History of Larimer County, Colorado

Some books, it is said, need no explanation. This one does. I undertook the preparation of it with misgivings concerning my ability to tell the story of the rise and progress of Larimer County as it should be told. Now that it is done, I fain would ask the indulgence of those into whose hands the book may fall, especially the critically disposed, because of its imperfections. It would be presumptuous to claim that a book covering the County could be entirely free from errors, but I hope it will serve the purpose of preserving for the use of some future historian a comparatively correct record of the events, incidents and circumstances of the early days in this portion of the "Great American Desert. " I can assure the reader that much care has been taken in its preparation and, as far as possible, dates, incidents and circumstances have been obtained from public reports, official records and other reliable sources. Until a few months ago I had had no thought of entering upon the undertaking myself, but had long harbored the hope that some one would take up the task of collating and compiling a history of Larimer County and carry it to completion. I knew it should be done before the Pioneers, those who had laid the foundations broad and deep, for the blessings we now enjoy, had all been numbered with those who have passed on to their eternal reward; for they would carry with them personal recollections of events and incidents that reports and records might be searched for in vain. My hopes failed of realization. No one came forward to do the work. At last I was persuaded to undertake the task, and this book is the result. Possibly it contains that which should have been left out, and omitted things that should have been inserted. There is nothing perfect in this world. There are two legitimate ways of writing history. One is to make a plain, simple statement of facts; the other, to clothe the statement in language fitted to appeal to the reader's imagination. I have endeavored to combine the two. I have conscientiously tried to present the facts, leaving, at the same time, plenty of room for the play of the imagination. The facts have been gathered from numerous sources, from historical works, from public reports and official records, from old magazines, files of newspapers and from personal interviews with surviving Pioneers or members of the families of those who have passed away. The illustrations have been picked up, here and there, wherever a picture could be found that had a bearing on the conditions of the early days. The book is written for the people of Larimer County, and my sole desire is that it may awaken within their hearts a fresh interest in those who were the Pioneers in the redemption of this favored portion of the Great American Desert. If I have succeeded in doing that and shall have at the same time preserved the facts in a convenient form for the use of the future historian of the County, my labors will not have been in vain. Let him who next writes the history of Larimer County enlarge upon the theme and clothe the facts in literary raiment of enchanting beauty and indulge in philosophical comments to his heart's content; it is enough for me that I have furnished the basis for him to build upon.

 

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The publishers of this volume desire to make an acknowledgment of their debt to Mr. Ansel Watrous, the author of this history, not only for the untiring and pains - taking service he has rendered in the gathering, compilation and writing of the book, but more especially to act as the voice of the people in expressing appreciation of his part in the actual making of history in Larimer county. This volume is the best possible monument that could stand as a mark of the author's years of usefulness in this community, and we feel that it is due Mr. Watrous to incorporate in the record something that will inform posterity concerning the part he played in making Fort Collins what the city is today.

A newspaper editor, if of strong personality, necessarily becomes more than a mere recorder of events. He often shapes and molds the destiny of a community by his editorial utterances. It is in this respect that Mr. Watrous has earned the gratitude of Fort Collins and Larimer county. As may be read in the very brief biographical record which he would allow of himself in these pages, he was the founder of the Courier, and he will remain the editor of that newspaper as long as he is able to push the pencil. Parenthetically, it may be remarked that, in spite of his seventy-five years the age at which he completes this history he is in the enjoyment of full physical and mental vigor, with a brain that acts as clearly as though the possessor were still in middle age. Looking back over the files of the Courier one finds the best index to the character of the man whose hand has guided the destinies of the paper for more than thirty years. In all that time, every line written concerning the future of city and county was in an optimistic tone. There was a never failing fountain of hope into which the editor dipped his pen. He has, in his own life, been a reflection of that spirit, for the years have rested lightly upon him, and he has lived to see the county of his adoption prosper and grow fat. He saw the ox-team go out and the automobile come in. He witnessed the transformation from desert to garden; saw the magnificent trees that now line the city's broad avenues when they were but tender saplings. He knew intimately the days when the cowman was supreme; he saw the tiller of the soil supercede the cowman and he made his newspaper the organ of the new agriculture. He advocated the introduction of the sugar beet and witnessed the birth and growth of that now stupendous industry, with its millions of investment. He fought for a town of commercial and moral greatness. Many years ago he took up the cudgel for morality in Fort Collins. He fought for a clean town and fought is used advisedly, for he held out for the right against direct threats of death and attempted destruction of his newspaper plant by dynamite. He seldom speaks of his own experiences, but those of the older generation readily recall the stormy days when Ansel Watrous, through the Courier, conducted the first campaign for better moral conditions In Fort Collins. He won the fight and laid the foundation for the clean city of today by making lawlessness unpopular and by enthroning good government. And that course he has always maintained, preferring always to stand for a clean city and never taking stock In the theory that a dissolute town Is essential to prosperity.

He has been a consistent prophet of greatness for Fort Collins and has always held before the people an ideal worth striving for. It is good to note that the prophecies which he has made are now being fulfilled, for we now have a city that embodies all of the advantages of a metropolis, and each of its public utilities and improvements has materialized only after the idea often had been first broached, and at any rate always fostered and furthered through the editorial assistance of Mr. Watrous.

There are few men in the West and perhaps none other in the State of Colorado, who have been so efficient and faithful in the service of the public through a newspaper, and none anywhere who so consistently held to high ideals in the conduct of a paper. We are certain that the subject of this tribute does not himself realize what a force he has been in this community. That, however, Is the best Indication of the unselfish character of the service rendered. He has labored for love of his profession and not in the hope of financial reward. Had he been less occupied with the affairs of the community at large, he might have taken advantage of the many opportunities that have offered themselves during his long residence here, for acquiring wealth. He does not, however, possess the business instinct, but is of decidedly literary bent, being content, when not engaged in editorial duties, with the companionship of his favorite authors. He Is exceedingly well read and the possessor of a remarkable memory for events, dates, names, and faces, being literally an encyclopedia of ever ready information concerning the affairs of Fort Collins, Larimer county and Colorado, as well as of the nation and world at large.

He and Mrs. Watrous have together grown to a beautiful and peaceful age. They have no children of their own, but the best years of their life have been given to the rear- ing of the children of others, who now have gone out Into the world. They live alone, yet not as old people, but following the daily routine common to most people in the prime of active life. And this activity is a continuation of that service which has not only recorded, but made history. Scores of political campaigns, dozens of crises in municipal, county and state affairs, tragedy, disaster, births, deaths, marriages, drouth and flood, good fortune and ill in short, life in all its phases, has passed in review before the editor, whose pen has faithfully chronicled the passing of these things and drawn from them for our perusal the lessons that have made Fort Collins a better city and Larimer a greater county. To this man, whose crowning effort is now put forth In this history, all honor! May he be with us yet many a year, to share In the further glory of industrial achievement and to enjoy to the utmost the beauties which Nature has so bountifully bestowed upon this region. Such is the earnest wish of the publishers of this, Ansel Watrous' History of Larimer county.