Yuma County, Colorado

COGenWeb Logo

Home Page Photograph Index Site Index

Yuma County Pioneer Photographs:

Lee F. and Alice (Ballard) Smylie, north of Eckley

In 1895 Jewell County, Kansas, T.A. Smiley is 44, Minnie 19, James 15, Lee 6, Robert 4, and Charlie 1.
Thomas Smylie had married Pedy E. French in Crawfordsville, Washington County, Iowa on February 1, 1872.
Thomas was in Lincoln County, Nebraska in 1920, widowed, living with daughter Minnie Rowley.
Charles was living with the Samuel and Jemima Blackstone family in 1900 Jewell County, born November 1893 in Kansas.
In 1910 Superior, Nebraska, he's living with his cousin Harry B. Blackstone 36 and his wife Grace C. 23. Charles F. 1893-1973 # 8826820 is buried in Solano County, California, with Marie V. 1893-1973.
His son Charles Halywyn Smylie was living next to cousin Leonard in Vallejo in 1956.

In 1900 Jewell County, Lee, born Feb 1889 in Nebraska, is living with brother James October 1878 Kansas and his wife Killy June 1879 Kansas.

Alice is in Jewell County in 1900, born December 1884, with parents Jeremiah 48 and Mary A. 42. William is 18 and Arthur is 9.
Jeremiah M. Ballard 1850-1936 is buried in Jewell County # 47069313, with Mary Adeline (Gum) Ballard 1858-1911 # 47069316.

1907 Eckley "C. Smiley, our east section foreman, reports good fishing at Robb."

In 1910 Jewell County, Lee F. Smylie is a farm laborer, 23, born in Iowa, married one year to Alice 24 born in Kansas, with month-old Leonard L.

July 1914 About fifty friends and neighbors of David Smith paid him a surprise visit last Sunday, July 5 th, at his home ten miles northeast of Yuma, in honor of his fifty-eighth birthday. The day was pleasantly spent in social intercourse, interspersed with vocal and instrumental music. A sumptuous dinner, which, among other good things to eat, included ice cream ; lemonade and two huge birthday cakes was served. One of the cakes had inscribed upon it Mr. Smith's name, age and date of birth. Among those present were Mr. and Mrs. L. P. Northrup, Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Waters and son, Edgar, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Russell and daughter, Grace, Mr and Mrs. N. E. Hall and family, Mr. and Mrs. F. H. Pounds and family, Mr. and Mrs. G. E. Waters and family, Mr. and Mrs. T. U. Smith. and family, Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Waters and family, Mrs. L. T. Smylie and children, Misses Ada, Ora and Gladys Ramsey, Messrs. James Wear and Clifford Ramsey.

Lee "T." Smylie proved up two quarters in 4, 2N 46W in 1915.

September 9, 1915 "Mrs. Lee Smiley is enjoying a visit with her father and aunt."

January 27, 1916 "Mr. Hall, Mrs. Dennis, and Mrs. Smiley were visitors at the O.O.C. Embroidery Club last week." (F.K. Hall had the land next to Lee...)

Lee registered for WWI with an Eckley address, farming, born April 8, 1887 at Adams, Nebaska, with a wife and three children.

Brandon, Colorado January 29, 1920 "L P. Smylie retuned the other day from Kansas City whee he has been attending anautomobile school."

In 1920 Brandon, Kiowa County, Colorado, L.T. is a laborer in a garage, 32, with Alice 35, Leonard 10, Melvin 7, and Bonnie 5.

They're in Stanislaus County, California in 1930, a garage mechanic, with Melvin 17 and Bonnie 15.

August 1933 "Bonnie 'Smiley' spent Saturday and Saturday night at the Bill Hathaway home."

December 7, 1933 Hill Top items (near Pleasant Valley) "Melvin Smylie returned recently from an extended stay in California where he was an eye witness at a murder trial. Melvin says he now knows enough about California law that he believes he will stay away awhile."

January 25, 1934

July 1934 "Mr. and Mrs. Smylie returned recently from a trip to California, whee they had been to attnd their son's wedding"

March 7, 1935 Brand items "Mr. and Mrs. Lee Smylie and sons have recently moved into the neighborhood. They are making their home on the Harry Hutt farm."
April 11, 1935

Lee Franklin Smylie registered for WWII in Stockton, California, born April 8, 1887 at Adams, Nebraska, with Mrs. Alice Smylie at 3141 N 99 Highway, working at American Building Maintainence.

Lee F. Smylie 1887-1973 # 155503170 and Alice E. (Ballard) Smylie 1884-1970 # 155503142 are buried in Lodi, California.
Bonnie G. Smylie married Ruby A. Koch on May 15, 1937, recorded in Phillips County, Colorado.
Ruby was in Logan County, Colorado, Dailey precinct, in 1930, 9, born in Colorado, with brothe William H. 4. Emil is 36, Helen E. 31, both born in Nebraska.

March 16, 1939 - Mr. and Mrs. Bonnie Smylie and baby of Sterling were Sunday dinner guests at the Emil Koch home.

In 1940 Sterling, Bonnie G. Smylie is an auto mechanic, 25, with Ruby A. 19, Jerry G. 1 and Lonnie new born, all born in Colorado. He was in Yuma County in 1 935, she was in Haxtun.

Lonnie Jay Smylie died March 27, 1942 in Fairfield, Solano County, California.
He's buried in Fairfield, # 161027240. There's a Royal William Smylie dying March 9, 1941 buried there, per # 161027303.

One post said "Bonnie married Ruby, not sure of her maiden name, had my grandfather then divorced and married Ellen a few years later."

Rupert Leroy Bigelow was born circa 1921, to Nelson Alenn Bigelow and Auerlia Barker. Rupert married Ruby Adeline Smylie on month day 1945, at age 24 at marriage place, California.

Barthold Henry Frederick Rees was born circa 1912, to Henry F Rees and Margaret E Bowers. Barthold married Ruby Adeline Bigelow on month day 1948, at age 36 at marriage place, California.

Bonnie Glenn Smylie, born January 9, 1915 in Yuma County, died November 21, 2003.

Ruby Adeline Rees married Kenneth F. Bridger in Cassia Idaho in 1959.
In 1979, Ruby Bridger, age 79, married Daniel B. Gillis, age 73 in Ventura County, California.

In 1980 the Haxtun alumni group were looking for Ruby Koch Rees, class of 1936.
Ruby and Daniel B. Gillis divorced in Kern County March 18, 1983.

Ruby Bridger was living in Cypress, California in 1995.
(William Henry Koch, born February 22, 1926, died February 19, 1989 in Ventura County, mother's name Philipsen.)
Their mother Helen Cecelia Phillipsen Koch born Aug 13, 1898 in Nebraska, died Sept 12, 1989 in Ventura COunty.


In 1940 Vallejo, California, Leonard Smylie is 30, born in Kansas, with Lois 26 Iowa. They wee there in 1935, too.
Lois Lucille Smylie was born October 19, 1913 in Corydon Iowa to Calvin V. Holder and Bessie E. Allred, name Smylie in 1937, Chamberlain in 1948, dying October 16, 2000.
Calvin 1892-1975 is buried in Placer County, California # 69072673.

In 1957 Leonard L. Smylie (Mildred M.) is living in Vallejo, Solano County, California, a television and radio representative.
Charles H., a mechanic at Travis AFB, lives at the same address. (possibly a cousin??)

Leonard Lee Smylie, born March 15, 1910 in Kansas, died October 28, 1980 in Solano County.


In 1930 Durango, Coloado, Willella L. Moser is 11, with sisters Irene 14, Viola 18. Fred J. Steadman 41 is a stepfather, Lucy M. Steadman is 6.

In 1940 Durango, Colorado, Melvin, 26, is a barber - in Yuma in 1935. He's married to Nillella 21 born in COlorado.

2002 Durango Telegraph
Melvin Smylie is not particularly surprised to see me at his door this Tuesday afternoon, though he's never met me before. His light blue eyes, which have seen nine decades come and go, shine beneath wispy, white brows that are arched in the question "Can I help you?" Before I can answer, Mr. Smylie steps outside and gestures with a slight movement of his head around his front yard, a repository of bicycles: from road bikes, mountain bikes, townies with tassels and bells to a whole line of kid's bikes propped against each other like falling dominoes. Melvin Smylie is 90 years old, and this is his life – rusted bolts, well-oiled chains, resting bike tubes strung across his yard like laundry in the breeze.

Smylie spends several hours a day, on a good day, taking apart or putting together bicycles that have been donated to him. For the past 30 years, people have been bringing him bicycles and bicycle parts in all states of disrepair, "saving them a trip to the dump." Smylie evaluates the donated bikes, seeing what they need to become roadworthy. Sometimes all it takes is a semi-new cable, of which he has hundreds, neatly organized in rusting coffee cans. Other times, the frame is bent, seat punctured, tires ripped and the whole thing one big mess – but to the trained and thoughtful mind, not unsalvageable. In these cases, Smylie will carefully extract the nuts, bolts, seat post, chain and anything else that is usable. People come from all over the Four Corners to buy restored bicycles and bike parts, though mostly parts, from Melvin Smylie.

A tangle of skewers and miscellaneous bicycle parts fill a drawer outside the home of Melvin Smylie./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

If being 90 and running a business with no advertising, no employees and no costs other than labor is an anomaly, then Mr. Smylie's house fits perfectly into the story. Melvin lives on 2553 Main Ave., one of the last of three residences on North Main, sandwiched between business districts. Smylie and his wife, Willella Maser, bought the house in 1948 for $7,000 when North Main was a two-lane dirt road.

"Hell it was dirt road all the way to Denver," Smylie muses, with his trademark laugh: head tilted slightly back, cheeks stretched taut and upper lip barely covering his top teeth. Melvin Smylie is instantly likable.

When he realizes I'm not here for a bike but an interview, Smylie invites me inside, and I sit down on a couch that holds a neat stack of baseball caps and one bike helmet. His house is exactly as one might expect: framed black-and-white photos of a beautiful wife (since deceased), several well-used recliners interspersed with stunning antiques, a record player/radio tuned to oldies.

Melvin gets comfortable in a recliner, thick tufts of white hair peeking out from his baseball cap, and starts telling stories as if this interview business was all in a day's work.

"I was born on a homestead in eastern Colorado," he says. "You know what a homestead is?" he asks, narrowing his uncannily blue eyes behind steely gray frames at this interviewer 60 years his junior. "Government gave you a piece of land, and if you could improve it – put up fences, dig some wells and grow a good crop – why, then in three years it was yours."

By his early 20s, Melvin had worked the rice fields in California, broke horses, put up hay and worked the corn binders in Colorado ("you know what a corn binder is?" he quizzes). In 1935, at the age of 22, he went to barber school in Kansas City. It cost him $50 for six months of schooling.

"That was the depression, no one had a car," he says. "I bummed rides on the freight train." Melvin sent his suitcase ahead of him and joined thousands of men "riding the rails" on America's freight trains. These men climbed down into box cars when they could, though often their time was spent on top of the train, exposed to the elements, holding onto the rails built for the "brakies" to traverse across. He explains that the government didn't want a lot of out of workers congregating in one place for too long, so this illegal form of travel was rarely discouraged. "The worst that would happen is you'd get thrown off and would have to get on another line."

The freight train stories – lying flat when passing under a California snow shed, sneaking into freight cars to search for food, creating friendships and alliances with the traveling men – tumble from his mouth like the riders themselves must have, easy and quick, with no distinct direction.

Mr. Smylie surveys his stock of bikes and concludes there are just too many too count./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

After finishing barber school, riding the rails back to Colorado's Front Range and doing a few more stints on ranches, Smylie saw an ad in a Durango paper seeking a barber. In style this time, he drove his Model A Roadster from Denver to Durango. It took two days. Durango was different then, he tells me. The west side of the 900 block of Main housed the pool halls and beer joints. "The respectable ladies all walked on the other side of the street." He tilts his head for a hearty laugh. "South of Sixth Street, that was the red light district. You know about the red light district?"

For 40 years, Melvin Smylie worked as a barber downtown. "I remember when a haircut cost 25 cents, and a shave was 15 cents." He pauses to let that reality sink in. Smylie remembers shaving the town sheriff: "He was a beautiful guy to shave. Nice round face, I'd lather it up and shave him down real easy. No wrinkles." Toward the end of his barbering career he bought The Sanitary Barber Shop, at 937 Main, where Bradley's Restaurant stands today. The bike wrenching began when Melvin started fixing bikes for his grandkids in his free time. Once he retired, all his time was free and the business simply evolved.

Melvin takes me outside to tour his motley palace of bicycles. Nothing is locked up and he admits that "they steal 'em once in awhile." He laughs, and his cheeks stretch across the bone. "Someone steals a few; someone else brings some in. That's part of doing business." Somehow I doubt these are the lessons being taught at the Harvard Business School, though I think Mr. Smylie has cornered the market, not on bike sales as much as living well.

Lean and fit in Rustler jeans and work boots, Melvin steps lightly around his property, showing me his storehouse of parts. Some are in the garage along with his best bikes, some sit right in the carport where he does his work against the ceaseless roar of Main Avenue traffic. About the noise he shrugs and says "I'm used to it." He shows me the shelf he built to put his radio on, which since has been stolen. Running his sinewy hands – each life line marked indelibly with oil – through a bucket of water bottles he tells me he got those from a downtown cycle (pronounced "sick ul") shop. There are more parts in his several sheds in the back yard (roofs held down with wheels and bike frames), buckets brimming with pedals, seat posts, derailleurs, reflectors, patch kits, freewheels, cranks, quick-release spokes and one bag full of bells given to him by a lady from city hall. He reminds me that mostly he deals in parts, though just today he sold a bike for $40. "A girl come in that got her bike stolen and needs transportation to get to work at Storyville." The name of the downtown bar slips off his tongue as if he was a frequent patron, though most of his socializing takes place at the Senior Center, a short walk across the street. He has lunch there every day "with the boys" and is impressed with the food, especially the salad bar.

"How do you keep track of all these parts?" I ask.

Melvin looks around, "There's an order to it all; it's a systemized junk shop."

A few bedraggled stalks of asparagus gone to seed emerge from the beaten-down grass in his back yard, evidence of a garden past. Melvin points across the alley toward West Second. "My daughter used to ride horses up there, before they had all these trees and buildings." His two daughters still live in Durango and come by on a daily basis.

"These three bikes just come in." He gestures to a tangle of mountain bikes leaning up against the mammoth blue spruce that he planted in 1950.
"Are they any good?"
"They will be after I fix 'em up."

Melvin Smylie works to locate a leak in a bicycle tube and apply a patch./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

Mr. Smylie has people knocking on his door all hours of the day, looking to get or get rid of something. "Yesterday a fella from Aztec come up to get a Shimano piece for his coaster breaks. I had the very part he was looking for, right serial number and everything," he beams. Melvin has fixed lawnmowers and horse halters. He's sold bikes to Europeans who wanted a way to travel within the West's National Park system.

"It's kinda fun," he says "all the different people you meet."

He has a great rapport with the downtown cycle shops, they send people his way, and if he needs a special wrench he can go down and use theirs for free.

Smylie quit riding bikes last year when he turned 90, though he takes a daily walk and does push-ups and sit-ups every night. His mind is well oiled and spins with a rhythmic balance of work and play.

"What do you do in the wintertime?" I ask.

"Watch football and read Westerns," he says. "And sell parts." His lips spread in a smile.

Mr. Melvin Smylie has seen a different world bloom as an old way of life has gone dormant. He knew Durango when a barber could afford to buy a home in town for his family. He remembers when his neighborhood was a peaceful, residential zone. But he's not bitter. He thinks the Rec Center is a beautiful building.

Looking back at it all, he says "I've seen a lot in my lifetime and had a pretty good time. If the Lord wants me tomorrow, I'm ahead of the game."

As I ride away on my bike, full of gratitude for the stories I've heard, Melvin calls after me "keep riding your bike, it's good for you." ----------------------------
2007 Bicycle Bob Gregorio of Durango Cyclery is talking about Melvin Thomas Smylie.
Anyone who's been in Durango for awhile knows of Smylies Bicycle Boneyard at the corner of 25th and Main, where you could go to get a reasonably decent townie bike, or even one you could use to ride to Silverton on that special day.


Smylie passed away December 16th at the age of 94.

Melvin Thomas "Mac" Smylie 1912-2006 is buried in Durango, Colorado # 92073053, with Willella Lee (Moser) Smylie 1918-1993 # 92073264.

"(March 11, 1932 -June 9, 2001)
Berniece I. Smylie, 69, of Green Valley, died Saturday in a Fairfield hospital after a long illness.
She was born in Pixley and raised in Benicia. Mrs. Smylie graduated from Benicia High School and lived in Benicia until she moved to Green Valley in 1970. She worked as a dispatcher for the City of Benicia Police Department for over 30 years and retired in 1983. Mrs. Smylie was an avid artists and won several awards at Solano Community College.
Survivors include husband, Charles of Green Valley; son, Charles James of Pleasanton; and brother, William Reed of Benicia.
Memorial, 11 a.m. Friday at Passalacqua Funeral Chapel, Benicia, with the Rev. Al Marks officiating. Private inurnment. "

"Oct. 31, 1916 - March 14, 2008

Charles H. Smylie, 82, passed away March 14 in Florida while visiting family. He was born in Oakland and was a resident of the Benicia/ Vallejo area for many years before moving to Green Valley in 1971. He was a veteran of World War II and the U.S. Navy from 1944-46.He worked as a nuclear enspector/ machinist, beginning at Travis AFB and later at Mare Island Naval Shipyard for more than 30 years total, retiring in 1986.
He was a former member of the Benicia Police Reserves, past commander of the American Legion, former scoutmaster for the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and was active with the Benicia PAL. He enjoyed airplanes, flying and making models.
Charles is survived by his son, Charles (Heather) Smylie of Lutz, Florida, and his grandchildren, Eoin, Cameron and Hamish. He was preceded in death by his wife, Bernice I. Smylie in 2001.
Memorial services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Passalacqua Funeral Chapel. Inurnment will follow in Rockville Cemetery."

Back to Pioneer Photographs.

This page is maintained by m.d. monk.