Visitors to the Lyons Redstone Museum in October 2020 were Ted and Kay Laws, of Alamosa, CO who lived in Grandpa Colt’s house on Apple Valley Road, Lyons, in the 1970’s.
They brought a trunk that belonged to Mr. Colt to the museum. The trunk was manufactured by Herkert & Meisel in St. Louis, MO. The company was started in 1888, so this trunk dates to at least then. The company specialized in steamer trunks for travelers and salesmen’s sample cases. The trunk has three, layered, divided trays for sorting and storing clothing and accessories during travel. Inside the lid is a pocket for storage of important papers. It measures approximately 22″ h x 32″ w x 19″ deep. It is in really good condition considering its age, and the fact that it still has all the original storage trays is wonderful. Those tend to get lost over time.
“We are so glad you will accept the trunk from Bill Colt,” said Mr. and Mrs. Laws. “It has ‘W. A. Colt’ written on the top.”
To fill you in on our contact with Bill, and his (I believe his second) wife Alene, who was from Wyoming originally and worked at the Lyons Bank:
We rented a cabin from the Colts in 1972 at the Rocking River Resort. I was teaching and setting up a new program in Boulder for autistic children. Ted was attending UNC obtaining a graduate degree. (He is the one who put the roof on Rogers Hall that lasted for about 30 years.)
Before taking on the resort, Bill Colt had a very interesting life. He worked for the Bureau of Land Management, before it was named such. He researched and photographed the wild flowers of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming and Colorado. He had an extensive slide presentation of those native plants. I believe that CSU might have those on file. He referred to his family who lived on Apple Valley Road. He mentioned that not only the construction of Trail Ridge Road was of significance, but that they experimented with fish farming to restock the streams. This was a first recognition for land and water conservation of the fish survival and re-stocking of the waterways by a US government agency.
While we lived in Lyons, Bill took an interest in my classroom and the children. Cowboy Bill, as the children affectionately called him, also volunteered with the special needs children swimming program through CU. We always loved Bill and Alene and were honored that they took such wonderful care and interest in our lives.
HISTORY OF W. A. COLT: William Albert Colt was born in Lewiston, New York in 1856. He had a brother and sister. The family moved to Chicago in 1864. Then they moved to a homestead in northern Iowa where he had a sheep ranch, which was wiped out by a severe Iowa snowstorm. Discouraged, he started south, driving his remaining sheep, and settled in Clinton, MO. In 1868 he began working on the roadbed for the Missouri, Kansas and Pacific Railway. He graduated from Kemper Military Academy Family School at Booneville, MO in 1876.
In 1879 he and his brother became partners with their father, and they spent ten years building the Texas Pacific Railway, 600 miles, from Weatherford to El Paso, TX. In 1876 he married Elizabeth McPherson, and built 100 miles of railroad for the Iron Mountain Railway in Arkansas. And, then built the Missouri Pacific Railway bed from McCracken, KS to Pueblo, CO — 300 miles in one season
In 1888, J. B. (James Bryant) Colt and Mary Morris Colt (married in 1836) and their two sons moved to Las Animas, CO. Their son W. A. (William Albert) was a leading citizen. He became mayor and managed extensive farming operations. He was a state legislator in 1894. And, he built a 10-room house in Manzonala. He married Elizabeth “Bettie” McPherson, a schoolgirl friend, who died. Much later, he married Sallie Douglas, a cousin of his first wife and had two children, Bryant, and Mary E. who married Frank Filley in 1914. (They called it the “giddy-up” wedding: Colt and Filly.) Sally passed away in 1931. (The Lyons Redstone Museum has on display her ornate wedding dress and dainty shoes).
In April, 1905 they had a double wedding, W. A. married his third wife, Jennie Lowe, and son W. A. Jr, married, at the home of the bride, Ada Louise Fye, in Cincinnati Ohio.
During the war they harvested soap weed in Texas. In 1922, they built a highway over Wolf Creek Pass. The next big road project was the nine miles over Independence Pass. In 1929, at the age of 73, W. A. Colt and sons built Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park for $500,000–17 miles of highway, with 10 miles above timberline, which took four years to build.
From 1935 to 1937, he worked on a section from Lyons to the Welch Resort (now Shelley’s Cottages); and they built the Foothills Highway between Lyons and Boulder. He retired in 1937, and built a large home of lumber from the 50 shacks that housed the workers of the Trail Ridge Road project, which is now the home of the Rickeman’s. His son, W. A. Jr. moved to Lyons in 1935 (which is now the home of Todd and Becky Jacobson).
He was a builder, a man of vision, and many interests. He had two acres of fish rearing ponds, and many kinds of fruit trees and flowers. He took special interest in growing walnut trees, planting over 10,000. He said, “Making something out of nothing is my greatest pleasure.”
W. A. Colt Jr. and Louise had two sons, William A., known as Jim, who graduated from Lyons in 1940 and was killed in WWII; and David, who graduated in 1943, and died in 2008; and daughter, Betty who married Arthur E. Miller. W. A. Jr. passed away in 1954 at the age of 70; Ada passed away in 1967.
W. A. Colt Sr passed away in March of 1955 at the age of 99. Jennie passed away in 1954 before their 54th wedding anniversary. Both are buried at the Mountain View Cemetery in Longmont. Many monuments remain to testify to the great work of the man that was known as “The Sage of the Rocky Mountain Region”.
For a more extensive article on everything from what a typical bride in the early 1900s would wear, to what trees were plants on the Colt property in Lyons,
you can go to the Lyons Redstone Museum and click on their COLT link.