Location of Adams County within Colorado ADAMS COUNTY, COLORADO The COGenWeb Project

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One of the most popular, but least heard of, pioneers of early Adams County was a man by the name of Thomas Donelson. Donelson was a very popular person in and around the area of Brighton.

Thomas Donelson was born June 20, 1824, in Champagne County, Ohio. In the year of 1840, Thomas moved to Illinois. He remained there until 1844 at which time Thomas moved to Wisconsin and bought a farm of his own.

In the summer of 1859, Thomas Donelson, the farmer, decided he would become Thomas Donelson, the prospector.

Thomas Donelson


In the late summer months of 1859, Thomas came to the area now called Golden, Colorado, and started prospecting. After an unsuccessful try at prospecting, Thomas headed back for Wisconsin. In the winter of 1859 he married a lady named Laura Akins.

Once again Thomas headed west. This time with his new bride. The Donelsons stopped in Leavenworth, Kansas to get supplies. Due to a law which stated that enough wagons for a wagon train must be headed west at the same time, the Donelsons had to wait to get started. This law was for protection against the Indians. After enough wagons were heading west, the Donelsons left for Colorado. The trip, they were told, would take two weeks. Due to wagon trouble and weather, the trip took eight weeks.

After arriving in Colorado, the Donelsons set up a homestead which consisted of about 80 acres of land near Brighton. Thomas started farming the land and also started his new career of brick-making. It is believed that Thomas made the bricks for the famous 1886 church which at this writing is being restored. During this time Thomas became very good friends with Jack Henderson for whom the town of Henderson is named.


On June 4, 1864, tragedy struck. Thomas’ wife died. Thomas remained single until 1871 when he married Nancy Kelly. In 1879, tragedy struck again when Nancy passed away.

In the spring of 1904, Thomas fell off a trolley car and broke his hip. Thomas moved in with his son, William, where he decided he would stay until he recovered. A couple of weeks later, on May 26, 1904, Thomas Donelson, one of the many people who helped mold the town of Brighton, passed away. He was sadly missed by all of the townsfolk.

Donelson Memorial Stone


Thomas Donelson was put to rest in a private cemetery just outside of the town of Brighton. The cemetery itself is a landmark. Quite a few of Adams County’s early pioneers are buried there, such as William Blundell and part of his family, the Donelson family, and quite a few others. The cemetery is owned by Thomas Donelson’s great-great-great granddaughter, Hattie McCoy, and her father.

The following obituary appeared in the Brighton Blade Friday, May 27, 1909:


Donelson--at the home of his son William, in Elyria, Colorado, Thursday morning 26 May 1904. Thomas Donelson age 79 years 11 months and 6 days.

Mr. Donelson was born in Ohio 20 June 1824. He came to Colorado with James Blundell in the year 1859, arriving near Denver in the spring. The two men spent the summer prospecting and mining and in the fall returned to the river. Mr. Donelson then homesteaded the land near Brighton which he has since farmed and where he has resided for 40 years. He and James Blundell returned to Wisconsin in the winter of 1859 and brought their


families to the new home. A few weeks ago Mr. Donelson met with a painful and dangerous accident while attempting to board a tramway car in the city. The car threw him to the ground and his hip was injured. He was removed to his son’s home and has since been under the care of a physician. It was thought that he would recover, and for several days past he appeared to be considerably better. His death came with only a few minutes warning, heart failure being the immediate cause of death. Mr. Donelson lived and led an earnest Christian life. He was a man of firm ideas, but withal of a most kindly disposition, and to know he was to respect and to admire him. His familiar figure will be sadly missed by this community where for so many years he lived and which he in fact helped to create.

Besides his wife he is survived by two sons, William and John and by a daughter, Mrs. Mary M. Blundell. The heartfelt sympathy of the community is extended to those. The remains will be brought here from Denver and will be interred in the Elmwood Cemetery at Brighton.

The funeral for Thomas Donelson was held from the house at 2:00 Sunday afternoon 29 May 1904.


Thomas Donelson - Laura Akins Marriage Record, Grant County, Wisconsin Territory



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This Page Was Last Updated On: Sunday, 18-Sep-2011 16:45:40 MDT