The Johnstown, Colorado Sugar Beet Facility

If you have read my About Me page, you know I collect vintage images of Fort Collins and the surrounding area. The one place I go somewhat farther afield is with sugar beet photographs. I admit to a love affair with images of anything sugar beet related. In this area, I go beyond Larimer County and collect images of the 13 sugar beet facilities that are classified as Northern Colorado factories. I’ve shared images from three of these locations in the past, Fort Collins and Loveland, in separate posts on their sugar beet factories, and Windsor, CO, as part of a post on the town. (I’ve placed links to these posts at the end of this article.) In this post, I’m going to share my images of the Johnstown, CO facility.

Much of the information on the Johnstown facility comes from Footprints in the Sugar: A History of the Great Western Sugar Company, a behemoth of a book by Candy Hamilton.

In 1901, the Loveland sugar beet processing factory opened and many farmers, including those in Johnstown, were growing sugar beets. In the fall, beets had to be harvested, loaded into wagons, and transported to beet dumps for transfer to rail cars. Below are some photographs of the process in Johnstown, CO.

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Drawing Beets, Johnstown, Colo. Postmarked 1908. (Photographer Unknown)

The note on the back of the postcard identifies the driver of the wagon, “Harry, this will look natural to you. It is Ed Miller driving one of Will Purvis’s teams.” Maybe someone out there will recognize these names.

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Beets Arriving in Town, Johnstown, Colo. Postmarked 1909. (Photographer Unknown)

Every small town in Northern Colorado made postcards like this one, with groups of wagons, filled with sugar beets, coming to the local beet processing plant or to a rail siding to transfer their beets to rail cars. Below is a close-up of the crowd.

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Beets Arriving in Town, Johnstown, Colo. Close-Up
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Beet Dump, Johnstown, Colo, Postmarked 1909. (Photographer Unknown)

This is a great example of an early beet dump. I used it in an earlier post on beet dumps. The link to that post is shown below:

The Sugar Beet Dump

By 1910, sugar beet processing plants were going up all around Northern Colorado. Johnstown, despite its small population of around 200 people, wanted its own plant. Milliken, an even smaller town a few miles east of Johnstown, offered to assist in the effort. It took a while and a great deal of effort but on May 6, 1920, the Great Western Sugar Company (GWS) announced its intention to build a sugar beet factory between Johnstown and Milliken. Plans were drawn up and the plant was expected to be ready for the 1921 harvest. But, in late 1920, just months after construction started on the plant, the world sugar market collapsed, and work on the facility was halted.

GWS used the time wisely. Sugar beet possessors were struggling with the problem of what to do with discard molasses, the syrup that remains after the beets were processed. While sugar remained in the molasses, it couldn’t be economically extracted. Instead, the byproduct was sold for pennies as livestock feed. GWS was determined to use this time to find a way to successfully extract the sugar from the molasses.

GWS sent a team to Germany and France to study how they were handling molasses. The team returned with an idea and a plan that would use the unfinished Johnstown plant to process the molasses from all their sugar beet factories. New plans were drawn up, construction re-started, and the new Johnstown Molasses Desugarizing plant was operating in October 1926.

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Johnstown Molasses Desugarizing Plant, October 25, 1926. (Photographer Unknown)

This image was made just prior to the plant’s grand opening. It ran in a newspaper with this caption:

Biggest of Its Kind in World – Million-dollar sugar beet molasses desugarizing plant erected at Johnstown, Colo., by the Great Western Sugar company, which will be formally dedicated Thursday, Oct. 28. This is the largest plant of its kind in the world and will add much to the prosperity of northern Colorado. The public is invited to attend the dedication.

On opening day, 4,000 visitors toured the plant. German sugar technologists visited the plant in 1928 writing, “What we have seen at Johnstown really astonished us.” The small community of Johnstown was now home to one of the most unique sugar plants in the world.

The Johnstown facility stayed relatively stable until April 1953, when GWS decided to build a monosodium glutamate (MSG) plant adjacent to the sugar facility. MSG had become an important flavor enhancer for many food products. Construction was quickly underway.

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Construction of MSG Plant in Johnstown, CO, January 1, 1954. (Photographer Unknown)

This was another newspaper photograph printed on January 1, 1954 with the caption:

Under construction currently at Johnstown is this monosodium glutamate factory of the Great Western Sugar Co. When completed in October 1954, it will employ some 120 workers.

An imposing four-story structure, the new MSG plant opened in November 1954.

About the same time Johnstown’s MSG plant opened, the Fort Collins sugar beet factory closed. Sugar beets were beginning to run into hard times. One-by-one the Northern Colorado sugar plants closed. In 1977, the Johnstown plants heard the news of their closure.

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Johnstown Workers Discuss News of Closing, January 4, 1977. (Photographer John Sunderland)

This photograph was from the Denver Post and ran in the newspaper on January 5, 1977 with a short caption: “Mike Evans, left, and Ernie Anderson discuss plant closings. Both will lose their jobs as mechanics when Johnstown facility shuts down.”

According to Footprints in the Sugar, both the molasses and MSG plants were closed. The plants sat idle until 1983 when Adolph Coors Co. bought the facility. Coors ran parts of the plant, under several different names, until it sold the facility to Colorado Sweet Gold (CSG), in February 1991. CSG used the plant to make cornstarch and related products. On August 3, 2001, CSG closed the plant and auctioned off much of the equipment. In 2005, many of the buildings were torn down.

CSG apparently still owns the property, their sign is still on the entrance, though I couldn’t find what it is being used for today, if anything. Below are two “now” photographs of the site, located on State Highway 60, between Johnstown and Milliken.

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Colorado Sweet Gold, Johnstown, CO, September 2019. View from East Side. (Photographer M. E. McNeill)
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Colorado Sweet Gold, Johnstown, CO, September 2019. View from West Side. (Photographer M. E. McNeill)

Below are the links to my earlier posts on the Fort Collins, Loveland, and Windsor sugar beet plants.

The Fort Collins Sugar Beet Factory: The Smell of Prosperity

The Loveland, Colorado Sugar Beet Factory

Images of Early Windsor, Colorado – Part 1

Windsor Town Link

A 1901 Trip from Laramie, WY to Fort Collins, CO

How did a family travel to Fort Collins in 1901? Here are two pictures that can show us.

Larimie to Fort Collins 1901 Family in Wagon
Family and Horse and Wagon, Laramie, WY, 1901 (4 ¼” x 3 ½” photo)

This is probably a family photograph taken at the start of a trip from Laramie to Fort Collins. The caption on the back reads, “Ready for the start. Wagon trip from Laramie, Wyo. To Fort Collins, Colo. – Summer, 1901.”

It looks like a family of eight beginning their trip south to Fort Collins. Here’s a close-up of the family.

Larimie to Fort Collins 1901 Family Closeup
Family of Eight Loading Up in Laramie, 1901

The distance from Laramie to Fort Collins is about 65 miles. A two-horse wagon might have traveled 20-miles, at best, over the kind of roads between Wyoming and Colorado in 1901. That means this family faced at least a three-day trip. (If someone has a better estimate of the time between the two towns in a horse and wagon, I’d love to hear it.)

But we know from a second photograph that they probably made it. Here it is:

Larimie to Fort Collins 1901 Horses in Poudre

The caption on the back of this photograph, in the same handwriting as the other photograph, reads, “Our trusty team. On the way to Fort Collins, Colo. – Summer, 1901.

I’m not sure where this photograph was taken on the Poudre River but, by the width of the river and the size of the bridge, I’d guess it was close to Fort Collins.

How times have changed. Today we wouldn’t think twice about going to Laramie for lunch.

The Cache La Poudre Consolidated School, Laporte, Colorado

In 1912, the Colorado Agricultural School (now CSU) established a department of Rural and Industrial Education. Their mission was to study rural education in the state, a state still sparsely populated with many rural school districts, and to recommend changes for rural schools on a state-wide basis. It didn’t take long for them to identify the major problems; small, weak, and inefficient district school organizations, untrained and inexperienced teachers, and inadequate school buildings and equipment. The solution was also plainly obvious to them – consolidation – and one of their earliest experiments was Larimer County and what would become the Cache La Poudre Consolidated School, in Laporte, Colorado.

On July 4, 1913, the cornerstone was laid for the new school. According to the Fort Collins Weekly Courier, over 300 people witnessed the “imposing ceremony.” Many luminaries spoke at the ceremony that the newspaper called “one of the broadest steps in education ever made in Northern Colorado.

One of the speakers was Charles A. Lory, President of CAC. He reminded the audience of college’s long-time effort in rural education, thanked a number of people who were involved in the school’s planning, and closed by telling the audience that “the college’s telephone system [was] connected at all times with the Laporte district and that all they had to do was to call the college and anything that institution could do to help would be done promptly and cheerfully.”

In October 1913, the Cache La Poudre Consolidated School, consolidating six small rural schools, opened for business with 181 students, from first grade through high school.

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Cache La Poudre Consolidated School, Laporte, CO, c. 1913.

In 1918, CAC released a report entitled, “Rural School Improvement in Colorado.” Around a dozen consolidated schools were reported on in detail, including the Cache La Poudre Consolidated School. According to the CAC report, the new school consolidated five rural school districts and parts of two adjoining districts. Six old buildings were abandoned and were replaced by “a beautiful structure of brick and stone, costing $30,000.” Here is how the school is described in the report:

“The basement story, all above ground, is made of Colorado red sandstone, quarried from the red cliffs within the district, while the two other stories of red pressed brick. There are about 15 rooms in the building. It is modern as to heating, lighting, and ventilation and has indoor toilets, and its drinking fountains are supplied with pure and cold mountain water. . . . Nine rooms are used for classroom work. The large school and community auditorium will seat 350 and the manual training teacher and his family live in five rooms on the ground floor.”

Below is the full-page image of the school, used in the report.

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Cache La Poudre Consolidated School, CAC Report, 1918.

Transportation was obviously as important to the school consolidation effort as the new schools. The new Laporte school used six wagons to move students around the consolidated district. The wagons were purchased from the Delphi Wagon Company in Indiana. One local writer said the wagons “were not unlike the wagons used . . . for conveyance of prisoners from one jail to another.” The wagons were fitted with side curtains to protect the students from weather. When the snow was high, the wheels were replaced with bobsleds to make sure students could attend school.

The report also featured three other views of the school, which, along with their captions, are reproduced below:

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As the county grew, so did the school system. Changes occurred to the consolidated school as reported in the history section of the Cache La Poudre Elementary School website. In 1949, the present day Cache La Poudre Middle School was built and called the Cache La Poudre High School. The consolidated school was then used for kindergarten through 9th grade. In 1964, Poudre High School was built and the old high school became the junior high school. Finally, in 1974, the original brick building was knocked down and the new Cache La Poudre Elementary School was built in its place.

The Johnstown, Colorado Tornado of 1928

We know our area can have blizzards and floods and certainly hailstorms but we forget that Weld County has more tornadoes than any other county in the United States. One reason is its size; Weld County is four times as big as the national average. More land area equates to more opportunity to see a tornado but there is also a geological reason. Weld county sits in a bowl, making it part of a “cyclone convergence zone.”

Fortunately, though, Weld County tornadoes tend to be small tornadoes, F0 or F1 on a scale that goes to F5. But, occasionally, Weld County does see stronger tornadoes, some of which have caused deaths.

On May 22, 2008, one of Weld County’s most destructive tornadoes, an F3, struck the town of Windsor, which sits in both Weld and Larimer counties, killing one person and injuring 78 others. The town was declared both a local and national disaster area; it sustained nearly $125 million in damages. Thankfully, tornado deaths are very unusual in Weld County and even in Colorado. Since 1950, only three tornado related deaths have occurred in Colorado.

Earlier tornado records are hard to come by but a tornado researcher has found ten Colorado tornados that have resulted in death prior to 1950. One of the ten serious tornadoes was the Johnstown tornado of 1928. Johnstown is another town shared by Larimer and Weld counties. Two women died and 50 others were injured when a tornado passed just west of Johnstown on June 29, 1928, around 11:45 a.m.

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Johnstown Tornado Damage, House 1 Wide View, June 30, 1928.

The event was covered in detail by the Fort Collins Express – Courier. Tornado sirens were a long ways in the future and the tornado struck without warning. One man, who the newspaper called a “modern Paul Revere,” drove his motorcycle to farm after farm screaming for the residents to hide or drive away. Though they didn’t know his name, the newspaper credited the man for saving a number of lives that day.

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Johnstown Tornado Damage, House 1, June 30, 1928.

The tornado hit mostly farm country, sparing the Johnstown downtown area. A number of farm houses, like those shown in these photographs, were destroyed. The Fujita scale of tornado intensity wasn’t introduced until the 1970s but the newspaper had its own measure. “The regulation tornado aspect of the storm is verified by the fact that chickens in the storm stretch were stripped of their feathers.” A horse was also picked up and jammed into the cellar door of one house.

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Auto Stood on End by Johnstown Tornado, June 30, 1928.

The Express – Courier carrier this story about a man and his automobile.

“A Ford Automobile, stripped as not even highway vultures would strip a stolen car, was left leaning upward against a tree, one end off the ground, according to Ken Brown, city fireman, who was one of the visitors to the Johnstown district.”

Here are two more images of a second (I think) destroyed home.

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Johnstown Tornado Damage, House 2 Wide View, June 30, 1928.
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Johnstown Tornado Damage, House 2, June 30, 1928.

While only two people were killed, many were injured. Doctors rushed into the area from Loveland and from a meeting of the Larimer County Medical Association that was coincidently taking place in Fort Collins.

Though small in comparison to the storms of tornado alley, in the middle of the country, the Johnstown Tornado of 1928 remains on the list of the most deadly tornados of Colorado.

Barbara Fleming’s Hidden History of Fort Collins

Barbara Fleming’ newest local history book was released this week. Entitled Hidden History of Fort Collins, it covers some of the lesser known stories and images of Fort Collins. It uses a number of images from my collection, including the five shown below that are paired with Barbara’s stories. I hope you enjoy both the photographs and the stories.

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Folsom Man Weapon Points from Lindenmier Site North of Fort Collins, c. 1935


Long before the Wild West emerged in the 19th century, other people inhabited these lands. In 1927, A. Lynn Coffin and his father, Judge Roy Coffin, unearthed artifacts that established the presence of Paleo-Indian tribes about 11,000 years ago, as evidenced by these Folsom points. In the 1930s the Smithsonian Institute excavated the site. Today it is part of the Fort Collins Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, where a buffalo herd thrives.

See my post on the Coffins and the Lindenmier site by clicking here.





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Folsom Man Weapon Points from Lindenmier Site North of Fort Collins, c. 1935

Women loved the bicycle, which necessitated wearing split skirts or pantaloons and offered them freedom they had never had before. They quickly formed riding clubs. Along with this new mode of transportation came bicycle repair shops like this one, photographed in 1908 somewhere downtown.  No doubt it was one of several scattered around the town. The first bicycle, called penny-farthings, had a very high front wheel and small back wheel, making them a challenge to ride, but people did.


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Dad Morton, Timnath, CO. c. 1932

A local blacksmith, recalled only as “Dad” Morton and pictured here in 1932, plied his trade during the daytime and played his fiddle at night. During the Great Depression, many farmers still used horses to plow their fields because tractors were too expensive, so his skills remained in demand, as were his nimble fingers to accompany square-dance callers. For a good many years square dancing, born in barns across the frontier in the 19th century, dominated social life in rural America.




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Byron White’s Wellington Home, c. 1982.

John F. Kennedy and Byron White met in England in 1939. White, whose childhood home is shown here, served in the Navy during World War II, was valedictorian of his college class and played professional football before being named to the Supreme Court in 1962, after his friend John Kennedy became president in 1961. A moderate, White served for three decades.

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 Toliver-Kinney Building, c. 1945

Not many people have lived here long enough to remember Toliver’s Hardware Store, which began in the 1920s as a gas station and hay merchant and expanded to hardware. In the 1940s the company was still selling gas, as the photograph shows. After being on the northwest corner of College Avenue and Mason Street for several decades the store moved around the corner into a Mason Street storefront, discontinuing gasoline sales. Long-timers perhaps recall going into the store, with its creaky floors and knowledgeable clerks, who could meet any hardware request, no matter how unusual.

Barbara’s book is for sale at many book outlets, including Old Firehouse Books, Barnes & Noble, Walgreens, Jax Outdoor, and Al’s News Stand.

Virginia Dale, Part 2

Two weeks ago, I posted some images of Virginia Dale, including an 1867 image of the Overland Trail and some images of the stage station. You can see that post by clicking here: Virginia Dale Part 1. Today, I’m going to complete my Virginia Dale images by posting pictures of the Virginia Dale Community Church, a number of images of the gas station/café/post office, and one image of an early Virginia Dale Ranch.

Virginia Dale, Colorado is located on US Highway 287, a few miles south of the Colorado/Wyoming state line. If you are driving north from Fort Collins, the first Virginia Dale structure you will find is the small white church, with a small cemetery, located on the west side of the highway.

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Church – Virginia Dale, Colo., c. 1940.

The church was built in 1880 and moved a few miles to its present site in 1884. During this move, the original logs were covered with clapboards and the small steeple was added. Early in its history, the church was Methodist and then Presbyterian before becoming non-denominational.

On November 15, 2003, an arsonist burned down the church. The arsonist, a volunteer fireman, was arrested and sentenced to prison. Cash and building supply donations poured in and, with the help of volunteer labor, the beautiful little church was rebuilt and services were started again on March 14, 2004.

Below is a photograph of the Virginia Dale Community Church today.

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Virginia Dale Community Church, 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill

I’m sure that the small white church on US Highway 287 is frequently photographed by tourists traveling between Fort Collins, CO and Laramie, WY, But, if an Internet search is a good indication, the most photographed building in Virginia Dale is the abandoned gas station on the east side of the highway. I couldn’t find when the combination gas station/post office/café opened but here are three images of it, stretching from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s.

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Virginia Dale Post Office and Store, c. 1935. Photograph by Shelby Fishback

Shelby Fishback was a Fort Collins photographer from around 1925 until the early 1970s. A number of things allow this image to be dated fairly accurately. First, the Virginia Dale Post Office moved from the stage station to this Highway 287 location around 1932. Second, the two automobiles, shown in the real photo postcard, were identified as 1931 or 1932 cars, with some difference of opinion on whether they were Pontiacs or Desotos. Third, an enlargement of the photograph shows a spare tire cover on the car on the right with a date that is either 1933 or 1935. Mid-1930s seems like a very close date for this image.

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Virginia Dale Filling Station, Colo. Postmarked 1950. Photo by William Sanborn.

Not a lot has changed since 1935. The building looks pretty much the same but with some different signage. One of the two gas pumps also looks more modern. The biggest changes might be the arrival of electricity and three power poles and the very large Texaco sign. The 1950 postmark is probably the best guess for the date of the image.

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Hilltop Café, c. 1967. Photo by Vern Davis.

This photograph is also hard to date. The building has been expanded to the north and the Hilltop Café sign has been added to the roof top. There is also a phone booth in the photo. The only clue that helps to date the image is that it is still the Virginia Dale Post Office. The Virginia Dale Post Office closed in 1967 and was moved to Livermore, CO. My guess is that this photo was taken shortly before the closing of the post office.

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Virginia Dale Gas Station and Café, 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

The Virginia Dale gas station, store, and café operated into the 1990s and is now abandoned along 287, maybe getting its picture taken more today than when it was open.

Finally, below is a circa 1940’s image of Woodlawn Ranch, apparently owned by Ed W. Shaffer (sp?), in Virginia Dale, Colorado.

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Woodlawn Ranch, Virginia Dale, Colo., c. 1940.

With some help from some people who live in the Virginia Dale area, this ranch was identified as the Two Bars Seven Guest Ranch, now owned by Polly Schaffer.

It opened in 1913 and became both a working ranch and a guest ranch around 40 years ago. It is 3,000 acres, spread across the Colorado and Wyoming border. Today its address is shown as Tie Siding, WY.

Next Sunday’s post will have to be a surprise. I just won a wonderful 1890’s image of Fort Collins. If it shows up before next Sunday, I’ll probably share it. If not, I’m going to do a post on the souvenir postcard folders of Northern Colorado.

Virginia Dale Part 1: The Overland Trail and Stage Station

I have too many Virginia Dale images to cover in one post. So, today I’m going to post an 1867 image of the Overland Trail and some images of the Virginia Dale stage station, including a few images I took this week. A couple of weeks from now I’ll post the rest of my Virginia Dale pictures, including images of the Virginia Dale church and the post office/gas station that seems to have become an Internet favorite.

Also, I know very little about the Overland Trail, the stage station, or Jack Slade, so this post will mostly be about the photographs, with just a little history. I hope you enjoy the images.

In July 1862 alterations were made to the Overland Mail service route, which moved it into Colorado and through Laporte, the Forks, and Virginia Dale. Mail service ran across the Overland Trail six days per week, with the coaches carrying the mail and up to nine passengers. In 1863, Indian problems forced all east-west traffic to follow the Overland Trail. According to one report, “it was not uncommon to see from fifty to one hundred wagons with their loads of merchandise and freight encamped at the [Virginia Dale] station.” No wonder the trail became so worn, as you can see in this 1867 stereoview image.

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“296, Virginia Dale, on the Overland Stage Route.” October 1867. Photograph by John Carbutt.

I was able to find a lot of information about this image. It was taken by John Carbutt, a Chicago photographer who was hired to take photographs for a number of railroads, as they expanded west. One of his repeat customers was the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR).

In October 1867, Carbutt received a contract to photograph the UPRR’s “Editorial Party Excursion,” given for members of the eastern press. Carbutt went with them all the way to the Colorado Rockies, where he stopped for one-month to take images for his own business. He called the series “Views of the Rocky Mountains and Vicinity,” and his stereoviews in the series were numbered from 286 to 315. This image is one of the stereoviews from his Rocky Mountain Series.

I showed the image to local historian Wayne Sundberg who said he thinks Carbutt was “probably looking east, coming into Virginia Dale. Table Mountain is just barely visible in the background. The stage station . . .  would be out of view to the left, around the curve.”

You can see a horse and wagon on the road and a couple of men in the right foreground. Here is a close-up of that section of the photograph.

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Virginia Dale, on the Overland Stage Route, close-up.

In 1868 the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad to Cheyenne, WY ended the transcontinental mail and passenger service by stage, although the stagecoach continued to operate for many years in regions to which the railroad did not run.

Now let’s move on to the Virginia Dale stage station itself. Below is a brief introduction to it and to Jack Slade, taken from the current information sign, as you drive onto the property.

“Established in 1862 by Overland stage agent Joseph A. (Jack) Slade, the stage station may have been named after Slade’s wife, Virginia. The bullet riddled station served as a refuge from Indian attacks for the travelers and local residents. Slade himself gained notoriety for the killing of Jules Beni, one time Overland stage agent at Julesburg. It is said that Slade cut off Jules’ ears after the killing, nailed one to a post in the corral, and carried the other on his watch chain. Slade was widely suspected of being in league with stage robbers during his tenure at Virginia Dale, and the mountain to the northeast became known as Robbers’ Roost, because of the thieves who hid there. Slade later led an outlaw gang in Virginia City, where his career came to a sudden and violent end in 1864, when he was hanged by the local vigilance committee.”

The Virginia Dale stage station was a “home” or “division” stage station, which supplied food and even sleeping accommodations to the passengers. Both horses and drivers were switched at these larger stations and a large barn, corrals, and a blacksmith shop were part of the original facility. The smaller “swing” stations were located about every ten miles, so that the horse teams could be switched out.

The stage station stopped operating in 1868, but the building continued to serve as a post office and store until around 1932, when the post office was moved to Highway 287.

The stage station went through a number of owners and changes. The Hurzeler’s built a house on the property, when they owned and operated the station as a store and post office. The house is still there, very close to and just west of the stage station. The original station had a front porch that was gone by the early 1940s. Both the following real photo postcard images were taken after the post office had closed and the front porch had been removed.

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“The Old Stage House, 1862 – Virginia Dale. Circa 1940. Photograph by Shelby Fishback.

Shelby Fishback was a long time Fort Collins photographer, with a downtown studio, from around 1925 until the early 1970s. I’m guessing that this image was taken not long after the porch was removed.

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“The Old Stage Station at Virginia Dale, Colo.” Circa 1955. Photograph by William Sanborn.

This image of the station was taken after 1950. The windmill has been replaced with an electric light pole and the white clapboards have aged. Notice in both images, that the original logs are only visible on the west end of the building.

In 1936, Fred and Maude Maxwell, local ranchers, gained ownership of the property. In 1964, they donated the stage station and the Hurzeler House to the Virginia Dale Community Club. In 1985, the Virginia Dale Stage Station was added to the National Register of historic Places. Recently, the Club has taken on the restoration of the station and they have done a beautiful job. Below are four photographs I took of the property last week.

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Entrance to the Stage Station Property, June 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

To get to the stage station, turn off 287 just north of the historic marker. (I think it is CR 43F.) Take the dirt road and follow the signs to the property. It is between one and two miles. You will come to a fork. Stay left and you will be fine.

The Hurzeler House can be seen to the left side of the image and the stage station to the right. There would have been a large barn in the left foreground. It was moved to an adjacent ranch at some point.

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Images of the Stage Station from Two Sides, June 2017. Photographs by M. E. McNeill.

The log structure was built using “piece-sur-piece” construction. This construction method was described on the National Register as having “vertically notched horizontal timbers . . . placed into grooves of vertical timbers set at regular intervals.” Now that the clapboards are gone, it is easy to see the construction technique. This method made it easier to build large log structures without mechanical equipment.

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Front Porch of the Stage Station, June 2017. Photograph by M. E. McNeill.

The replacement of the porch is the latest renovation of the stage station by the Community Club. It is beautiful. My wife and I had the pleasure of having lunch on the porch, sitting in the shade on wooden benches and leaning against logs that are over 150 years old. The only thing that would have made it better was the arrival of a stagecoach and horses.

Below is the website address for the Virginia Dale Community Club. I’m sure they’d appreciate any help we can give them with this wonderful project. Donations can be mailed to:

Virginia Dale Community Club

844 CR 43F

Virginia Dale, CO 80536

Next Sunday I plan to post images of the Fort Collins YMCA. I hope you will take a look at them.

Click here for Virginia Dale: Part 2.

Alabaster Art Shop & the Church at Owl Canon

Late last year, Barbara Fleming wrote a column for the Coloradoan on the alabaster business in the Livermore, CO area. (I’ve placed a link to her article at the end of this post.) Her column reminded me that I had a couple of images of an alabaster art shop. It took some time to put it all together but I’m going to share them with you today. I knew nothing about the art shop and had trouble finding someone who could help, and then there was the mysterious old church.

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Charles E. Roberts’ Alabaster Art Shop, Laporte, Colo, c. 1932. Photograph by William Sanborn.

The image of the Alabaster Art Shop and the old automobiles and gas pumps are interesting in themselves but then there is the church in the background. The church dramatically raised the interest of the card.

One of the joys of historical research, at least for me, is tracking down someone who knows something about an unusual image. This image proved tougher than most. I finally sent the image to the Livermore Woman’s Club and asked if they knew anything about the art shop or the church. A few years ago, the Club wrote a book on the area, entitled Among These Hills: A History of Livermore, Colorado, and I hoped they might recognize the church. Kathy Packard was nice enough to send the request to their membership and I was finally able to connect with Tom Peden, a local who knew a good deal about the art shop and the church. Tom even had a website with information on the art shop. (I’ve placed a link to his website at the end of this post.)

First I’m going to focus on the art shop and then I’ll tell you what I was able to find out about the church. Most of the information on the art shop comes from Tom and I hope I got it right.

Charles E. Roberts started at least two limestone quarries, one in Ingleside, Colorado and one in Rex, Colorado. Limestone was used in the processing of sugar beets. He ran the quarries from around 1913 until he retired around 1930. The 1930 census shows a Charles E. Roberts with an occupation of merchant of a general store in Livermore, CO. The store was probably the combination art shop and store in this image, which at the time of construction, was on the road from Fort Collins to Laramie, WY. The the license plates on the automobiles in the photograph are also form the 1930s. You can see that Charles sold alabaster art, Aztec curios, soft drinks, and of course, gasoline. Below is a later image of the shop, circa 1940.

Alabaster 782 no 2 pm 1942 Full B640
Charles E. Roberts’ Alabaster Art Shop at Owl Canon on the Laramie Highway, Laporte, Colorado, c. 1940. Photograph by William Sanborn

In this image, the buildings are a little bigger and the church is gone. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to date this card except that it postmarked 1942, so the image was taken before then.

Tom remembers that the road to Laramie was rerouted in 1952. This store was abandoned and the owner at that time, Napoleon Martinez, built a new store on the rerouted highway. Tom thinks that the buildings in these two images were abandoned and slowly deteriorated. He believes they were burned down in the 1980s. Now let’s move on to the church.

Church Closeup B640
Church at Owl Canon Enlargement, c. 1930

The information on the church in the early photograph was even harder to track down. Tom had some memories of it that he shared with me and, fortunately, the Catholic Archdiocese Denver had some records of the church. Neither thinks the church was ever named, so I’m calling it the Church at Owl Canon,

Tom remembers that the church was built on land owned by Charles E. Roberts in the mid-1920s. Roberts was still running the limestone quarries and was looking for a place for his mostly Hispanic workforce to worship. Tom thought that Roberts donated the building and land to the Catholic Church.

Ingleside Quarry Worker c1915 B640
Workers at Ingleside Quarry, Ingleside, CO, c. 1915. Photographer is unknown.

Karyl Klein, Archivist, Archdiocese of Denver, kindly searched their records and confirmed that the Roberts’ family donated the land to Bishop Tihen in 1930. Bishop Tihen served as Bishop of Denver from 1917 until 1931. Father Trudel, pastor of Holy Family Church in Fort Collins, CO, often worked with the migrant community and probably preached there on occasion.

Once the limestone quarries closed, the land was too far from Fort Collins and, it appears, the church was abandoned. The church records show that the land was deeded back to the Roberts’ family in 1948.

Tom thinks that the church was moved from the site and re-purposed. That must have happened prior to 1942, since it isn’t in the postcard with the 1942 postmark. Where it went and what it was used for remains a mystery.

Here is the link to Barbara Fleming’s article, “A Little Known Local Resource.”

Here is the link to Tom Peden’s website, “Owl Canon.”

Next week I’m going to share images of the Fort Collins’ sugar beet plant.

Images of Early Windsor, Colorado – Part 2

As explained in Images of Early Windsor, Colorado – Part 1, the opening of the sugar beet plant in 1903 dramatically and quickly changed the town. Between the 1900 and 1910 U. S. Census, the population of Windsor soared from 305 to 1,780 residents. To meet the needs of the growing population, a high school, the Park School, was built on the southwestern corner of Walnut and Third Streets. The original two-story structure was completed in 1905.

By 1909, the Park School was too small and a new wing and a third floor were added to the high school. The enlarged school was ready in early 1910. Below is a photograph of Park School shortly after the work was completed.

Park School, Windsor, Colorado’s High School. Postmarked 1911.

An online document has this architectural description of the school:

“The 1910 Park School . . . is a Colonial revival styled, three-story building of stone construction with an irregular rectangular plan, multiple roof, half-sunk basement, and two identical arched entrances. The stone walls feature rough-cut, irregular coursed stone from a local quarry, the roof is finished with asphalt shakes, and the foundation consists of concrete.”

The Park School was converted to a grade school in 1918 with the construction of a new high school. It was closed in the late 1970s and converted to the Town Hall in the 1980s. Below is a “now” photo of the Park School as the Town Hall.

Windsor Town Hall, February 3, 2017.

Shortly after the conversion of the Park School to a grade school, the school board voted on the construction of a junior high school. While I couldn’t find much on the building, I believe this may be a photograph of the 1921 junior high, circa 1925.

Junior High School, Windsor, Colo. c. 1925.

The rapid growth of the early 1900s also demanded a permanent place to house city offices and records. The Town Hall, located at 116 5th Street, was constructed in 1909 to meet these needs. It was the center of town activity for over 60 years.

City Hall, New Windsor, Colo. C. 1910

This image of the new town building was probably made shortly after construction. Notice the hitching posts in front of the building. Certainly horses and the hitching posts would have been gone before 1920.

The Windsor Town Hall made it onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. It is one of two Windsor buildings listed on the Register. The other is the Windsor Milling and Elevator Company, covered in Images of Early Windsor, Colorado – Part 1.

The application for National Register listing included the following information:

“The building was built at an original cost of $7,500. The first floor housed the council chamber, clerk’s office, the records, and the fire fighting equipment and sleeping quarters for the firemen. The first floor also housed the police magistrate and the town jail. The second floor was unfinished until 1921 and then was used as an auditorium and meeting place for various organizations. . . . The community library was housed there from 1948 until 1961. The town vacated the building in 1984.”

City Hall, Windsor, Colo. with Fire Truck. C. 1930

As this image proves, any building looks better with a fire truck. The photograph was probably taken around 1930. The building looks much like it did when it was first built. The hitching posts are gone, the trim is light rather than dark, and the double equipment door has been lowered, eliminating the transom windows.

The Register of Historic Places application includes some information on fire equipment that may help to date this image.

“The Fire Department was located in the Town Hall from 1909 to 1963 when the department built a building of its own. At first a fire wagon was housed there. By 1916 a used motorized fire truck was purchased and stored in the Town Hall. Nine years later [1925] that truck was replaced by a more modern one that was itself replaced in 1941.”

I think this truck is most likely the truck purchased in 1925, though I’m not sure. Here is a close up of the vehicle.

Close-up Fire Truck at City Hall, c. 1930

The building now houses the Windsor Art and Heritage Center and looks very much like it did in 1930.

Finally, below is a great image of a music room.

Music Room. Postmarked 1907 from New Windsor, Colo.

I hope someone can tell me if this is a room in Windsor, CO. It is postmarked New Windsor but the message on the back isn’t helpful. It reads, “Guess you’ll recognize this room.” Do you?

Next week it’s back to Fort Collins to look at images of the Woeber Interurban streetcars.

Images of Early Windsor, Colorado – Part 1

In 1873, J. L. Hilton built a small house half-way between Greeley and Fort Collins, Colorado. It became known as the “half-way” house and was a landmark for travelers between the two bigger towns and county seats of Northern Colorado. Even today, Windsor, Colorado is shared by Larimer and Weld Counties.

Below are some images of Windsor, mostly from the early 20th century. I hope you enjoy them.

We’ll start with two images of Main Street, both circa 1905.

Main Street, New Windsor, Colorado, c. 1905
Street Scene, New Windsor, Colorado, c. 1905

I think these two images show the two sides of Main Street at a time when horse and buggies still filled the street but signs of a more modern time, like cement sidewalks and power poles, were appearing. Notice that both postcards use “New Windsor” as name of the town. There is an interesting story behind this version of the name told in The Struggle for Identity: Windsor’s Historic Downtown by Adam Thomas, HISTORITECTURE, LLC.

“Contrary to the belief of many, the town was never known as “New Windsor,” but the name of the post office was changed from Windsor to New Windsor because of the careless habit of so many in abbreviating the names of Colorado and California, “Col.” and “Cal.,” making their o’s and a’s so much alike that mail clerks had difficulty in determining where to send some pieces of mail. There was a Windsor, California, too.”

The article goes on to say that while this is an interesting story, a simpler explanation is that at the time of the founding of Windsor in Northern Colorado, another Windsor already existed in Routt County, Colorado. The post office had to append “New” to the Windsor name to avoid confusion. However, the residents stuck to their name saying in an 1899 newspaper article that “the town is no more New Windsor than it is New York.” Fortunately, the post office and citizenry became united in name on October 1, 1911, after Routt County’s Windsor had disappeared.

Windsor Lake, New Windsor, Colorado. C. 1910.

While centrally located, Windsor wasn’t ideal for farming. Cultivation was only possible in the limited river bottoms. However, early settlers knew the area had a particularly low-lying and marshy spot – a natural reservoir site. Construction began in the early 1880s and the reservoir, first called Lake Hollister and then Kern Reservoir or Windsor Lake, changed the future of Windsor. Thomas in The Struggle of Identity says, “With irrigation, Windsor became the center of an expansive farming and livestock-feeding empire that made the town a natural agricultural processing hub.”

Digging Potatoes in Windsor, Colo. C. 1905

Windsor farmers grew a variety of products, including oats, barley, and alfalfa, but the area later became known for its potatoes and sugar beets.

An early objective for many Northern Colorado towns was the completion of a local flour mill. Windsor was no exception. As early as 1884 the Fort Collins Courier reported, “There is strong talk of a steam flouring mill built in Windsor this summer,” but the first Windsor mill wasn’t completed until October 1896. The Greeley Tribune reported on October 29, 1896, “Last Tuesday smoke began to ascend heaven ward, bearings were lubricated and wheels began to revolve and the Windsor mill was in motion and ready to make Windsor flour a reality.” Unfortunately, this mill was destroyed by fire in July 1899, with loses estimated by the Fort Collins Weekly Courier at $50,000.

Windsor remained undaunted. Within a month, the planning for a new mill was underway. The February 8, 1900, Greeley Tribune reported, “The Windsor brick flouring mill, which is to be twice as large as the one that burned down, . . . is nearing completion.” Known as the Windsor Milling and Elevator Co., the plant, according to the September 20, 1900, Fort Collins Weekly Courier, was completing some finishing touches and “Windsor can now boast of one of the largest, finest most complete and up-to-date mills in the west.”

Here is a photograph of the Windsor Milling and Elevator Co., circa 1910.

Windsor Milling and Elevator Company’s Plant, New Windsor, Colo. C. 1910

Located at 301 Main Street, the plant operated until 1990 as a flour mill and later a feed mill. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 1998. The mill’s fourth story and much of the third floor were destroyed in the 2008 tornado that tore through Windsor. Renovations are now underway to turn the historic structure into a brewpub, bar, and dining facility.

Below is the building as it looked a few days ago. One recent article said that the target date for completion is the end of 2017.

Windsor Milling and Elevator Company, February 3, 2017.

The next, and probably the most significant event in early Windsor history, was the opening of a sugar beet factory in the early 20th century.

Sugar beets were changing Northern Colorado. The Loveland sugar beet factory had opened in 1901 and farmers all over the area were switching their fields from wheat to sugar beets. Windsor was no exception.

The Windsor beet dump opened on October 18, 1901, providing the mechanism to efficiently transfer the beets from the farmer’s wagons to the railcars, which would move the beets to the Loveland factory. (See “The Sugar Beet Dump” post.) But Windsor wanted their own plant and got it.

Ground was broken for the plant in November 1902, on property east of town, and they started processing beets one year later.

Sugar Beet Factory, New Windsor, Colo. C. 1910.

One local newspaper wrote, Windsor “is no longer a wayside trading post. A bright day has dawned upon our little city, and the future will evidently unfold brighter things.”

Sugar beet factories changed our small Northern Colorado towns. They brought the first real industry to most of them. Thomas’ The Struggle for Identity: Windsor’s Historic Downtown documents the growth in population. “The 1900 U. S. Census found 305 people living in Windsor, a number that had been nearly stagnant for decades; by 1910, the town had about 1,780 residents, a 484 percent increase over ten years.”

Thomas also found a surge in downtown building. Of the 43 extant commercial buildings that he surveyed in 2009/2010, nineteen were built between 1900 and 1910. The factory had an “immediate and profound effect upon Windsor.” I’ll cover a couple of these buildings next Sunday in Part 2 of the Windsor story.

The Windsor factory shut down in 1966. Luckily, the sugar beet site was quickly leased to Kodak and, by 1968, the “Welcome Eastman Kodak” signs were hanging in downtown Windsor.

Signing the Lease for Office Space in Sugar Plant to Eastman Kodak, August 1968. Beverly Lane (left); William Frantz (center); Unknown Person (right)
Welcome Eastman Kodak Sign, August 1968. Harry Ashley (left) and Les Ambrose (right) on Main Street of Windsor, CO.

At its peak, Kodak would employ 3,000 people, in the Windsor location. The transition to digital photography impacted the workforce and the operation was sold to its largest creditor, Kodak Alaris, in 2013.

Next week I’ll continue the Windsor story with images of some of its commercial and governmental buildings.