Sylvester and Nancy Jane Nevius Cart


            My great great grandfather, Sylvester Cart was born in Greenbrier County, Virginia on May 19, 1823, the eldest son of William Cart and Margaret Kyle.  William was a stonemason and the son of the Revolutionary War Soldier William Cart and Maria Catherine Hepenheimer.  William was the youngest son and records indicate that he was never far from his older brothers and later in life, his children of which he had five: Sylvester, born 1823;  Cynthia, born 1827; John, born 1833, Orvil Shelton, born 1839 and Margaret J. born 1850.  William’s Wife, Margaret died around 1851.  Census records indicate that by 1840, William had moved his family from Greenbrier County to Nicholas County and by 1850 to Kanawha County.

            On April 24th, 1844, Sylvester and 4 others purchased 300 acres of undivided land, lot 18 on the head waters of Davis Creek and southwest side of Kanawha River, in what is now Kanawha County, West Virginia. Five months later on September 12, 1844, Sylvester married Nancy Jane Nevius.  The service was performed by James H. Brown.  Nancy Jane was the daughter of  James S. and Jane McClelland Nevius.  James Nevius was a well known and respected blacksmith in the town of Charleston. Sylvester and Nancy Jane wasted no time in starting their family  as their first son, James William was born on February 9th, 1845.  A little over two years later, Nancy Jane gave birth to their second child and first daughter, Margaret Jane.

            News of the California Gold Rush reached the east coast late in 1848.  Sylvester got gold fever, packed up his family and joined a party headed west to California.  Not long after heading west, Nancy Jane became pregnant with their third child so the family settled down in Covington, Kentucky (Kenton County) where on December 22nd, 1849 Nancy gave birth to Fannie (my great grandmother).  While living in Kentucky, waiting for Fannie to be old enough to travel, Sylvester worked as a blacksmith a trade he  learned from his father-in-law. The trip was delayed further when Nancy Jane gave birth to their fourth child, Charles on September 3, 1852. 

            In 1854, they hit the trail again, but once more the trip was interrupted by the birth of a child.  Their fifth child, George W. was born on February 11th, 1855 in Iowa.  The stay in Iowa lasted several years as Nancy Jane gave birth  to two more children, Ida, born March 12th, 1857 and Emma, born July 13th, 1859.

            On the next portion of their journey, they made it to Big Creek, Missouri in Johnson County.   Here, Robert Nevius was born on the 20th of December, 1861.  The trip resumed sometime in 1863 and the family, with 6 children added along the way arrived in, Colorado.  By now, the Gold had played out in California and the “Pikes Peak” Gold Rush was on.  Sylvester decided to stay in Colorado.  He tried his luck at the Gold Camps of Gregory and Russell Gulch with little or no success and in late 1863 they moved back down Clear Creek Canyon and homesteaded 160 acres just east of Golden City adjoining the east end of Table Mountain. The land had originally been deeded to Robert Phillips a War of 1812 veteran who had served as a private in Captain Story’s Company of the Massachusetts Militia.  After homesteading the land for five years, on July 1, 1868, the land was transferred from Robert Phillips to Sylvester by the United States Government and a land patent was issued.

            Two more children were added to the family in Colorado with the birth of  Lillie May on January 29th, 1865 and their last child, Minnie Ann December 14th, 1867.  Sylvester and Nancy Jane raised 9 of their 10 children to adulthood.  Lillie May lived a short two years and died in 1867.  We believe she was buried somewhere on the farm as there was no established Cemetery in the area at the time.  Those were wild, rough days with few if any doctors, Indians and poor sanitation.  People were thousands of miles from home.  There was often no one to contact when death came to a parent or parents.  It was customary for neighbors to take in the orphaned children and raise them as their own.  Sylvester and Nancy Jane did this with four or five children, two of which died in childhood.

            According to family members Sylvester had worked his way across the country as a blacksmith and only a short time as a farmer in Virginia.  He was not aware of how important irrigation water would be for his farming.  Therefore, when his neighbors urged him to join their co-op No 1 Irrigation Ditch Company, he refused. This was the first major irrigation ditch taking water out of Clear Creek and supplying water to many farms in this part of Colorado. He later had to by secondary water rights from this same company which did not provide him with adequate water. As a result, he became mainly a grower of grains, with a few acres of other crops. We do know from a newspaper article that Sylvester entered a bushel of his “Norway Oats” in the 1869 Agricultural Fair in Denver.

            Sylvester’s short time in the mining camps showed him that miners would pay good money for fresh vegetables.  He immediately planted a few acres of vegetables.  Once a week he would load his wagon in the afternoon and early the next morning before daylight he would drive his wagon up the crude roads some twenty miles to Central City and sell his vegetables.  He would take three horses, one as a spare to help over the steep places.   This provided the family with a good living for several years until the fist railroads made it to Central City.


            Sylvester and Nancy’s children carried on the pioneering tradition of their parents and themselves became part of Colorado history.   The oldest son James William was a miner and the 1st Marshall for the mining boom town of Rico, Colorado. He had much tragedy in his life.  His first wife died in Alamosa in 1881.  His second wife and 2 children died in a snow storm in Apache County, Arizona in 1892.  James was at various times in his life a marshal, deputy sheriff, sheep rancher and cattle rancher.  He died in 1920 in Los Angeles and his ashes were spread at Mt. Pisgah Cemetery in Cripple

Creek at the grave site of his niece, May Tritt.  In this photo taken in Rico, Colorado in 1880, Marshal Cart is situated between his two nieces, Emma Jane and Lillie Maude McConnell.


Emma Jane and Lillie Maude were the daughters of James’ sister, (my great grandmother) Fannie Cart McConnell.  According to the marriage certificate found in the Jefferson County Courthouse records, Fannie married Benjamin McConnell in at the home of her parents, Sylvester and Nancy Jane on November 7, 1869.  We don’t know much more about them until Fannie shows up in Rico in 1879 as a widow with 2 small children.  She was keeping house for her brother James.  While in Rico, Fannie met and married Samuel H. Burghardt, a former Sergeant in the infamous Colorado 3rd Cavalry which was involved in the “Sand Creek Massacre” in November of 1864.  Sam’s service record on file at the Colorado State archives indicates that he was wounded during this battle. In March of 1881, the State of Colorado created a new county, Dolores, with the county seat in Rico.  Sam Burghardt was appointed by the Governor of Colorado as county commissioner for this new county.  Fannie died of pneumonia in May of 1900 and is buried at the Rico Cemetery along with two of her young daughters that died just 1 day apart in 1890.  Several other family members are buried in Rico including her son-in-law, Robert P. Heyer, a conductor on the famed Rio Grand Southern Railroad who was killed in a railroad accident in 1906.  Buried with Robert are two of his children, Robert N and Lucile.  Fannie’s  nephew, Earl Cart is also buried nearby.



Sylvester and Nancy Jane’s oldest daughter Margaret Jane married a young railroad Engineer named James Mullen.  According to family members, James drove the 1st train into Central City and the first train over the famous Georgetown loop. James and his wife  James and Margaret Jane’s oldest daughter, Catherine was one of the founding members of the  “Territorial Daughters of Colorado and listed in the Articles of Incorporation as the organizations “Corresponding Secretary”


Charles Cart was the 2nd son of Sylvester and Nancy Jane.  He lived his life in Golden and in Denver working with the Colorado Central Railroad and later the Union Pacific where he retired in 1922


Another son of the Cart’s was George, a miner and teamster in the gold fields of Cripple Creek.  George’s daughter, May Cart Tritt was killed by her husband, Frank Tritt in a famous Cripple Creek “murder suicide” in 1910.  George and his wife settled in Washington state, but at their deaths, there ashes were spread at the grave sight of their daughter May Cart Tritt at Mt. Pisgah Cemetery in Cripple Creek.


Sylvester and Nancy Jane’s daughter, Ida,  married John S. Risdon on January 2nd, 1877.  The wedding took place at the Cart farm, was performed by R.H. Rhodes and was witnessed by George F. Pearl and James H. Baugh.  Ida and John had two sons, George, born 1878 and Charles born in 1879.  When Ida passed away on July 1st, 1882 her sons went to live with and were raised by Sylvester and Nancy Jane.  Ida is buried in an unmarked grave at the Golden City Cemetery.



The youngest son of Sylvester and Nancy Jane,  Robert Cart,  was killed in a mining accident in the Golden Cycle Mine in Victor just months before the birth of his son.  Robert was a typical Colorado miner of the time. He followed the discoveries of gold and silver around the state.  He  mined in Ouray, Rico, Victor and Cripple Creek at various times in his life.


The other child born in Colorado was Minnie Ann.  Minnie married James Lee, son of another Colorado pioneer, William Lee.  The Lee farm was located very near the Cart farm in what is now part of the “Applewood” area of Wheat Ridge.  Minnie and James Lee acquired most of the Cart farm just before the death of her mother in 1916.


            Research continues on this interesting family and more biographies will be forthcoming.


Donna Vesco Rothe