Thursday, July 4, 2013

Born in Jail

Born in Jail

My grandfather, Art Dean, was a great story teller and, as far as I can tell, they were true stories.  A couple of the "old timers" who lived in my home time claimed that he was the best story teller they had ever met.  When he was telling stories he would frequently insert the comment that he was born in the old Las Animas jail and then play with his listener's imagination by not giving any details.  Some months ago I decided to do a little research to see if I could verify his story.  I knew that his father, Frank, was Sheriff of Bent County; but he didn't take the job until my grandfather was about 13 years old, so that wasn't a possibility.  Frank's father lived in Texas, so it couldn't have been associated with him.  I was starting to believe perhaps Grandpa stretched the truth on this story.  Then one day I was reading through a newspaper article that was in one of the many papers that my grandmother and mother had passed on to me.  It was a story about my grandfather and it referred to his being born in jail; but provided the insight that it was when his grandfather was the Deputy Sheriff.  At the time my grandfather was born his parents were homesteading south of town and, I assume, as the time for giving berth neared; his mother moved to town with her parents so as to be near a doctor and or mid-wife.  I knew that, among many talents, my great-great grandfather had been a lawman; but hadn't made the connection with him residing in the jailhouse when my grandfather was born.   

Historic Las Animas Jailhouse

Interestingly, my great-grandfather was Sheriff of Bent County,  my great-great grandfather was Deputy Sheriff, Magistrate, and Justice of the Peace; and my grandfather was Under Sheriff.  

My Great-Grandfather

Art Dean (Under Sheriff) and Dan Gates (Sheriff)

Dan Gates, whose picture you see above was the father of Curtis Gates (Ken Curtis--screen name), whom you might remember as "Festis" on the popular TV Series "Gunsmoke".  Curtis started as the lead singer with the "Sons of the Pioneers" and eventually worked his way into film and TV.  He and my mother were classmates in Las Animas.  You might recognize "Festis" below.

Ken Curtis