DEL NORTE— For the last several months, Rio Grande County Museum Assistant Director Mikayla Baird has been researching an estimated 300 World War I veterans from Rio Grande County. Uncovering unlabeled pictures and other exhibit tidbits, Baird discovered the stories of two Monte Vista teenagers, Emilio Brito and Marion Gordon Davis. Both soldiers served honorably before returning to Rio Grande County to raise families.
Brito was born south of Taos, N.M. in the small town of Talpa on Aug. 8, 1890. Emilio was the middle child between Jose, the oldest, and his sister Ascencion. Their mother, Madelena, remarried after their father passed away sometime between 1893 and 1900.
Madelena would later marry a widower named Manuel Gonzales, who had a young daughter named Golfanda. The couple lived with the four children in Talpa for several years. Manuel was working on a farm, while Emilio worked on a sheep camp with his older brother.
By 1917, Madelena, Emilio and Ascencion were living in Monte Vista; Emilio found work digging sewer ditches for the city. Although Emilio was the sole supporter of his mother and sister, he was still sent to war.
Assigned to the 355 Infantry Regiment, Emilio trained at Fort Funston in Kansas for eight grueling months. The camp was notorious for its dreadful living conditions and disease outbreaks. The soldiers also had a serious lack of supplies and training equipment. Despite these conditions, his regiment travelled to England and made it to France to fight. They spent much of their time in France, patrolling the enemy’s barbed wire lines, conducting raids and capturing prisoners to gather information for upcoming offensives. By the end of April 1919, Emilio’s time of service was finally over, and he returned to Monte Vista.
Around 1926, 35-year-old Emilio married a woman named Antonita. She was 17, and in August or September of 1929, Emilio Jr. was born. By 1930, he lived in Rock Creek and owned a pool hall. By 1935, Emilio moved his family back to Monte Vista, where he owned a general store called E. Brito’s. By 1940, his store expanded, and Emilio employed (and lodged) a clerk named Andreas Valdez. Emilio passed away on Sept. 9, 1956, and was buried in the Colorado State Veteran Center Cemetery.
Born on Feb. 22, 1899 in Indiana, Marion Gordon Davis was the youngest son of Marion and Mary. His only sibling was William, five years older. Marion Sr. supported his family by farming in Richland Township.
Before Marion reached age 10, his father moved the family to Monte Vista, Colo. and worked as a carpenter.
While working as a clerk for the Weiss Mercantile Company, Marion registered for the draft when he was 19 years old.
After the war, Marion returned to his parents’ home in Monte Vista and lived with his brother William. Marion Sr. still worked as a carpenter, but Marion Jr. didn’t start working immediately after returning home.
On March 6, 1925, Marion married 20-year-old Pauline Getz. They had two children, starting with Eleanore Jean around 1926 and Marjorie Ann born next in 1928.
Marion moved to Del Norte sometime around the time of his marriage, and by 1930 he was a proprietor of a local filling station. But then he moved his family to Casper, Wyo. for a short time in the mid-1930s. He returned to Colorado once again, moving to Grand Junction in Mesa County to work as a lumber company manager.
Pauline sadly passed away at the age of 41 on May 6, 1946. Marion remained in Mesa County until his death on Dec. 18, 1987.