How often do any of us get a chance to rub elbows with history? I hope that makes sense. I’m referring to the opportunity to meet real historic, but not necessarily famous, people. I had occasion to do just that, when four Tom McCarty descendants descended on the museum for our open house. While the open house was originally for the purpose of allowing the public to see and handle the famous 1874 Sharps rifle with which Ray Simpson shot Tom McCarty’s brother and nephew during their hasty retreat from Delta following their 1893 bank robbery here, it seemed to be more about the McCarty legacy and their family stories of this past century. While the rifle was certainly an attraction, the McCarty descendants were equally in the spotlight.
Tom McCarty was married twice. His second marriage to Christina Christiansen in 1873 resulted in three children; Leonard, Lewis, and Dora. Our four McCarty visitors were all from the Lewis McCarty lineage, Tom McCarty being their great grandfather.
Family history, when it includes historically famous bad guys, is often not passed forward, and our visitors encountered some of their parents / grandparents, etc., who never spoke of this element of their history. Thus, some of our questions to them were also their questions. Nevertheless, they came with numerous photos, pedigree charts (genealogy charts), and oral history to satisfy our interest in the McCarty legacy.
Our thanks go to Kristi (McCarty) Johnson of Sandy, UT for contacting her (McCarty) cousins; Tillma Giesse of Laramie, WY, Jim Whitteker of Logan, UT, and Robert Whitteker of Sweetwater, TX. The occasion was also like a family reunion for the visitors, and we were most honored to be included in some of their discussions. All things considered, they were lots of fun to mingle with, and there was no shortage of laughter among them.
I took the group on a walking tour of the places where the bank robbery events took place, followed by a drive past the residence which used to be the Farmers & Merchants Bank – moved there in 1908, and then a visit to the cemetery and the McCarty grave.
Lots of photos were taken – many from cell phones and ipads, but photos were also taken by a young lady hired for the occasion. Kaylee is a recent graduate of Delta High School and will be studying photography in college. She has a real gift for the art and her work is already of professional quality.
Photographs are the life-blood of documenting history. It is easy to alter history just by telling a story differently, but a photograph captures the moment and preserves it forever. I love Main Street parade photos, not just for the image of the float or key object / person, but for the background; the store front of that time, or a building no longer there, or for many other reasons.
I am reminded of the famous photos of the McCarty outlaws taken against what looked like the side of a barn, where previous historians claimed it was taken in front of a similar structure in the alley behind the museum. While it made sense that the photo could have been taken there, a careful examination of the building compared to the photo showed that it was not the same structure.
Photos tell us a lot. Then again, we have numerous portrait photos which are unidentified. Some photos speak volumes, and some are silent. I guess there is a place for both, for even the silent ones – in this case – make simple fashion statements.
Delta’s Main Street as it appeared in 1893. The Farmers and Merchants Bank would have been on the left, out of sight in this photo. Photo courtesy of the Delta County Historical Society Museum.
MUSEUM DIRECTOR / CURATOR: Jim Wetzel 835-8905
MUSEUM: (970) 874-8721 firstname.lastname@example.org
DELTA COUNTY MUSEUM Delta County Historical Society
Quarterly Newsletter Issue No. 87 July – September, 2016
NEWSLETTER EDITOR: Jim Wetzel