ring as a remembrance of his love. He also left her a $1000.
In Edith’s diary where she kept her innermost thoughts, are Frank Dean Photos of the Ute Maiden, Captain Theodore Lemmon, and her mother Kate. Also in the diary are the Delong Speech contest story at the Park Opera House in 1900, her love letters to and from Eli A. Kusel and the love for the place she grew up, Grand Junction, Colorado. This was her home.
Edith was very interested in furthering the cause of women in the work force, helping some to gain an education, and sharing her talents. She was active in the retired Government Employees association, a native member of the Utah’s Art Center and a world traveler for the Business and Professional Women’ Club. She went to places like Germany, Cuba, and Hawaii, attending many national meetings for the club.
Edith was passionate about promoting the standards of Indian women in education, for which she received from the Department of Interior in 1950 an honor award and once again in 1964 for meritorious service for nursing to the Indian Service.
It was said that Edith was a quiet person, regal looking in her smartly tailored clothing. She was remembered by her friends as one who always had a matching hat for each outfit and when she spoke she commanded attention for her wisdom and understanding of situations, never speaking ill of anyone.
One of her many talents was decorating banquet tables for 20 to 300 people. Many organizations called upon her for their banquets, she would always tell them, “Oh I have the right things in my attic for your particular theme.” Her skill and arrangements were breath-taking.
Just before her death, Edith had broken her hip and was in St. Joseph Villa; the ladies of the Business and Professional Women’s club would visit and ask if they could pick her up and take her to the women’s lunches. Edith would say “I don’t believe I can go today, but soon we may be able to go out for lunch again”
That day never came. Edith Leroy Richardson died on March 16, 1977, in Salt Lake City.
She had moved on to solve “The Great Mystery” as she called it. Edith was 95 years, 8 months old. The Little Ute Princess of Grand Junction, Colorado was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, in the Haymond Family Lot, in Springville, Utah.
So if you’re on 6th and Rood some quiet morning where the old Grand Junction High school was and you hear the sounds of a high stepping horse team, a snap of a horse buggy whip, foot steps of two persons; an old man and a young woman, going up what is now the courthouse steps, it’s just might be Captain Theodore Lemmon bringing the Ute Maiden, WE-TA-LE-TA, Edith Leroy Richardson to high school for her lessons.
Story Teller of the Tribe, Finder of Odd Knowledge, Uninteresting Items, A Bore to his Grandchildren, a Pain to his wife on spelling, but a Locater of golden nuggets & truths and pearls of wisdom.
January, 2012 Grand Junction, Colorado
Photos: Museum of Western Colorado, Loyd Files Room, Michael Menard, Grand Junction News, Daily Sentinel files, Snap Photo, Dean Photo, Wanda Allen, Lo Anne Curtis, Richardson Family Researcher, Krissy Giacoletto, Special Collections Department J. Willard Marriott Library University of Utah, Valeri Craigle, University of Utah ,Access Technologies Librarian, Teresa Tipton, Buildings and Ground, Executive Secretary, Springville, UT, Mrs. Pearl Ross, Teller Institute History, Martha Louise Hurst, An Indian Saga, Floyd A. O’Neil. Interview of Edith Richardson and Journal of the Western Slope summer 1993, vol 8, no.3, Lorrie Sheley R.N. Grand Junction Regional Center, LPT Program Coordinator