courtesy of Richard F. Oyler
from Lenora J. Phelan and Her Irish Ancestors
Eugene Thomas Phelan was born in Central City, Colo., January 12, 1866 of Irish ancestry. His father was originally a freighter between St. Louis and Colorado in the early days and finally settled at the western end of his route. Later as the frontier moved west, he ran a steel gang and his wife a boarding train in the vanguard of the Atlantic and Pacific (now the A.T. & S.F.) railway. They finally settled in northern New Mexico where Torn grew to manhood and entered the cattle business. At Ponil Park, N.M., he married Miss Delphia Olive Yost. The local feud centering on the Maxwell land grant reached a crisis about this time and young Tom was fortunate in holding onto his land interests until he was paid for it. The young couple then drove their cattle ahead of them to Montana. Later he took his family back to New Mexico and embarked in the butcher business with his brothers. Another period was spent in Montana in the same business. In the later 90’s the family located in Williams and has been in this part of Arizona ever since. Phelan brothers had a chain of meat markets all over the northern part of the state at various times and Mr. Phelan was in charge of different ones. He moved his family to Flagstaff 24 years ago.
Tom’s wife Delphia Olive Yost was born in May 1872 in West Virginia. She died February 8 in Prescott, Arizona. She is buried at Calvary Cemetery, Flagstaff Arizona. It is interesting to note that Delphia and Tom, who were married at Ponil Park, New Medico on 22 June 1890 were blessed with their first child, Eugene Francis in October 1891 in Albuquerque. This early southwest community seems to have a significance with the Phelan family and I wonder if the Phelans had a home here where parents and children lived when they ‘happened” to be in the area.
The adventure of Tom and Delphia with their one year old on, driving a heard of cattle from New Mexico to Montana is about the most daring thing I could imagine. What kind of people were our ancestors? Certainly they were strong physically and also determined. They must have had a fervent inner faith. I understand that Tom’s brother Ed also made the trek. It must have been successful, but can you imagine the dust that billowed up while herding range cattle across plains and mountains passes; fording rivers, sleeping out in stormy weather, and a myriad other things that these stout hearts confronted and overcame as they traveled to their destination. Two children, Marcella and Daniel, were born while in Montana. They had three children to bring home with them when they returned to Williams. Perhaps they were able to make part of the trek home by railroad. Let’s hope so. I can imagine the tales Tom told his children and grandchildren that this wild journey spawned. I would have enjoyed listening.