A Brief History of Keenesburg, CO
Following is a brief history of the town of Keenesburg. Most of this info was found in a book put together by the students of Weld Central's "Writing Local History" class, in 1990-1991. This book contains a lot of history not just about Keenesburg, but Hudson, Lochbuie, Roggen Prospect Valley, Kiowa, the railroad, Henrylyn Canals and the schools in the area. I recommend this book for people interested in the history of this area.
Keene, Colorado, as Keenesburg was originally known, sprang up on both sides of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in the early 1900's. Keene was not typical of the other towns that sprang up along the railroad. The town was not a water stop for the railroad, like Roggen and Hudson, so the only reason the railroad stopped in Keene was to pick up livestock. A spur of the CB&Q Railroad also ran to Prospect Valley to pick up livestock, approximately down road 63 1/2.
The first wedding in Keene was held on December 25th, 1904. The bride was Minnie A. Evans and the groom was James M. Acree.
The railroad depot was built in 1906. This was the first building in Keene. It was a two-story structure with a telegraph office on the first floor and living quarters on the second floor. The depot not only handled the telegraph, but also the town mail. The Burlington Northern building constructed in 1963, located on the north side of the tracks, sits where the original depot was built. The original building was destroyed in an accident.
In 1907, the federal government decided to build a post office in Keene. Mrs. Fannie Evans was appointed postmistress. The town was officially called Keene, named after a rancher that was one of the first settlers in the area. Les Keene came from Kentucky and homesteaded east of Keene. However, within a year the young town received a letter from the mayor of Keene, Nebraska, protesting the dual name and asking that it be changed. The protest was founded on the basis that Keene, NE was incorporated before Keene, CO. Mrs. Fannie Evans proposed that "burg" be added to the name and the matter was resolved without further conflict.
Even though the town now had a depot and a post office, a vast prairie surrounded most of the town. The town was dependent upon the patronage of ranchers who migrated into the area from 1907 to 1910. Charley Thomas opened the first general store in town, around 1909. The store was a tin building, located on what is now Main Street, near what is now the old drug store. By 1915, the town had 5 buildings. These were the train depot, Thomas's store, the Bath Building (what is now the Ponderosa Inn) that was also a general store run by Joe De Berry and Lum Koffee, Bob Walkers restaurant, and the post office.
As the town grew, so did the number of businesses. N.A. Pippin started the first freight service in town. This was necessary due to the number of goods being delivered by the railroad. By 1915 the town had a lumberyard, started by Mr. Beggs and ran by E.W. Dye. This was originally located on the north side of the tracks and mainly used for coal storage. By 1927, the Foster family bought the lumber yard and moved part of the business to its present location. In 1920, B.E. Timbers built the town bank. The bank the building is in now was once a hotel. The original bank was on the opposite corner, where Nature's Spot sits today. The town was incorporated in 1919. The first mayor was V.M. Porter and the town trustees were Lawson Bowles, H.T. Elder, A.F. Gross, William Preston, F.M. Williams and Dr. O.J. Vallicott
Of course, these businesses would not have started if it were not for the early settlers. In 1907, Henry Bowles homesteaded 160 acres, which would later become incorporated into the town. Another early homesteader was John Klug (pronounced Klue). He lived 14 miles north of town, but raised an extensive number of cattle. Since there were no fences at this time, the cattle ranged as the grass grew. Often, they would wander into town, and as the story goes, many died in town during the Blizzard of 1919. Other early homesteaders were N.A. Pippin, who also served as town marshal, and Dan Lord. Mr. Lord was a large landowner and built the building known as Lord's Hall. Bill Kipp and his family moved into the area around 1918 and since there was no place to stay, were forced to live in a "haunted house" east of town. They spent several years in the house, but never did meet the ghost. Most of the settlers in the area raised livestock and did dry land farming. It was not until the Henrylyn Irrigation system was completed around 1923 and irrigation wells were dug, that irrigation canals allowed them to produce different crops.
The town did move along during the twentieth century, even though it was a rural area. People communicated with each other through barbwire networks. They were similar to primitive telephones, but were powered by batteries and had a limited range. By 1915, phones were used exclusively, even though there were few of them. The automobile was another way the town moved into the new century. In 1918 Mr. Porter built the first garage in town. This is the building across from the bank, which is now owned by Curve Tech. In conjunction with the garage, there was also a Forsythe Oil Company. Every other day, Pippin Freight would deliver several wagonloads of five-gallon cans of gas, and this was how people filled their cars. Fred and Tom Bell opened a service station during the 1920's, located where the Gray Brother's building sits. Today this building is Tim's Car Clinic. In fact, most of the business buildings in town were built before 1940.
The town residential population has grown from those few hardy settlers to over one thousand, according to the 2000 census. Of course, there are a lot more people who live outside the town’s borders, but we do not have any official figures. It is amazing that even after almost a hundred years, that Keenesburg still has that small town feel. That must be because of the people. Many of the families who settled the area remained for a long time. In fact, many of those families are still here today.