The Pioneer Museum opened in 1941, through the efforts of the Indian Relic and Hobby Club, the Pioneer Association, and the Daughters of the Colorado Pioneers. It was located in Library Park, facing Peterson Street and made from red sandstone to match the Carnegie Library building that shared the park. Below is a real photo postcard of the museum made by local photographer Mark Miller.

Antoine Janis – Pioneer Museum, c. 1941

Though it is hard to date this image, I would guess that Miller made it when the museum first opened and he would have the best chance of selling copies.

According to the caption, the image also shows part of the Antoine Janis Cabin in back of the museum. Janis was one of the first white settlers in what would become Larimer County, Colorado, building this cabin around 1858. The Indian Relic and Hobby Club purchased the cabin in 1936 and moved it from Laporte, Colorado to Library Park.

Clyde H. Brown with Elephant Tusk, c. 1951

According to a biography in the Fort Collins Archive, Clyde Brown was the son of James Brown and Adelaide Carnrike and lived in Fort Collins most of his life. He attended school in Fort Collins, including two years at Colorado Agricultural College. He worked on his father’s ranch raising cattle and in the family hardware store that was located at 117 Linden Street. From 1943 until he retired in 1963, Brown was the curator of the Pioneer Museum.

Brown is shown on this printed postcard standing next to an elephant tusk, with a picture Jack Slade over his left shoulder. Slade was a stagecoach and pony express superintendent, instrumental in the opening of the American West and the archetype of the Western gunslinger.



Interior of the Pioneer Museum, c. 1941

Another real photo postcard by Mark Miller, this interior view of the Pioneer Museum was probably taken about the same time as the exterior view.

Like many small local museums, its collection was probably built through donations of items gathered by local families, without regard to a collecting plan or strategy. More like a 17th century Cabinet of Curiosities than a modern museum, the collection was an eclectic mix of items from African animal heads to spinning wheels to hunting knives. While not what we would expect today, the museum was probably fascinating to the local children who often tied trips to the library with a visit to the museum.

Exterior View of the Pioneer Museum, c. 1960

This is another image that is tough to date. The old state abbreviation, Colo, is used for Colorado, so the image was probably made before 1963 when the postal service started using the two letter state abbreviations.

In the mid-1970s, the decision was made to build a new library on Library Park. The Pioneer Museum had to be torn down to make room for it. In 1976, the Pioneer Museum was closed and the collection moved to the Carnegie Library Building and renamed the Fort Collins History Museum, with a collecting plan and a professional museum staff but maybe with a little less charm.

Forgotten Fort Collins did a longer article on the Pioneer Museum on April 28, 2013. Here is a link to it:

In Thursday’s post, we will move the Poudre Canyon a short distance looking at an early resort and an attempt at running a railroad through the canyon.


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