The historic Highlands Ranch Mansion has quite a long history in what is today Highlands Ranch. For many years, John Springer was thought to be the mansion’s first owner, but he was not. The site of the mansion originally passed from the United States government into the hands of Samuel Allen Long in the late 1800s.1 Even though Long spent almost four years trying to meet the requirements for free land under the Homestead Act, he ended up buying the 160-acre property outright in a $200 cash transaction.2
The federal government distributed publicly owned lands to private hands in a variety of ways. The Homestead Act of 1862 gave up to 160 acres to any head of household as long as they completed five years of continual residency on the property and made certain improvements. However, the act also allowed people to purchase properties for $1.25 per acre.
Long traveled to the Denver Land Office on January 15, 1885, and formalized his intention to homestead the land where the mansion now stands. Housing built on homesteads was often hastily constructed, as seen in the photograph here.3 These structures provided basic shelter while homesteaders worked on improving the land. Long’s improvements included turning his property into farmland on which he grew rye, barley, corn, sorghum, alfalfa and maize.4
The Highlands Ranch Mansion site wasn’t the only land in the area that Long received from the federal government. In 1884, he filed for 160 acres just south of the Highlands Ranch Mansion using the Timber Culture Act of 1873. The act required Long to cultivate trees on at least 40 acres of this property. Long complied, planting locust, maple and catalpa varieties.5
Newspaper notices indicate that Long was preparing to prove his homestead claim on October 17, 1888.6 This final act would have consisted of testimony from neighbors who could vouch in court that the applicant met the Homestead Act requirements. Instead, on October 18, 1888, the day after Long’s scheduled court date, he returned to the Denver Land Office and converted his claim to a cash purchase.
Long’s improvements to the property continued, including construction of a home on the property in 1891. The home, identified as “Rotherwood” in the stone above the entryway, still exists as part of the Highlands Ranch Mansion.
However, Long’s prosperity did not last. He sold 800 acres in August 1893 to Orin Waid for $12,000, including the site of the mansion. Nine years later in the 1900 census, he and his wife were living at the Ladies Aid Society, a refuge for the homeless elderly near Denver.
While the Archives & Local History department doesn’t have the original land patent for Long—the official document showing ownership—other original land patents for Douglas County properties going back to 1896 are being kept for long-term preservation in our archives collections.7
To learn more about the history of Highlands Ranch, contact Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History.
2 United States Bureau of Land Management Tract Books, 1800-c. 1955; https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99WS-Z78W?cc=2074276&wc=M7W7-YTL%3A356164301%2C356164002
3 Nickson Homestead Cabin, 1992.001.0XXX.0117; Douglas County Historical Society Collection; DCL Archives & Local History, Castle Rock, Colorado
7 Douglas County Land Patents, 1997.020
Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History needs your election materials!
ALH collects and preserves materials relating to Douglas County’s history, and right now we’re looking for items about local elections and political campaigns to help future researchers understand our current political climate. Instead of recycling your election materials, why not send them to ALH?
Donating to ALH is easy! Contact us to set up a drop-off time and fill out a Deed of Gift, and then you’re all set.
Desired materials include:
1. Mailers – postcards, letters, infographics, brochures
2. Small artifacts – pins, buttons, lanyards, flags, stickers (unused)
3. Organizational records – Are you part of a political group? Do you have meeting agendas, correspondence, or other administrative documents?
4. Posters, signage (legal size or smaller preferred)
5. Materials on any issue, candidate or affiliation!
Items don’t have to be related to the 2020 election, but they should adhere to the following:
1. Legal size or smaller – We aren’t looking for yard signs or large banners at this time.
2. Clean and dry – We cannot accept wet or mold-affected material.
If you have any questions or wish to set up a donation, contact us at:
A mother, daughter, and local druggist met their deaths at Castlewood dam in November 1894. Eighteen-year-old Pearl Boyd reportedly clung to Alfred Stott as she cried out for someone to save her. Tragically, the raging water proved too much for Pearl and her mother, daughter and wife of the Castlewood Dam manager, as they, along with Mr. Stott, drowned.
The Denver Republican reported this devastating news on the morning of November 15, 1894, under the headline: “Three Lives Lost, Mother, Daughter and Guest Are Drowned.” Happily, the Denver Post exposed the article as a complete fabrication invented by the “deceased” Boyds’ 23-year-old son and brother. “Fooled the Republican: Three Denver People Surprised to Learn That They Were Drowned,” reported the Denver Post later that same day.
The source of the tall tale was Charles Boyd, who apparently had no problem spinning a yarn about his family’s death. His reputation was not stellar. Charles’s boss at the City Package Delivery Company Denver described him as irresponsible and no good.
Gold and silver usually come to mind when thinking about mining in Colorado. However, Douglas County made a name for itself with another geologic industry: quarrying rhyolite stone.
Colorado is renowned for its astounding variety of geological resources. Its geologic history includes supervolcanic eruptions, millennia of tropical sea sedimentary deposits, and the uplift and erosion of ancient mountain ranges. This constantly changing geologic landscape resulted in rich mineral and ore deposits like gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, gypsum, lime and clay. Sandstone, quartz and granite abound in the state, as well as gemstones.
The famous gold and silver booms of the 19th century brought miners to Colorado’s mountain towns, with activity especially concentrated around Leadville, Cripple Creek, Steamboat Springs, and southwestern Colorado.
Douglas County’s Geologic Industries
Unlike in mountain towns, though, gold and silver industries were limited in Douglas County. Gold mining took place from about the 1860s to 1880s in Russellville (near the head of Cherry Creek), but it did not produce large quantities. Other local profitable deposits included coal, lime and gypsum. Local clay was used to make bricks at brickyards and plants that operated near Castle Rock at the turn of the 20th century. The Silicated Brick Company, whose plant was located at the north end of Roxborough Park, created highly durable bricks by steaming and compressing silica sand and lime.
The Quarry Story
The major geologic industry in the county was the quarrying of rhyolite, a pink or gray volcanic rock formed from ultra-thick magma ejected in violent volcanic explosions. Castle Rock in particular is known for its rich rhyolite veins due to the Wall Mountain Tuff ash flow that occurred when Mount Princeton violently erupted 36 million years ago. Hot ash and pumice compressed to form tuff (a soft material not useful for building), but some formed thick deposits of rhyolite.
Rhyolite stone was hand-quarried and cut at quarry sites across the county, including the Santa Fe Quarry, the Madge (Douglas) Quarry, and the O’Brien Quarry. The work was astoundingly difficult, and in addition to the quarrying itself, it included the transport of water to the quarry sites and the construction of roads and rail tracks.
Silas Madge is credited with operating the first rhyolite quarry in Douglas County, beginning in 1872. In fact, the needs of its workmen spurred the construction of the historic town of Douglas, which was located a few miles south of Castle Rock. The Madge Quarry is described in detail in this article in the December 10,1948, issue of the Record Journal of Douglas County. The full article is also available in Archives & Local History’s reference serial collections, along with the Industry clippings binder, located in the Reading Room at DCL’s Castle Rock, Philip S. Miller, location. You can also browse the Archives & Local History website for more resources, including this oral history in which Douglas County residents speak about their memories of quarries.
Stop by Archives & Local History in Castle Rock to check out our fall 2020 exhibit about quarries in Douglas County!
“Castle Rock Rhyolite,” Masonryofdenver.com, June 26, 2014, http://www.masonryofdenver.com/tag/castle-rock-rhyolite/
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, “Rhyolite Rock Facts: Geology and Uses,” Thoughtco.com, March 19, 2019, https://www.thoughtco.com/rhyolite-rock-facts-geology-uses-4589452
Industry Clippings Binder, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History, Castle Rock, CO
Natural Resources Clippings Binder, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History, Castle Rock, CO
The Archives & Local History department (ALH) at Douglas County Libraries (DCL) is open by appointment only for the foreseeable future, but what does that mean for you? Following is a look at the different resources ALH has on demand and when and how you would make an appointment with our staff.
For up-to-date Archives & Local History hours and operations, please check our homepage or the DCL website. Also, follow us on social media for relevant updates.
Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History (ALH) has put together the following activity packages to encourage learning about what archives do and how you can use these types of collections, even from home. Each topic contains a downloadable link to instructions and resource guides, along with fun activities you can do safely at home or in your backyard. Click the links to download the activity packages, then follow the instructions for a fun learning experience!
Educational Activities to Do From Home
Volunteer From Home, Help Historical Research
Are you feeling cooped up during your self-isolation? Museums, libraries and archives around the world are putting out the call for remote volunteers. DCL’s own Archives & Local History department (ALH) has opportunities to volunteer from home for those who want to stay busy with a project while giving back to the local community.
The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection (CHNC) makes Colorado’s historic newspapers accessible digitally, using optical character recognition (OCR) technology to make the digital newspapers searchable by keyword. However, the technology is not perfect, especially on the oldest newspaper issues. Sometimes, words appear misspelled or nonsensical. Volunteers can review OCR text for these errors. Every correction makes the newspapers that much more useful for historical research! Volunteers who correct the most lines of text even have a chance to win prizes.
If you need further help, watch CHNC’s instructional video below. ALH would like to keep track of the DCL community’s participation, so please email us at LocalHistory@DCL.org and provide your username once you’ve registered.
The internet is teeming with guides describing the benefits of decluttering your home and how-to’s addressing the preservation of family heirlooms and archives. These guides typically cover the common “archives” we find in our homes: papers, photographs, scrapbooks, and basic digital files. But what about all of those other things we inherit and accumulate and want to preserve and keep forever? Today I’m going to take some time to cover items you might like to preserve for the long term but that do not often make the common at-home archiving list. This post addresses basic preservation techniques and exhibiting advice for vinyl records, cassette tapes, and textiles.
Vinyl Records or Long Playing Discs (LPs)
We get it, you miss buying CDs and now that Taylor Swift has released her new album on vinyl, you’ve purchased your Crosley tabletop turntable (record player) and are now a die-hard audiophile. But how do you actually take care of that LP edition of Lover so you can pass it on to your kids when we enter the third age of vinyl in 30 years? Look no further! For general preservation advice, check out this blog post. But here is the quick and dirty of vinyl preservation:
An example of a warped vinyl record, probably caused by light, heat and humidity exposure.
- Stop stacking records in a pile and stop leaning them when filed on a shelf. While the album covers help records stand up and minimally protect them, vinyl is very fragile and weak and will warp if not supported or stood straight up and down on a shelf.
- Stop touching the vinyl! Do not pick that piece of lint off the record with your hand. Do not clench the record in the slip cover while you’re trying in vain to shove the album back into the album cover. And do not cautiously stroke the vinyl because it’s really soft. Again, vinyl is very fragile. If you need to clean the record before playing (which you should do each time), utilize a simple record cleaning kit. When handling the record, only touch the outer edge of the disc and the center where the label is. Even when the album is in its paper cover, do not pinch or grab the record; this can cause you to scratch, warp or otherwise damage the record.
- Keep albums away from sunlight, high humidity, very hot or cold temperatures, and dusty environments. Always keep albums in archival dust covers.
A simple record display shelf. Image courtesy of Carrie Waller of “Dream Green DIY.”
Displaying albums is a fun way to showcase your great taste in music while also covering up the nail holes in your wall. When displaying albums that you wish to also listen to and keep for a long time, be a bit more careful and specific about how you display them. First, ensure that the wall on which you would like the album to rest receives no sunlight. Any direct or even indirect sunlight will cause the album cover to fade and discolor and will cause the vinyl disc to warp, or in extreme cases melt. Next, to hang the album, my best recommendation is to simply utilize a small display shelf rather than a frame. This allows you to easily switch out the albums you showcase and easily play them. Additionally, while your whole vinyl collection should be stored in individual archival dust sleeves, make sure that the particular album on display has a dust cover, as it will be exposed on all sides to settling dust particles.
Now, on to cassette tapes, or specifically in this case compact cassettes. If your dad is anything like mine, then you’re due to inherit about 200 mixtapes chronicling the hits from 1973-1996. Or you’re still holding on to the first piece of music you ever owned, …Baby One More Time on cassette. Regardless, you may want to keep and listen to these audio gems now and in the future (those mixtapes sure tell a story about your dad’s delve into new wave in the early ’80s), so how can you ensure their quality and playback ability? First, be aware that cassette tapes consist of audio that has been recorded onto cheap polyester base tape; therefore, it will deteriorate easily even in the best archival facilities. With that said, cassette tapes surprisingly generally seem to live beyond their life expectancy. To ensure that yours do too, follow these basic preservation guidelines:
An example of tape deterioration due to sticky-shed syndrome. Image courtesy of Imperial College London via Michelle Boyer-Kelly’s post on the University of Arizona Special Collections blog.
- Store cassette tapes in acid-free cases, or at the very least in their original plastic cases. Each tape should have its own case.
- When storing cassettes in a larger media archival box, or on a shelf, they should be stored vertically on end, and never stacked on top of each other.
- Keep your cassettes in a room with stable temperature and humidity. This is a good rule of thumb for all materials you’re seeking to preserve. Ideally, the temperature should range between 45-54 degrees Fahrenheit and 30-50% RH.
- I feel like this should be obvious, but in case it’s not: Do not under any circumstance touch the tape surface. The magnetic tape within the cassette housing is very fragile and touching or pulling the tape, especially if it’s old, can damage or break it, rendering playback impossible.
- For playback, or listening to your cassette tapes, first make sure that the cassette player is clean and dust-free. One of the biggest threats of playing a cassette is accidentally recording something on top of the original recording, so be sure you press the correct button. Never leave a cassette player in the playback machine; always return it to its proper storage container right after ceasing playback.
Should you find yourself wishing to display your cassette tapes, follow the same guidelines for displaying LPs.
An example of the archival storage of cassette tapes. Image courtesy of Gaylord Archival.
Whether it’s your wedding dress, an autographed NFL jersey, or the quilt your great-grandmother left you, textiles are common items we acquire that require some TLC to ensure they last for generations. Textiles can be particularly difficult to preserve due to the natural fibers they’re composed of, which renders them particularly susceptible to deterioration and damage. But by following some basic preservation principles and techniques, you can make sure that grandma’s coat lasts for many years to come:
An example of how delicate fabrics can deteriorate over time. Image courtesy of the Government of Canada and this great guide to caring for textiles.
- If possible, never fold textiles. This is especially important for tapestries, blankets and rugs. The best method for storage is to roll textiles around a dowel covered with archival tissue paper (acid-free). However, should folding be the only method possible, do not fold textiles tightly, rather utilize the least number of folds possible and place archival tissue paper between the folds.
- From there, store textiles in an airtight container, or an archival box. For very heavy items, make sure that the container is able to support the item and consider storing it on a lower shelf. Avoid storing linen in a wooden wardrobe or on wooden shelves. Wood can harbor mites and pests and can damage materials when affected by seasonal humidity. For textiles, you want the humidity to be between 40-50% RH.
- To combat pests, preventative measures are best. Do not use mothballs in containers with textiles, as they are not very efficient at deterring pests and they can be harmful to textiles. Instead, place pest traps in the same room as the stored items. Finding pests in the traps should alert you to a potential problem you should address.
- When cleaning textiles, the best method is actually to vacuum them with a low-powered hand vacuum. For particularly fragile textiles, place a fine screen (like one you would purchase from a hardware store) on top of the object and vacuum through that. The screen method helps prevent damage to fabrics that are fraying or contain embroidery or beading. Never dry clean old textiles; the harsh chemicals used will damage delicate fabrics and textiles.
- Textiles should be periodically taken out of storage, aired out, and checked for pests or damage. When textiles are ready to be placed back into storage, fold them along different lines if they must be folded and replace any archival tissue paper.
An example of a garment displayed in framing behind UV filtering glass. Image courtesy of Museum Textile Services.
First, make sure that the item is of a good enough quality and condition for exhibition. Anything too fragile or already damaged may be better suited to staying in storage. Additionally, some textiles, like large quilts, may be too heavy to be hung on a wall. If you pair both of those together, you encounter the possible situation where an item may be heavy and fragile and, therefore, cannot support its own weight. In these situations, hanging or exhibiting can cause the textile to tear, stretch or weaken.
If you have found a textile that is perfect for exhibiting on your wall, you’ll first want to be mindful of sunlight; do not display on a wall with direct or indirect sunlight. For very rare or fragile textiles, you may even want to consider displaying them behind UV filtering Plexiglas. Plexiglas is better suited to displaying historical materials than standard glass, given that it is more difficult to break, and broken glass shards can damage a textile. Next, if you go the framing route, you’ll need to use a specific method and materials that will ensure that your football jersey remains in tiptop shape. The method of adhering textiles to backing or hooks can be somewhat complicated, so check out this guide made available by the Minnesota Historical Society and this one by The George Washington University Museum. These guides also provide information about both how to properly frame textiles and how to hang them simply on the wall (spoiler alert: it does not involve thumbtacks!).
Still want to flip this post over and check out the A-side of at-home preservation? Please reach out to the Archives & Local History department at Douglas County Libraries with any questions, or check out these online at-home preservation resources for common items:
- Information from the National Archives: https://www.archives.gov/preservation/family-archives
- Digital preservation guide from the Library of Congress: http://digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/