Armchair Historians

Leon Joseph Littlebird, Part 1

June 16, 2020
Armchair Historians
Leon Joseph Littlebird, Part 1
Chapters
Armchair Historians
Leon Joseph Littlebird, Part 1
Jun 16, 2020

Leon Joseph Littlebird is an internationally renowned musician, recording artist and performer.  A third generation native of Colorado with ancestral roots in both Pioneer & Native American cultures his multi-instrumentalist style is called: “Native Colorado Music”. His deep sonorous singing voice and masterful Native Flute and guitar styles captivate audiences.

In this episode Anne Marie talks to Leon about his pioneer ancestors. The story begins with Leon's great grandfather, Charles Augustine Christian des Moineaux, born in France in the early nineteenth century. Charles makes his away to New Orleans, eventually he turns up with his family in Auroria  (now Denver) becoming one of the first early settlers in the Colorado Territory.

Resources:

Leon's website

Leon's Facebook

Leon's YouTube

Support the show:

Become a patron of Armchair Historians

Show Notes Transcript

Leon Joseph Littlebird is an internationally renowned musician, recording artist and performer.  A third generation native of Colorado with ancestral roots in both Pioneer & Native American cultures his multi-instrumentalist style is called: “Native Colorado Music”. His deep sonorous singing voice and masterful Native Flute and guitar styles captivate audiences.

In this episode Anne Marie talks to Leon about his pioneer ancestors. The story begins with Leon's great grandfather, Charles Augustine Christian des Moineaux, born in France in the early nineteenth century. Charles makes his away to New Orleans, eventually he turns up with his family in Auroria  (now Denver) becoming one of the first early settlers in the Colorado Territory.

Resources:

Leon's website

Leon's Facebook

Leon's YouTube

Support the show:

Become a patron of Armchair Historians

Speaker 1:

Thank you for joining us today for armchair historians. I'm your host Ann Marie Cannon . Armchair historians is a Belgian rabbit production. Stay up to date with us through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Wherever you listen to your podcast , that is where you'll find us. You can also find [email protected]

Speaker 2:

also won't you consider becoming a patron of the show in an effort to keep armchair historians commercial free. I have decided to work with Patrion to find out more, go to patrion.com backslash armchair historians, that's historians with an S you can also find a link to our Patrion page. In the episode notes, you will be helping me to keep the lights on, and if you can't make a donation, that's totally cool. I just hope you will continue to listen to our free podcasts . Some of you know that I live in the Colorado Rocky mountains. I love living here and I have met some of the most interesting people. Our guests today, Leon Joseph Little bird is no exception. His family history literally goes back to the beginning with indigenous roots through his mother's family line in pioneer roots through his fathers , you are in for a treat, not only is Leon, a skilled lyricist and musician. You can hear him playing in the background right now. He is an amazing storyteller

Speaker 3:

change in the seasons that it's taught me to be strong. I've got dirt beneath my fingernails. Denims are all chore from chop and would not the

Speaker 2:

generation ancestral roots in both pioneer in native American cultures, Leon Joseph LittleBird inherited a passion for local history, storytelling and music. This passion inspired him to do years of research into the oral and recorded histories of his ancestors and the neighboring tribes. He is a guest speaker for Colorado mountain college classes on both Colorado and native history. And his presentations are popular with historical societies and tour groups, little bird delights, his audiences with stories that we, the lies and talents of the earliest inhabitants of Colorado into a fascinating series of how music was discovered. Using many types of ancient instruments. He performs examples of how music came to be an integral part of life in the tribes from mountains to Plains and the Southwest. That's the presentation per regresses and the music unfolds. He includes stories from his Colorado pioneer family that come to life in original songs. In addition to being a renowned storyteller, Leon is also an internationally recognized songwriter and recording artist who performs on world-class stages all over the country and evening with Leon, Joseph Little bird will delight and surprise you with a unique look at local history and wonderful entertainment. Thank you for being here, Leon.

Speaker 4:

Well, I don't think I've ever heard anyone read all that before. That was I'm blushing.

Speaker 2:

Well, it's a , yeah. It's well written and made my job easier. Cause I usually go and look for a bio, but you sent me the whole bio and it's beautiful. And I think it really gives a sense of what I know about you. So , uh , this is armchair historians. And today I'm going to ask you the question that I ask all of my guests, which is what's your favorite history that we're going to be talking about today?

Speaker 4:

Well, today my favorite history is going to be about my pioneer family. Uh , it's really interesting. I've been, certainly asked many times in my life to write of book about my family because the history, they were some of the very first pioneers to arrive after gold was discovered , um, 1858 59. Uh, so that's the story I'd like to tell you today.

Speaker 2:

Okay. I'm really excited. I know a little bit about , uh, your , uh , ancestors, not too much, but I love a good story and I know that you're a great storyteller. So I'm putting on my seatbelt and looking forward to the ride.

Speaker 4:

Well, it could be a roller coaster, so make that seatbelt tight. So this all really starts with my great grandfather, whose name was Charles August , then Christian [inaudible] and then we'll know is two words in French. It's a small Des capital Moyn Eaux so like the Moines Iowa, but with an aux on the end of the day, mono means little bird. And my dad used that in his art, and I've used that in my music because Damieno is a beautiful name, but no one in America can say it or spell it. So , um, so, and then, because my mother's history is, is more indigenous and a lot of my family, including my dad would call me a little bird out of affection. I have adopted little bird, but it's the same name. So Charles Augustine Christian mono own his wife, Sarah , Anna , whose maiden name was Moore house . We're married in Dubuque, Iowa and had a three year old son where my great grandfather was working for the Dubuque mining company as a mining engineer. And they found out that there was gold and Colorado. So can you imagine they packed up three Conestoga wagons and an oxcart with a three year old kid and came from Dubuque to a rare area , which is now Denver and that's the confluence of cherry Creek and the Platte river. And they bought more supplies there and then headed up clear Creek Canyon. Now imagine what kind of trail or road, right, right at the , uh, the fall of 1859. So they arrived in Blackhawk and let me stop for a second. So I get it right in my head. I want to make sure I'm following the right story. So this is your , um , on your father's side, on my father's side, right? The child is your great grandfather. No , the, my great grandfather is the father. The child would have been my great uncle and actually his name is Charles also. And my great uncle Charles is buried in the Leadville pioneer cemetery. And , um, and he grew up to be first chair violinist at the Tabor opera house. So there's a little musical history there. That's still local to so Charles and Sarah, when they arrived in black hot built , uh , a general store, which all shoe became the post office. And so Charles , uh , was the first postmaster of the territory of Colorado. And we have that document. We have all his documents, he saved everything. And in this document, it's from Washington and everywhere. It's just state of there's two black ink lines through the word state. And T E R R period is written in so territory of Colorado. And they also built the very first brick building in black Hawk . We have some old newspaper articles about him building and encourages other citizens to do same, right. Cause fires was a big deal. And , um , you know, all those wooden buildings with burned down . So here they arrive in Blackhawk with three wagons , Shannon oxcart and in the ox oxcart . Um, and this was one of my dad's favorite stories to talk about this oxcart. Uh , it was all musical instruments and one of them was an 800 pound Rose Wood , Henry Miller, square, grand piano. Um, there's one just like it in the Hammel house in Georgetown, they're almost exactly alike, 85 key , uh , ivory in Ebony made in Boston, but also , um, mandolin violins. Uh , and I, we , my family have almost all those instruments, all the string ones. My , I have a nephew who has the piano and , um , so really, really interesting. And , um, they had four more children and they all lived, which in those days with the 70 plus percent infant mortality rate, I think that they all live for a number of reasons. I'm pretty sure my family pretty well. I think my great grandparents were very prosperous. In fact, I know they were. And so they were healthy. They had good conditions and they were , um, but all their kids lived and , uh, left kind of fabled stories behind them as well. And , and one of them was my grandfather who was born in central city in 1863 during the civil war. And so back to Charles Augustine now, Keith first arrived in America from France, from the mountains of France, Don C France. He first came at when he was about 26 years old, I think in 19 1844. And he first arrived in new Orleans. She traveled around down South and it makes sense you would go to new Orleans because of the French community there. And , um , somewhere along the line , uh, we have been contacted and confirmed by the records that he was in the army of the Republic in Texas, the guys who fought the Alamo, those guys, although obviously wasn't there, but he was in the army of the Republic, which is great. Cause when I do gigs in Texas and I tell people that I never have to buy a drink. So, and he, during , in 1849, when the big gold strikes in California and the 49 or gold rush happened, he led an expedition trying to get across South America. So they could sail up the Pacific to California cause no one could get across the Rockies because of all the research I do. I have found distant cousins in Columbia with our last name, Damon Oh , very unusual name. And they claim that their great, great grandfather was a Carlos Alejandro. So it's virtually his name and that's cause I do a lot of ancestral family history research. And when you have an unusual name, it's so helpful. Yeah, well, yeah, it was him. And so , uh, and we don't really know there was, my dad was very unsure about this cause the family didn't want to talk about, he started a family and came back, but what I have loosely pieced together as he went, he did start a family and his wife died. And so he left, he had a couple children and he left them with her family and came back to the United States. And now that's as near as I know, but he came back and got married again. And so that, and that was to my great grandmother. And so he was working in Dubuque, Iowa. And um , as a mining engineer, now he was a poet and an artist and a musician, you know, he had, he was hand Sarah , both you're trained and accomplished musicians and also a mining engineer. And in , um , he built a bakery in central city and had a confectionary store and built boarding houses and had mining claims and really an entrepreneur. And really , uh, somebody, I would wish if I could go back in history and meet one person, it would be him. Cause I have a lot of questions for him. So they get really well in central city and black Blackhawk for a number of years, they now had five children and I don't know why they moved, but they moved to Idaho Springs. And I think maybe things were moving up Valley that way, you know, as far as gold strikes and things, and he was looking for the next kind of rich place to go. And I think maybe central city had gotten a little wild kind of crazy. There's another family story about , uh , when Charles the oldest son, my great uncle, Charles was a young teen, maybe 13 that a bank robber came into the bakery and he and my uncle hit him on the head with a hammer out of fear because , and killed them . That's why they moved now. I didn't know a great story, but my dad would tell me the stories. You held up this five pound slit , hand sledge and say, this is the camera that my uncle killed the bank robber with. You know? And so I don't know if that's just family fable, but they moved to Idaho Springs and they were there for about six months, but their store burned down. Then they moved to Georgetown and , uh, they didn't stay in Georgetown for long, but Charles de mano and Louis Dupuis had to be friends. And my grandfather and great uncle ended up playing violin in the hotel de Paris. So , um, we know for sure, my grandfather knew Louis cause , um, my great uncles who I'm named after also Frederick Lee on the composer and they were both accomplished violinists. So, and I had photos , I've seen an old photograph of them playing in the dining room of the hotel. Yeah. We've we would try to get a copy of Kevin and I have looked forward a lot, but um, they're holding their derbies in their fiddles. They have a Derby in one hand in there and their fiddle in the other hand and they then moved to silver plume. And uh, I think that the silver strike should really take it off. And so they were very prosperous and silver plume and in the house that my grandparents lived in is still there. Uh, Sarah Taylor lives in that house. Now it's next to the fire station there. Um, and my dad , uh , although my dad was born in creed , he came , uh , Mike Grant, father and great uncle went to create and started the King. Solomon, mine got married. There started having a family, but Charles their dad, Charles Augustine, he was older and ill and called the boys home. And so my dad doesn't ever remember being a Creek cause he was only two months old when they brought him to silver plume . So all his memories are silver plume, but my Charles Augustine, my great grandfather and some other entrepreneurs in silver plume built a town above silver plume called Brownville. And you can see Brownsville or Brownsville, but he was also the postmaster and I've had some of the historical people say, we've, we don't know if it's Brownville or Brownsville. And I had his cancellation stamps and one year the S was left off. So there are some, some posts , some postage out there, cancelled Brownville , but it was actually Brownsville cause that's Brown's Canyon or Brown's Gulch. I think it was. Um, and you know,

Speaker 2:

then after that , the next exit up off of a seventies, Brownsville, but there's like nothing there.

Speaker 4:

Right? Well, there was a town there and it was never a really super prosperous mining town. But if you research it historically, it's interesting for me because it's remembered as a happy town filled with music. So there were many musicians , it was maybe a little music heaven or little artist Haven . And um , and my family lived there until the landslides actually wiped it out. So

Speaker 2:

was that one, okay. I thought the town that got wiped out by the landslide was on the other side of like we're 90 is, but was that

Speaker 4:

no, it's it's right there above silver plume. I mean, it was, it was right there and um , that , you know, that whole mountain slid three times. And so , um , you know, the first slides were in the late 18 hundreds and it slid again, like in 1910 or something like that. My aunt Mary, my dad, my great aunt, aunt Mary was still living there and moved out and her house was wiped out. She had it it's in one of the ghost story books. She had this premonition that came in the middle of the night and she called the brothers and they were all, what do you want? Come on. She got to move me. And the next day, boom , it came down and took out the back of her house. So it's kind of a cool story, but I really love the idea of , um, the town of Brownsville was full of art and poetry and music. And, and I think that that's really cool. And then, you know, there's the much fabled story in silver about Clifford Griffin, the owner of the seven 30 mine. Well, that was out of Brownsville. Could you just tell us that because the audience probably doesn't know that story Clifford Griffin had left. I believe England is where he was from because his, this was just the story goes, his fiance died the night before their wedding and he was grief stricken and he and his brother came to Colorado kind of, you know, to get over it and do a whole new life. And , uh , he became the owner of the seven 30 mine, which is stands for seven 30 in the morning because all the other mines started at six 30 and they started at seven 30. So the seven 30 mine. But he would sit up on the, on the mine, above the town of silver plume in Brownsville and plays, fiddle. And so people liked his music. And then one day, as they say, it was a really beautiful night of music and then they heard a gunshot and he went up there and he had done it , dug a grave and shot himself and put himself into the grave. So yeah, so his own grave grave and then shot himself. Yeah . And , um, you know, he never got over the , um, and so there's a monument built up there. Have you ever hiked up there and seen the monument? I know about the monument. Bob has done it several times. One of these days, we'll right. There is where everything's slid. So if you standing at the Griffith , Clifford Griffith's monument and you look in your , in that gully where everything's slid down, Brownville would have been directly below it. So that's kind of a way you can tell which where it used to be. But so Charles, you know, had boarding houses as a store owner. He was postmaster, but he played piano, violin, mandolin, and sousaphone. And , um , my dad would tell me, you know, the band stands the band show in silver plume. Yes . Well, my dad would always say that my grandfather and great uncle were very instrumental in building that. So they'd have a place to play because they were, they were, they had a band, you know, they were, they were always working as musicians . So Alfred Victor, Dan winnows , my grandfather and his beloved brother was Frederick Leon, which is how I get my name. So they went to Crete for a while. Um, got married, had some kids came back my well, my dad actually the only one kid and came back to silver plume and to Brownville . And then Charles Augustine passed away. So now that the boys had all of his stuff and, but at the same time, silver was getting devalued and things were getting a little rough. You know, those mines were starting to close. And , uh , so with all of history that they had , um, here's my grandparents living in this town with this really young boy, and then they have another young boy. So they've got two young sons running around the town of silver plume. Think of that in, you know , early 19 hundreds, right. The population at that time would , I don't know, but it was well, yeah, way bigger than it is now. I mean, it was a real bustling town back then. I mean, my dad remembers seeing a guy that was shot out of the saloon in the morning, on his way to school, still lying in the street. I mean , um, and so I'm going to shift down more towards my father because there's really great.

Speaker 2:

We're going to stop here for today, but be sure to join us next week for part two of the Leon Joseph Little bird interview, you're not going to want to miss it. There is an interesting and surprising plot twist at the end. And today I leave you with my Colorado written and performed by Leon,

Speaker 3:

my Colorado by Colorado, living in a cabin by a mountain stream, spend my evenings slit by lantern , light fire that's flickering. I learned to love the summer when the winner's set in long, it's the change enough of the seasons that it's taught me to be strong. I've got dirt beneath my fingernails. Denims are all chore from chopping wood, not to keep my winters warm. I know where to hike, what to ski and when to plan in spring. And when the time is right to let my Greg full spirit sing of Colorado, all these things of beauty, chimey to a dream, they have charred me. I am part of a Frith .

Speaker 5:

[inaudible]

Speaker 3:

like the clear blue sky at Twilight and the MASP and leaves the wild flowers summer and the set of evergreens, the stillness of the beneath blankets , a fresh snow in the sky. So full of stars wrapped in midnight, Indigo, the high Plains of the East, the arid desert West, the San Juan sound. The song gray is full of untouched wilderness. And when I'm deep inside or canyons, the chewed rivers flow can remind me of the reasons I love my call , the route , my call, the ride, all these things of beauty, chimey to a dream. They have charred me. I am part of the truth .

Speaker 6:

[inaudible]

Speaker 3:

like cold , clear rushing water had a high mountain stream flowing into river, turn in valleys . So green and the proud 14 are standing with the peaks up in the sky, playing games with the cloud ships. There's the jet stream Salem by the red rocks and the flat irons above the grain that grow all , make me lift my voice and saying , I love my call . A ride

Speaker 6:

[inaudible]

Speaker 3:

by Colorado by call a ride or

Speaker 6:

[inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] .

Speaker 3:

Bye . Call a ride home .

Speaker 6:

[inaudible]

Speaker 3:

my call. The route

Speaker 6:

[inaudible]

Speaker 3:

by Colorado.

Speaker 6:

[inaudible] [inaudible] .