In 1908, Harriet Fish, a teacher from the San Francisco Bay area, married her high school sweetheart, George Backus, an assayer and mine engineer. Together they moved to Telluride, Colorado, where George had obtained a job at a mine operating in the Tomboy Basin, 11,000 feet above seal level. They braved their new environment with its constant snow (up to 20 feet at a time) and dangerous high altitude.
Harriet's love for her husband and their home sustained her throughout hardships such as hunger, isolation, accidents, and disastrous avalanches. In her classic memoir Tomboy Bride (1969) she describes great happiness as well as times of violence and sorrow. Her first child, Hattie, barely escaped death from an infected tooth, and her second child, a boy, was born healthy. However, her last child was born and died during the great flu pandemic of 1918. George's career took the family many places beyond the rugged San Juan Mountains, including British Columbia and the mountainous mining town of Elk City, Idaho and Leadville, Colorado. George took a job at the Oliver Filter Company, which allowed the couple to travel together to places such as Hawaii and Australia. Harriet Fish Backus died at age 92.