The following links are to a chronological index of Fort Collins information compiled by Fort Collins Museum volunteers in the 1990s.
The information is from these reference sources and they are noted in the Time Line. There is also a Brief Time Line available.
Before Colorado was organized as a territory, settlers of the Cache la Poudre and Big Thompson River Valleys formed a claim club to protect their rights to their land. Each member of the club was allowed to choose 160 acres of land. Rights to the claim were recognized and protected by the club, which provided regulation in the absence of a legal government.
After the Territory of Colorado was created and organized in 1861, Larimer County was created by an act of the first territorial legislature. Three county commissioners and other, lesser officials were appointed by Governor Gilpin. Frederick W. Sherwood, Alfred F. Howes, and John J. Ryan headed the first official government of the county, named after General William Larimer, founder of Denver. LaPorte was named the county seat in the act.
The following year LaPorte also became a station stop for the Overland Stage Lines, which transported U.S. mail. Depletion of western troops during the Civil War followed by Indian raids along the Platte Trail in Wyoming led Ben Holladay, owner of the stage, to move the mail route south. The new road traversed northeastern Colorado. It followed the South Platte from Julesburg to the mouth of the Poudre at Latham. The main route then followed the Poudre to LaPorte and on up the Cherokee Trail into southern Wyoming. A branch line later went from Latham to Denver and then back along the front range to LaPorte.
A military escort guarding the move of the stage line arrived in LaPorte on or near July 22, 1862. The soldiers would soon erect buildings for a military post created to protect the Cherokee Trail. General James Craig recommended that the post be called "Camp Collins" in honor of William O. Collins, in command of the 11th Ohio Cavalry, at Fort Laramie.
Following a flood which damaged the camp in 1864, the army sought a new location for its post. Joseph Mason, a claim holder along the Poudre south of LaPorte, suggested a site between his claim and that of Frederick and Jesse Sherwood. Colonel Collins inspected and approved the site in August, 1864.
Exactly when the "camp" became a "fort" is uncertain. References to "Camp Collins" appeared years later. The post hardly deserved the term "fort." It had no walls and no stockade. The buildings included officers' quarters, barracks, mess halls, a storehouse, and a guardhouse around a parade ground of 300 square feet. Later additions would include more storehouses, a stable, a magazine and additional officers' quarters.
The fort attracted civilians and provided profitable opportunities for those already settled in the area. Joseph Mason, a French Canadian engaged in stock raising, ran Old Grout, the fort sutler's store. Mason and one of the Sherwood brothers supplied horses to the army. Elizabeth "Auntie" Stone and her husband, Lewis, came to Camp Collins in 1864. Upon learning of the relocation of the camp they began building a log cabin which served as officers' mess and as a hotel. Although in her sixties, Auntie Stone added some excitement to the dull routine of camp life with her parties. Her garden also improved the diet of the soldiers.
Henry C. Peterson also came to Camp Collins in 1864. He obtained employment as a gunsmith for the soldiers. Peterson and Auntie Stone, widowed in 1866, became partners in building a flour mill. It began operations in 1868 and provided a local supply of a basic food staple, further stabilizing the settlement. Other residents in the area when the camp was founded included Mr. and Mrs. John G. Coy, who had a farm across the river from the fort, and Benjamin Whedbee and E. W. Whitcomb who were raising cattle in the area.
The primary purpose of the fort was to police their portion of the Overland Trail. Escorts for supply trains, paymasters, VIPs, etc., were often called for. Indian raids would bring calls for troops from the post. At times the camp commander found it necessary to act in civil matters, since there was no civilian law enforcement. Except for these "diversions" camp life was a monotonous routine of answering duty calls and performing housekeeping chores. The fort itself needed little protection. It was located in a region populated by peaceful (but horse-stealing) Arapahos led by hospitable Chief Friday.
Indian problems in the area declined in 1866. Abandonment of the post was proposed. Fort Collins residents protested the suggestion, citing the need for protection but, perhaps, more concerned with what the departure of the military might mean to the area's economy. General William T. Sherman inspected the fort in September, 1866. He recommended the post be abandoned. It officially closed in March, 1867.
Despite the departure of the military there were signs of potential prosperity for Fort Collins. The town of Cheyenne sprang up as a railhead of the first transcontinental railroad. Laramie was also an important railroad supply center. Thus, located between these two booming towns and Denver, Fort Collins might hope to prosper.
To further enhance Fort Collins prospects, Joseph Mason, whose business had depended heavily on the fort, led an effort to have the county seat moved from LaPorte to Fort Collins. The legislature agreed to this in 1868. County records were moved to Old Grout, a versatile building which served as the town's first post office, and as courthouse, church and community center.
The civilian population of the Fort Collins community worked to organize and improve their neighborhood during the years of the fort and afterward. The town of Fort Collins was first platted in 1867 by Jack Dow, assisted by Captain Norman H. Meldrum and others. It was laid out parallel with the river.
School was first taught in 1866 by Elizabeth Keays, Auntie Stone's niece. Although Miss Keays initially began the classes for her son, other settlers soon sent their children. She taught in a small room in her aunt's hotel.
In the summer of 1866 a Fort Collins school district was formed with Captain Asaph Allen, Henry C. Peterson, and W. D. Hays as members of the school board. They employed Miss Keays to teach the first public school in one of the abandoned officer's quarters, although she quit after three months and married Harris Stratton, a farmer and county representative to the territorial legislature.
Miss Keays' little hotel classroom was also the site of the area's first Catholic services in the fall of 1866. Father (later Bishop) Machebeuf held Mass on a Saturday.
In 1869 a group of people from Mercer County, Pennsylvania, established a colony west of the town. They began construction of the Mercer Ditch from the river. However, their funds soon gave out and the colony eventually dissolved.
The end of the 1860s found the small town of Fort Collins in a period of transition. It had grown up around a military post. That resource was now gone. New ones would have to be found or created for the town to survive.TOP
CATTLE RANCHING-E.H. WHITCOMB
FORT COLLINS YESTERDAYS-Swanson
E. W. Whitcomb lived near Boxelder Creek. He was one of the first to deal in Texas cattle. His parties were a big county social event. He sold his ranch in the 1870s. He also was involved in the Johnson County War (Wyoming) in 1892.TOP
FORT COLLINS PLATTED
"Old town was laid out in 1867 when Jack Dow, assisted by Captain N. H. Meldrum and others, surveyed and platted it parallel with the course of the river."
FORT COLLINS YESTERDAYS-Swanson
The Post Office was first in Joseph Mason's sutler store.
Preserving the history of Fort Collins, Colorado & the Cache la Poudre region