Sisters of Courage: the Harbisons, history talk includes RMNP
Two pioneer sisters
The Civil War, Westward Expansion, The Panic of 1893 are all well known historical events that take on a new meaning with this story of their impact on a single family. Buffered by the winds of national events, the family is forced to start life over yet again. Kittie and Annie Harbison travelled from Denver across Berthoud, and the Continental Divide to homestead a successful dairy ranch in a hostile alpine environment, serving the expanding Grand Lake area.
Their parents, Andrew and Mary, moved from Missouri to Denver in the summer of 1889 and had a soap rendering business. In 1896, when Kitty and Annie were in their early twenties, the family homesteaded up the “North Fork”, two and one half miles above Grand Lake, where Kitty took up a quarter section, and Annie, another adjoining. Their father died January 17, 1906, and their mother in 1912. They thrived despite the hardships of long, cold winters. While they did not marry, in 1907, they opened their home to two foster daughters, Mamie and Beatrice Schnoor, Mamie then a year old, and Beatrice three. Mamie remained with them during their old age.
According to the Grand Lake Historical Society: They devoted their lives to their parents, to the care of the ranch with its daily demands on strength, patience, and endurance; to service to others. The Harbison Girls were part and parcel of the early pioneer life of Middle Park, known and loved by the whole Grand Lake country. Their home, so typical of the early days, the sturdy log cabins giving a touch of hominess, a feeling of security, and an atmosphere of Western hospitality, has been visited by tourists the country over. Kitty and Annie’s friends were countless.
Program at museum
On Saturday, March 18 at 1:00 p.m. join Dave Lively as he presents: “Sisters of Courage: The Harbisons,” an ordinary family who led extraordinary lives. Experience their story as told by a direct descendant leading up to the development of Rocky Mountain National Park and beyond.
Dave Lively is a well-known local historian, Certified Interpretive Guide and Certified Tour Guide with knowledge and passion for the region. He has volunteered at Rocky Mountain National Park for over 12 years conducting Ranger-led history walking tours.
In partnership with the Estes Valley Library, the program takes place in the Estes Park Museum Meeting Room, light snacks and refreshments will be provided. This program is free and open to the public, registration is required. click here
Harbision Ranch in Rocky Mt National Park
The Harbison family moved to Denver from Kansas about 1890, and after visiting a relative in Grand Lake, Colorado, in May of 1895 the sisters – Kitty and Annie – filed for homesteads on adjacent tracts of land about a mile northwest of Grand Lake. To satisfy the residence requirements of the Homestead Act, each built a cabin on her homestead – the two cabins, not more than 100 feet apart – and built the Big Cabin, in which the family lived, between them.
A contemporary writer says the sisters “worked like men.” They cut and stacked the hay, roped the horses, fed and milked their sizable dairy herd – and then rolled young brother Rob out of bed to deliver milk and butter around Grand Lake in his horse-drawn cart.
Kitty promised to marry Henry Schnoor if he would add a bay window to his cabin to provide adequate sunlight for her geraniums but, the bay window completed, she sadly told Henry that Annie could not run the ranch alone and marriage was impossible.
About 1905 they began to take in summer guests at the ranch, gradually adding tourist cabins. Their Sunday dinners were legendary, the talk of Grand Lake.
As they lived, so did they die. Their double funeral was held at the Grand Lake Community House on November 14, 1938: Annie was 70, Kitty was 66.
Today the meadow is empty, the road is abandoned, the family is gone. All that remains is the gravestone in the Grand Lake Cemetery.
………..This information was provided by D. Ferrel Atkins, RMNP Park Volunteer
==The Harbison ranch buildings were removed to allow their ranch to become the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park.
==Grand Lake may be only one square mile, but more than 60 locally owned & operated shops, galleries, restaurants, and watering holes as you stroll.