Town of Keenesburg - Southeast Weld County Chamber of Commerce

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A Brief History of Keenesburg, CO

Following  is a brief history of the town of Keenesburg. Most of this info was  found in a book put together by the students of Weld Central's "Writing  Local History" class, in 1990-1991. This book contains a lot of history  not just about Keenesburg, but Hudson, Lochbuie, Roggen Prospect Valley,  Kiowa, the railroad, Henrylyn Canals and the schools in the area. I  recommend this book for people interested in the history of this area.

Keene,  Colorado, as Keenesburg was originally known, sprang up on both sides  of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in the early 1900's.  Keene was not typical of the other towns that sprang up along the  railroad. The town was not a water stop for the railroad, like Roggen  and Hudson, so the only reason the railroad stopped in Keene was to pick  up livestock. A spur of the CB&Q Railroad also ran to Prospect  Valley to pick up livestock, approximately down road 63 1/2.

The first wedding in Keene was held on December 25th, 1904. The bride was Minnie A. Evans and the groom was James M. Acree.

The  railroad depot was built in 1906. This was the first building in Keene.  It was a two-story structure with a telegraph office on the first floor  and living quarters on the second floor. The depot not only handled the  telegraph, but also the town mail. The Burlington Northern building  constructed in 1963, located on the north side of the tracks, sits where  the original depot was built. The original building was destroyed in an  accident.

In 1907, the federal government decided to build a  post office in Keene. Mrs. Fannie Evans was appointed postmistress. The  town was officially called Keene, named after a rancher that was one of  the first settlers in the area. Les Keene came from Kentucky and  homesteaded east of Keene. However, within a year the young town  received a letter from the mayor of Keene, Nebraska, protesting the dual  name and asking that it be changed. The protest was founded on the  basis that Keene, NE was incorporated before Keene, CO. Mrs. Fannie  Evans proposed that "burg" be added to the name and the matter was  resolved without further conflict.

Even though the town now had a  depot and a post office, a vast prairie surrounded most of the town.  The town was dependent upon the patronage of ranchers who migrated into  the area from 1907 to 1910. Charley Thomas opened the first general  store in town, around 1909. The store was a tin building, located on  what is now Main Street, near what is now the old drug store. By 1915,  the town had 5 buildings. These were the train depot, Thomas's store,  the Bath Building (what is now the Ponderosa Inn) that was also a  general store run by Joe De Berry and Lum Koffee, Bob Walkers  restaurant, and the post office.

As the town grew, so did the  number of businesses. N.A. Pippin started the first freight service in  town. This was necessary due to the number of goods being delivered by  the railroad. By 1915 the town had a lumberyard, started by Mr. Beggs  and ran by E.W. Dye. This was originally located on the north side of  the tracks and mainly used for coal storage. By 1927, the Foster family  bought the lumber yard and moved part of the business to its present  location. In 1920, B.E. Timbers built the town bank. The bank the  building is in now was once a hotel. The original bank was on the  opposite corner, where Nature's Spot sits today. The town was  incorporated in 1919. The first mayor was V.M. Porter and the town  trustees were Lawson Bowles, H.T. Elder, A.F. Gross, William Preston,  F.M. Williams and Dr. O.J. Vallicott

Of course, these businesses  would not have started if it were not for the early settlers. In 1907,  Henry Bowles homesteaded 160 acres, which would later become  incorporated into the town. Another early homesteader was John Klug  (pronounced Klue). He lived 14 miles north of town, but raised an  extensive number of cattle. Since there were no fences at this time, the  cattle ranged as the grass grew. Often, they would wander into town,  and as the story goes, many died in town during the Blizzard of 1919.  Other early homesteaders were N.A. Pippin, who also served as town  marshal, and Dan Lord. Mr. Lord was a large landowner and built the  building known as Lord's Hall. Bill Kipp and his family moved into the  area around 1918 and since there was no place to stay, were forced to  live in a "haunted house" east of town. They spent several years in the  house, but never did meet the ghost. Most of the settlers in the area  raised livestock and did dry land farming. It was not until the Henrylyn  Irrigation system was completed around 1923 and irrigation wells were  dug, that irrigation canals allowed them to produce different crops.

The  town did move along during the twentieth century, even though it was a  rural area. People communicated with each other through barbwire  networks. They were similar to primitive telephones, but were powered by  batteries and had a limited range. By 1915, phones were used  exclusively, even though there were few of them. The automobile was  another way the town moved into the new century. In 1918 Mr. Porter  built the first garage in town. This is the building across from the  bank, which is now owned by Curve Tech. In conjunction with the garage,  there was also a Forsythe Oil Company. Every other day, Pippin Freight  would deliver several wagonloads of five-gallon cans of gas, and this  was how people filled their cars. Fred and Tom Bell opened a service  station during the 1920's, located where the Gray Brother's building  sits. Today this building is Tim's Car Clinic. In fact, most of the  business buildings in town were built before 1940.

The town  residential population has grown from those few hardy settlers to over  one thousand, according to the 2000 census. Of course, there are a lot  more people who live outside the town’s borders, but we do not have any  official figures. It is amazing that even after almost a hundred years,  that Keenesburg still has that small town feel. That must be because of  the people. Many of the families who settled the area remained for a  long time. In fact, many of those families are still here today.
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