Posts Tagged 'Elizabeth “Auntie” Stone'

The New Adventures of Auntie Stone

by Amy Scott, Volunteer Coordinator and Director of Visitor Services

Worldwide sightings of a small doll donning a purple bonnet have prompted much whispering and curiosity. Who is this diminutive mystery woman who pops up at landmarks across the globe and, according to reports, always seems to be clutching a sack of flour?

She is the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center’s very own Auntie Stone Doll, fashioned after Elizabeth Stone, the “Founding Mother of Fort Collins.”

Elizabeth "Auntie" Stone

In 1862, Elizabeth Stone and her husband Lewis Stone traveled across the plains from Minnesota to Denver, Colorado in a covered wagon pulled by milk cows. In 1864 they moved to the frontier post that eventually grew into the Fort Collins we know today. There they built a log cabin to serve as both their private residence and an officers’ mess.

The Stone Cabin

Elizabeth, in her sixties at the time, cooked meals and baked pies for the officers. Since she took such great care of them, the men of the post came to call her “Auntie” Stone, a sobriquet that followed her for the rest of her long life. Auntie Stone was a pioneer in many respects. In addition to being a wife and a mother, she was also a suffragette, entrepreneur, landowner, and town builder.

Like her namesake, Auntie Stone Doll has a grand sense of adventure. The Museum’s good friend Cindy Reich was kind enough to show her around the sites in Ireland several years ago. In a postcard addressed to the Museum, the doll wrote: “Ireland is a most interesting place. Although it is nearly October, all the fields are very green with grass in abundance. Their cattle are fat and sleek.”

Auntie Stone Doll has traveled extensively in the U.S. and abroad. North Carolina, Brazil, South Dakota, Australia, and Disneyworld are just a few of the places she has visited.

Auntie Stone enjoying the surf in North Carolina. Photo by Beth Higgins

While vacationing in Australia, Auntie Stone Doll wonders how on earth she is going to eat this entire bacon sandwich and lamington. Photo by Cindy Reich

Basking in the sunshine at Freemantle Harbor in Australia. Photo by Cindy Reich

Auntie Stone Doll captured during a pensive moment at Galway Bay. Photo by Cindy Reich

Auntie Stone Doll Leaving South Dakota. Photo by Cindy Reich

But why does the doll carry a sack of flour wherever she goes? Along with Henry Clay Peterson, the original Auntie Stone built a grist mill that produced flour from wheat, the first of its kind in Northern Colorado.

As you can see, Auntie Stone Doll has developed a particular affinity for oceans and beaches. Look how dreamy her eyes become whenever she is near water. Where will she go next? No one knows for sure. A Caribbean cruise is likely, but she also hopes to go camping in Colorado’s mountains at least one time this summer.

In the meantime, you will find Auntie Stone Doll resting at the Museum Store in the company of toys, books, and other wonders. Stay tuned for further adventures.

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Where’s the Fort?

by Toby J. Swaford, K-12 Education Coordinator

It’s one of the most commonly asked questions at the Museum. Even longtime residents are sometimes hard-pressed to come up with an answer to what should be a simple question. After all, the town is called Fort Collins; so again, where’s the fort?

To answer that question, we’ll need to look at a little history. Fort Collins had its beginnings in an order signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, to establish a military camp with the purpose of protecting travelers on the Overland Trail. That order eventually fell to Lieutenant-Colonial William O. Collins, commanding officer of the Eleventh Ohio regiment attached to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Collins assigned a group of his men with the task. Under the leadership of Captain William Evans, they soon found themselves in Colorado Territory, taking over a camp that had first been established by Company B of the 9th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, and then manned by a group of soldiers from Denver.

The camp was located near the Cache la Poudre River and the stage coach line based in LaPorte. Dubbed Camp Collins, in honor of Lieutenant-Colonial Collins, the facility consisted of a few temporary buildings and sleeping quarters. The soldiers would remain at this location until June of 1864, when warm rains melted off the heavy snow that had accumulated in the mountains the previous winter. According to the journal entry of a soldier stationed at the camp, the Cache la Poudre River became a twenty-foot high wall of water, which washed away almost everything in its path.

A new order was issued to reestablish the base as a fort. Lieutenant James W. Hanna worked with local businessman, Joseph Mason to secure a new location for the fort. They decided on the property just north of Mason’s supply station, Old Grout, so called due to the large amounts of grout that seeped from between the logs of which it was mainly constructed. Old Grout stood on what is now the south-west corner of Jefferson and Linden Street, a block north of Old Town Square.

The main body of the fort was located along Linden Street, between Jefferson and the Cache la Poudre River. The fort consisted of a series of buildings, loosely connected around a central square, or parade ground, roughly three hundred feet on each side. Some of the buildings included barracks for the soldiers, quarters for the officers, mess halls, and a hospital. The medical facility was run by Doctor Timothy Smith, who encouraged Louis and Elizabeth Stone to move from Denver to the fledgling fort, to serve as host and cook for the camp’s officers. The Stone’s cabin was built by another civilian attached to the fort, Henry Clay Peterson, who also served as the fort’s gunsmith.

If the names Mason, Smith, and Peterson sound familiar; they should, as these men have been remembered with street’s named in their honor. Sadly, none of the businesses or structures that they ran remain today.  Nor do any of the other buildings that made up the fort, save one – the Auntie Stone Cabin, which now resides in the Heritage Courtyard located at the Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center.

So, what became of the fort? Only existing as such for three years, 1864 to 1867, the fort was decommissioned and many of the soldiers returned to their homes and families in Ohio. The structures that made up the fort were looked to by the people that lived near the property as a resource. Lumber was hard to come by on the plains, and had to be brought down from the neighboring mountains. So, the fort’s buildings were dismantled; the wood being used to construct new businesses and dwellings.

From the remains of a small, frontier fort, located near the Cache la Poudre River, a successful town has grown. Today, the property once occupied by the men of the Eleventh Ohio Division serves as the home to local businesses including the El Burrito Restaurant, which some historians believe occupies the same spot as the bakery for the old fort.

For a great collection of historic photos of Jefferson Street and other Old Town Fort Collins locations, check out the Local History Archive website’s online exhibit “Fort Collins Then and Now.”


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