Sunday, August 26, 2007

Women of the West, Part 2

Illustration courtesy of

Actually, the alert among you have noticed that there was no entry entitled "Women of the West, Part 1." The first entry in this series (since I just decided it was a series) was entitled "Doña Concha", and appeared on October 5, 2006.

Today's subject is Lady Catherine Moon, in whom I became interested after a recent trip to Fort Collins, CO. The B&B in which I was staying had a room named for Lady Moon, and later in the week, on a drive west out of the city to have lunch with my sons, we passed a Lady Moon Drive--so I just had to find out more about her.

Lady Moon started life as Katie Grattan Lawder, born to Irish parents on an English ship off the coast of France in 1864/5. She emigrated to the US when she was orphaned at the age of 12, and found work with a doctor's family in Clinton, Iowa. At 18 she moved near to Fort Collins, Colorado. According to some stories she first married a prospector, but eventually all agree that she met and married Cecil Moon, an Oxford graduate and younger son of a titled British family. According to an entry in Empire Magazine, Moon was "a remittance man. Such a one was usually a wayward son, sent as far from home as possible, and maintained there by regular checks from home. . . . He had failed in a try at the mining business, and when he met Katie he was a student at a ranching school." Cecil fell for Katie (who was either his laundress or nursing him back to health) and they married in 1888.

After their marriage, a series of deaths in the family resulted in Cecil's inheriting his grandfather's title and fortune. Having become Lady Moon, Katie (now Catherine) insisted on a trip back to England with her husband to visit his relatives. Cecil's mother did not approve of Katie, and so they returned to Colorado.

Katie and Cecil divorced sometime in the early part of the 20th century, after Katie had taken control of most of Cecil's fortune. As "plain" Mrs. Moon, Katie ran a 2,100 acre cattle ranch in the back country near Fort Collins, and was generally seen around town wearing a plumed hat. Some sources say she drank whiskey, dyed her hair, and dressed flamboyantly. According to the History of Larimer County: "Lady Moon is a good business woman and a lover of good horses."

She died of cancer in 1926 at Larimer County Hospital, having survived a disrupted childhood, numerous ocean voyages, social rejection, and a precedent-setting decision by a Colorado court requiring her to pay alimony to Cecil.

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