Archive for the ‘Famous people’ Category

Town father, Elias Whitcomb, was a cattleman who helped found the Agricultural Colony, which became Fort Collins. He came from the East with nothing, married an Indian woman, built an impressive house north of town, and got a street named for him.

He’s even in the Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Here’s a photo of him (circled):


All those other guys? They’re  gunmen from Texas brought to snuff out small ranchers in Wyoming.

Whether those small ranchers needed snuffing out or not, is debatable.  The small ranchers, homesteaders mostly, were supplementing their holdings by swiping cattle from the big cattlemen–big cattlemen like E.W. Whitcomb. When the courts wouldn’t prosecute the rustlers to the cattlemen’s satisfaction, the cattlemen turned to vigilantism. Or is that mercenaries?  Some of both, I guess.

Whitcomb rode with the Texas gunmen and a list of targets, into Buffalo, Wyoming. People got killed. But despite his vigilante actions, the people of Fort Collins sympathized with him. “It would be extremely hard to convince the people of this county that [the vigilantes] were activated by unworthy motives,”  said the Fort Collins Courier. Most people called it simply an “unfortunate expedition.”

Historians had another name for it: the Johnson County War. They say powerful ranchers set out to wipe out rustlers and small cattle ranches.  And they were motivated by more than preserving herds. The small ranchers were starting to organize, and maybe threatened the big guys’ hold on the market and the land and the water.

Still, Whitcomb’s expedition worked out for him.  Nobody was prosecuted, and one account said the Johnson County Wars led to “cattle owners receiving a measure of justice at the hands of the courts not enjoyed hitherto.” Which I think means the courts got tougher on rustlers.

Maybe. But not tough enough, apparently. Because a few years later the big cattlemen were paying Tom Horn to pick off rustlers in this region. $600 per. There are several movies about Horn, and History Channel plans a documentary about him this Winter.

Horn had few connections to Fort Collins, but if you drive north an hour, to Cheyenne, you’ll see where he was hung. And if you drive south for an hour, you can visit his mortal remains in Boulder.  In fact, you are less than a day away from Tom Horn killings all over Colorado and Wyoming.

Here’s a picture of Tom Horn:

EW Tom Horn favorite horse

He’s on his favorite horse, named E.W., after Elias W. Whitcomb.


No matter what I searched for in this story, I ended up at Wyoming Tails and Trails. An awesome and exhaustive Wyoming history site. There’s so much more to the story of the Johnson County Wars and Tom Horn than I tell here. The picture of the “Regulators” with Whitcomb came from that site.

Tom Horn wrote an autobiography before he died. It’s appended with pictures (like the one of him on his horse here) and letters he received in jail (like one from a Mr. Ownbey in Loveland). The autobiography is available free online from  Google Books.

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Some folks sing songs. Odetta testified.–Time magazine

In the early 1990s, I rented cheap office space at the Northern Hotel. That’s how I saw the single flyer at Bar Bazarre announcing Odetta in concert. It was the only public notice for the show.

 The Northern’s owner, Bill Stark, said the singer was in town for a wedding, and her friends wanted a place to hear her play. They put a few tickets on sale, but the crowd was mostly wedding party.

Iconic folk singer singing to a room full of friends. I can tell you now, that’s the best kind of show there is.

Odetta died on Tuesday.
(Update: Obituaries reveal that Odetta’s son resides in Fort Collins. Thanks to 3DSound at Dragging the Line for the tip!)

(Update2: Jan 28, 2009 Article in Fort Collins Now interviews Odetta’s “son,”  Boots Jaffree, )

Photo by Burnt Pixel on Flickr (click for photostream)

(Photo by Burnt Pixel on Flickr)

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Real pop art in Fort Collins? You betcha! An Andy Warhol soup can is now on display right in front of the old high school on Remington.  See? We’re not a bunch of hicks.

Here’s how we got the lawn art:

“The soup can was part of a (1981) exhibit of Warhol’s work at CSU, and was painted by university student  Bruce Conway,” says the University Center for the Arts. “The artwork was painted onto sections of donated construction pipe following Warhol’s specifications that it look like something ‘right off the supermarket shelf.'”

Then Warhol showed up and signed it.

im001160But Warhol brought more than his pen to Fort Collins. He also brought big city artistic irony–way before that kind of thing was everywhere.

I wonder who “got it” when he agreed to come to Fort Collins only on the promise of getting to stay with John Denver. Or invited a cow to come to the signing. Or showed extra fascination with bovine semen extraction methods at CSU.

Hey! Was Andy Warhol implying that we’re a bunch of …?


Warhol in Fort Collins, 1981

Visit his can on the lawn of the University Center for the Arts (Formerly Fort Collins High School) on Remington Street for a close up look. And for gawd’s sake, change out of yer Carhartts before you go.


This story is largely a retelling of Museum Cache, a weekly broadcast from the Fort Collins Museum that airs on KRFC 88.9 every Monday during the news (7:30 am and 5 pm). The museum folks just handed the script over to me. All I did was edit and take photos of the can.

I’d like to point out that museums and history associations in every town are not always thrilled about these “lost” city blogs. That’s why ours is the best ever–they treat their archives and knowledge like a community resource/service so anybody can become a local historian.

A shout out also to Beth Flowers of FlowersontheTable, who first told me about the soup can.

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 I went to the Barack Obama rally today. I don’t stand in lines when I can avoid it, so listened from the railroad tracks that run by the Oval. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t get to have a moment:

Crowds gather on railroad tracks

Crowds gather on railroad tracks

I heard a woman ask, as she passed, “what happens if a train comes?” My companion assured me the secret service made sure no train would come. I expect a convoy of angry freight trains are gearing up to pass through town now. You know they’re angry because they lean on their whistles for the entire, slow 4-mile trip through town.

Vote in the best interest of my kid, not my plumber

I vote what's best for my kids, not what's best for my plumber

McCain supporters in a sea of blue

McCain supporters in a sea of blue

Finally, I tried to take pictures of the motorcade coming north on College as Obama drove away. But Lost Fort Collins had to make a tough decision: Barack was standing in the front of his bus. Should I try to get a great photo for YOU, or put the camera down and wave back at Barack?

I put the camera down and we smiled right at each other.

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You know that Jack Benny handprint downtown? It’s in front of the bank on the corner of Mountain and College.

I heard it’s not really Benny’s handprint.

In 1964, Jack was here celebrating Fort Collins 100th anniversary. (It could be that his mother lived here.) He and others dipped  hands in cement block, but then …

Well, the story goes, that the cement form was whisked to the east side of town to cure. And as the truck driver rumbled over so many railroad tracks, the cement responded like an Etch-a-sketch, erasing Benny’s hand.

The driver’s solution? Fix it with his own hands before the cement could dry.

3 distinguished handprints. Jack Benny's is center...supposedly.




I heard this from a guy who heard it from a guy who heard it from the driver. Gossip always makes the best history, doesn’t it?

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