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History & Heritage of Collbran Colorado

Collbran was founded in 1882 and incorporated in 1908.
We consider ourselves "one of the last old west cowtowns."

The Town of Collbran's History

Life was not always easy...But it was worth it!

The Birth of a Town

excerpt from "Skin and Bones of Plateau Valley History" complied and edited by Helen Hawxhurst Young - 1976

John Alexander Fitzpatrick built the first house. The winter of 1882 the family lived in a sort of dug-out lean-to setup, but in the spring of 1883 he built a good two story log house. This is the same house where Gene Bloss lives and it is still in good condition. He homesteaded the land east of Main Street.

John Bertholf, who came with the Fitzpatricks, homesteaded in what is known as the Triangle ranch, but it extended into the town on the West end. George Hall had a lot of the west end of town, and there was the Noble addition, which Noble either bought from Hall or filed on himself. In time these were laid out in streets and lots, and became the town.

Englehart and Parkison built the big store, and other businesses started up. E.S. Rice and the Blue Front Grocery and Dry Goods Store, which might have been built before the big store. Rice was the father of Nelson Rice, who married Gertie Fitzpatrick, and they built the Cottage Home, which was run by several people, including my mother, Margaret Hawxhurst, for sometime. Mr. Rice also built the Rice and Ludlum Pool Hall. He was also the father of Mrs. Hank Tomlinson, and the Tomlinsons lived in a tent in the grove of trees next to the school house. She was a fine dressmakeer. Later they had a little restaurant on Main Street. Mrs. Anna Henderson also ran it after her husband's death.

Collbran Union High School
Collbran Union High School

There were several families living in tents with floors in them. Henry Geely had a tin shop in a tent in this grove of trees, and also dispensed a little home-made "licker' on occasion--that is, when he didn't taste it all up. The first paper was printed where the locker plant is now, and later it was a meat market. Alex Hawxhurst ran it in 1900, but I think Otis Coakley had it before that. Later Miles Overholt and Tower build another place for the Oracle printing plant. There was a barber shop, and a livery barn where the Auditorium is now. There were blacksmith shops, run by Bill Gilliam, Noble, Keeton and Learn; and after several years by Al McRay and many others.

The town really grew after 1902 and 1903. There were over a hundred houses built, plus the church, I.O.O.F Hall etc.


Collbran's "Current" History

Collbran rodeo grounds
photo by McDel Publishing

Cowboys and rodeos have been around Collbran for as long as it has existed, and for many years, ranching was the primary industry. Ranching in the past consisted primarily of raising cows, sheep, pigs, horses, and the hay to feed them! Of course many ranchers had chickens too. Eggs and milk were taken to The Creamery in Collbran. Cows and pigs were herded across the DeBeque cut-off in the fall to the railroad stock pens to be sent to market.

Although some of these family ranching operations continue, many ranchers have had to section and sell their land to survive. Some of the new landowners have continued the ranching tradition, though. The valley is home to elk, llama and goat ranches too now.

The ties to our heritage are reminiscent in the school's mascot (The Cowboys).

Our history and heritage blend with the present and become quite apparent every April and October when herds of cows and sheep are still driven by cowboys on horses (or ATVs) to and from the summer pastures.

herding cows on horseback
photo by Missy Wallace

For more information about the History & Heritage of Collbran Colorado, we recommend coming to town and visiting with the people who live here...
A good story is only five minutes from pulling up a chair!

Or, visit our local library!

Town of Collbran historic photo
Town Of Collbran as it looked in 1906. Photo by Charlie Koch
 the good old days - Town of Collbran historic photo
Moving to Collbran Colorado...
ah, those were the good old days.
Photo source unknown

From the best of times to the worst of times, life was good for the most part.  And still is, in Collbran Colorado.

2002 Plateau Valley Cowboys
Plateau Valley Cowboys
photo by Kammy McElwain Delpit

ranching is a big part of Collbran's heritage
Cows on the Nichols Ranch just south of Collbran
photo by Kammy McElwain Delpit - McDel Publishing
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Town of Collbran, 1010 High Street, PO Box 387, Collbran, CO 81624
Office: 970-487-3751 Fax: 970-487-3380