Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Early cultures and clashes make Fort Collins a location of extraordinary haunted and historical past.

Last Saturday night Haunted History After Dark welcomed four courageous visitors to the tour. John and Lisa (at right) are proprietors of a well-known business in not only a busy district of Old Town today, but in Fort Collins early history, was the heart of the city. This was an area of much activity especially in the late 1870’s and 1880’s as the town grew south and west from the new Fort site. Churches, hotels, blacksmith shops, and the first fire house in Fort Collins inhabited this historic area. We thank John and Lisa, and their brave friends, Zach and Susan for their generosity in sharing their own stories and for taking our tour.

Fort Collins is a very interesting city with an extraordinary past. Early in its history, our town attracted not only educated, well to do Easterners, but it also lured those working for the railroad, miners, cowboys employed by large livestock company’s, homesteaders, and others looking to start a new life in the American Frontier. Even as early as the 1860’s the protection of the Cavalry at the new fort brought in many new residents which included brave entrepreneurs like Judge Stone and Joe Mason, bankers and mercantile men like William and Frank Stover, land owners like Abner Loomis, as well as livestock ranchers and Cavalry men like Norman Meldrum and Asaph Allen. You might notice that these names look very familiar, as we travel down their streets every day.

Joe Mason Street, is always a crowd pleaser right about 3:00 p.m. as the Colorado and Central journey’s through Fort Collins and halts travel for miles. The traffic jam it causes usually ruffles a few feathers, understandably. But, this may ease your mind a bit, the next time you are stopped on Mason Street as the train goes lumbering by, remember that without Joe Mason and the other names mentioned above, we might not even have had a town as wonderful as Fort Collins to call home. Joe actually helped the 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry pick the site for the new Fort back in July of 1864. He was the first postmaster, first sheriff, and first store owner in Fort Collins.

If it weren’t for these few courageous settlers who decided to stay after the Cavalry left in 1867, Fort Collins may have been just another ghost town on the prairie. And when the Colorado and Central tracks were laid in town in 1877 (it was then called the Colorado and Southern) the town population tripled in size. This inconvenience for us today actually put us on the map 134 years ago!


By the 1870’s and forward we had many new residents from all walks of life looking for freedom and fortune in the West. This wonderful complex mix of demographics, cultures, and backgrounds created a colorful landscape for an early town. By 1883 Fort Collins not only had a new fire station on Walnut, a reputable and expensive financial institution on Linden and Walnut, an Agricultural College of the west (now Colorado State University), as well as many reputable homes and stores on College, but it also had 5 brothels, 13 saloons, and various gambling houses with only a population of 1356! This blend of goals and aims of residents for this new town of Fort Collins occasionally caused conflict, persecution, crime and often time’s death.
Through Grace’s natural intuitiveness and my historical research we can take you back in time and put you in touch with one of the most famous locations where those two early cultures clashed, as well as the site where an early resident met his demise and the social political outcome of his death that altered the city for 131 years!


Learn more on the Haunted History After Dark tours which run Thursday and Saturday nights at 7:30pm or by reservation. $10 per courageous visitor or $35 for a brave group of four. Contact hauntedhistoryafterdark@yahoo.com or call 970-690-7986. Tours begin in front of Boutique Bravo and Mother Lode Gallery at 136 West Mountain Avenue. This location is also haunted and the business of Boutique Bravo has found its home in many haunted Old Town locations for over 33 years!
YOUR HAUNTED JOURNEY STARTS AT DUSK!
Historical photos courtesy of Fort Collins museum and Poudre River Library.

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