A History of Sheridan, Colorado

Written by Bonita Hutcheson and edited by Thea Hutcheson
for the City of Sheridan centennial celebration in 1990.

Sheridan has been a center of commerce and innovation throughout its colorful hundred year history beginning with John McBroom, the first white settler in this area.

John McBroom

John McBroom was born July 26, 1822 in Pike County, Kentucky. He grew up in Crawfordsville, Indiana and lived there until 1843 when, after the death of his father, his mother moved the family to St. Louis, Missouri.

He held a number of jobs beginning with "bullwhacker" or teamster for General Kearney's expedition at the ripe age of 24. During Kearney's campaign in the war between the U.S. and Mexico he was assigned to Colonel Doniphan and was with this troop when they captured Santa Fe, New Mexico. He stayed with him through the fall of 1847.

It is said that during this time he made the acquaintance of Kit Carson, who stayed with him many times after he had built the first of what would be five homes in the area that would become Sheridan.

In that same year they traveled to within a day of Taos, New Mexico and joined in the effort to subdue a group of rebel Indians who had been murdering and mutilating the citizens of the town. Upon the arrival of the American troop, the Indians took possession of a church.

John McBroom, on orders from his commander, Colonel Price, maneuvered a cannon into position while the Indians fired upon him. The threat of bombing the building induced the rebels to give up.

He lived in Taos for several years, learning Indian ways and language and spent much time with Kit Carson hunting and scouting. They fought together against the Apaches and were present when the treaty between the Apache nation and the U.S. government was signed.

Cherry Creek Gold

When the United Cavalry, under Captain Marcey (or Marcy) made a forced march from Taos in 1857 to carry provisions to General Sidney Johnston fighting the Mormons in Utah, McBroom went as wagon master. George Simpson was also with the troop when he discovered gold on the banks of the Cherry Creek, near Pike's Peak. McBroom surveyed the Platte liver, south of Cherry Creek sometime during the latter half of 1857 and Mayor 1858. Mayor 1858 seems most likely as when the group reached the mouth of the Cherry Creek, they found the Platte River too high to cross.

McBroom was discharged from the military at Camp Foy in Utah in August of 1858 and chose to come back to the area he had surveyed the previous year instead of going gold hunting as so many of the men did.

He returned to the area, filing two homestead claims on his land. It was six years before the first U.S. patent was handed over to him, signed by President Andrew Johnson. The second was signed four years later by President Ulysses S. Grant.

First Log Cabin

He built his first cabin a block and one-half from the modern Hampden Ave. on Clay St., just a little south of Bear Creek. He left to winter in Santa Fe, the nearest settlement, Denver not being more than a collection of cabins called St. Charles, soon to be abandoned for winter.

He returned in the spring of 1859 with his supplies and built his second, larger cabin. George Turner, owner of Tiny Town, bought this cabin some years later and took it apart piece by piece, labeling each so it could be reconstructed at Tiny Town and used as a draw. It was never reconstructed and eventually the logs ended up as corral fencing or firewood for campers.
He lived as a bachelor for seven years in that second cabin, enter-taming many famous trappers and pioneers as they stopped off to rest on their journeys, names which include Tom Tobin, Uncle Dick Wooten, Kit Carson, Tom Boggs, Jim Baker and Colonel Boone, the grandson of Daniel Boone.

He never forgot his friendship with the Indians, as evidenced by the number of Utes that stopped by. No Indian could doubt his friendship even renegades such as Colorado were welcome.

In the fall of 1859, with a team of oxen he dug the first of two irrigation ditches that start upriver on the Bear Creek, west of his home-stead. Modern citizens of Sheridan still own water rights on these ditches which supplied the water for his farm.

Isaac McBroom

In 1860, John was joined by his brother Isaac, who was born April 22, 1830. When Isaac was twenty, the brothers' mother moved the family from St. Joseph, Missouri to an area near Glenwood, Iowa. Isaac had married Emma Brower of Coles County, Iowa in 1854. They had three children, two of whom died in infancy.

The McBrooms left for Denver on May 1, 1860. Their party included Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Woodrow, Mr. and Mrs. E. Harris and the Dalton Brothers. It is not mentioned whether these Dalton brothers are the same infamous outlaws known to western history.

Eva Josephine McBroom, who later married Clark Playter, was just over a year old when she and her parents left on the journey that would unite her father and Uncle John. They arrived on June 15, 1860.

Isaac brought the first domestic bees for John on that trip. Eva Playter recalls that they prospered and brought honey to the region, making it 'flow with milk and honey'. The hive perished during the winter of 62-63.

Isaac built an addition onto John's first cabin and they lived there for a year when Isaac and John built a cabin on Isaac's homestead just west of present day Federal Boulevard. This cabin was deeded to the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds in 1959 by Kenneth Goff, long time Sheridan resident and chronicler of the first history of this important pioneer town. The cabin was moved to the Littleton Historical Museum grounds in January of 1987.

In 1866 John McBroom married Emma Burnett, a pioneer woman who journeyed to Denver about the same time as Isaac and his family. Her wagon train was attacked by Sioux and when it looked desperate the wagon master issued the women guns, telling them to save one bullet for themselves. Luckily, the American Cavalry heard the gunshots and came to the rescue. They had five children, of which two survived; Dora McBroom Curkett and J .W .McBroom, later a historian and Arapahoe County sheriff from 1915-17.

Bear Creek

The banks of the Bear Creek proved fruitful, providing currants, plums and cherries. This not only provided the women the ingredients for marmalades, pies, and jellies, but provided a source of income for Isaac, who would pick a wagon load and see them to the miners.

Indians never attacked the folk along Bear Creek, but Eva Playter remembered one or two occasions when the Arapahoes and Cherokees were killing settlers and burning ranches on Plum and Cherry Creeks. 'All the women and children were rushed to Denver as fast as teams could be driven and the men hastily formed themselves into companies to guard their homes and stock.'

In 1862, an Indian uprising threatened the families on the banks of the Bear Creek. The settlers gathered at a 'Leadville station about five miles west of John McBroom's cabin.' McBroom was elected captain of a - hastily formed company of rangers. He went alone to the Arapahoe camp and discussed the problem amicably and then invited the Indians for a feast at his home on the same day he had told the rangers to meet him.

When the Indians showed up, McBroom sent a messenger to meet the men and tell them to leave their guns, join in the peaceful dinner and negotiate with them. A compromise was reached and the Indians ceased their raiding in return for vegetables and watermelon.

In 1870 John McBroom built his third home, a frame house north of the cabin on a hill. It burned to the ground and the McBrooms and their only child at the time, J.W., escaped along with one china plate. The cause of the fire that destroyed the house and their belongings was never determined, but their neighbors, including Peter Magnes donated money, household goods and the wherewithal to rebuild another frame house. In 1885, he 'sunk an artesian well and built a brick home.' It was occupied by his son, J.W. McBroom, after his death.

Four years later, Isaac McBroom followed suite and built a brick home just south of his original cabin, later occupied by Matt Keller and his family. It was later torn down to make room for modern buildings.

Early Politics

In October 1876 John McBroom made a successful Republican bid for a seat in the first Colorado House of Representatives against John G. Hoffer, the Democratic candidate. He remained active in local politics as evidenced by his work petitioning for the annexation of the Town of Sheridan until his death on January 15, 1891. Emma followed a month later. They are buried in
Littleton.

While John McBroom is considered the first settler in what would become Sheridan, he was not the only settler in the area at the time. Peter Magnes, born March 24, 1824 in Eksjo, Sweden, immigrated to America when he was 26. He farmed a number of places, including New York and Illinois. He married Bertha in early 1859. He came to the area shortly after the Pike's Peak gold discovery announcement. His wife gave birth to Lena Magnes on the banks of the Cherry Creek and she is thought to be the first white child born in the area. They settled about seven miles south of Denver during the first half of 1859. He built a log cabin and purchased 160 acres for farming.

He stayed the first summer and went back to Illinois in the fall, returning to Denver on June 30, 1860, bringing fruit trees, berry bushes, grape vines and several kinds of seeds. He prospered as a farmer through several setbacks, including the flood of 1864 and grasshoppers in 1873. He also bought sugar beets and had them delivered from France, pioneering the farming of sugar beets in Colorado He started a sugar beet refinery which failed soon after, but the production of sugar beets in this area has risen steadily since its introduction.

Petersburg

In 1865 he began to plan what would become known as Petersburg, the area's first substantial settlement. He invited other Swedish immigrants to join him and on September 13, 1873 the Petersburg plat, County plat BA1 P2 was recorded at the county. Its boundaries were west of Natches Court, (then Mill Road), South Santa Fe Drive (then Main Street) on the east, Sheridan Avenue which became (Old) Hampden Avenue on the north.

Petersburg soon became a stopping place for wagons. During its heyday, Petersburg boasted eight blacksmiths, 14 saloons, one newspaper and three stores. In 1879, the Petersburg Hotel was built near the corner of what is now Hampden and Santa Fe. It was supposedly built by a one-armed miner named Jensen. The two story building was built completely without nails, the pieces dovetailing together and meeting in perfect "V's at the corners. In 1889, Pap Wyman added on a three-story brick addition, bringing the whole structure to the corner. Throughout the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century the hotel was famous for its whiskey, women and gambling.

In 1929, George Lechner bought the hotel property and added a ruling station. He operated the hotel unti1 1939 when it was torn down to make way for new construction.

The Wayside Inn

The Wayside Inn, about four buildings south of the Petersburg Hotel also had a reputation for vice. The inn boasted a drop wall where the gambling equipment and wealthy patrons could hide and find access to a pair of tunnels which led west to Platte River. The existence of these tunnels had been known by local residents for several years, but until 1959 when the Highway Department bought pieces of real estate and began construction to widen and reroute Hampden Ave. (U.S. 285) its exact whereabouts remained unknown by most.

One entrance was in the basement of Leslie F. Paull at 3520 So. Natches Ct. Englewood Herald reporters and Mr. Paull investigated the site after the demolition of the home. They found a large hole near one corner of the foundation. Upon some digging they unearthed two coins, one from 1855, the other from 1845. Another tunnel opening had been found some years before near the Platte River and had been boarded up for safety reasons.

Peter Magnes had made possible a number of civic functions by donating the land for a Community Church and the first school. He was also active in local politics, nominated on both the Democratic and Republican tickets for County Commissioner in 1886, serving unti1 1889, when he was re-elected for another four year term. He was known for his civic conscience and honesty. He is known to have had a dispute with a sheriff for overcharging him a dime when serving him a paper at the courthouse. He sued the courthouse for the money.

And not just dimes would send him to the courthouse. He had a dispute with a couple of his fellow commissioners and he used his own money to take them to court. He proved what he thought an illegal measure and won the case.

He died suddenly of apoplexy on Apri1 14, 1902 during a meeting of Petersburg Lateral Ditch Company one year, almost to the day, before the pitched battle for the county seat began between Petersburg and Littleton.

The "Denver Republican," on April 11, 1903, mentioned that a society was organized, calling themselves the Arapahoe Improvement Association. They had a meeting and Orchard Place (Englewood) was represented. The same article reported "a low estimate gives Sheridan a population of 500. Cherrylin and Orchard Place 100 each, Littleton 500."

For awhile it looked as if Petersburg would win, being centrally located between Fort Logan, Sheridan and Orchard Place. But a vote by the residents of the county made Littleton the county seat. In the early years of these settlements, before Peter Magnes' donation of school land, there was no schoolhouse or teacher but John McBroom volunteered space and one of the community's women volunteered to teach.

Brick Schoolhouse

A brick schoolhouse was built in 1892 on the land donated by Peter Magnes at the site of the present day Petersburg school building. It was taught by Mrs. Frances Miller and Miss Belle Morris. It caught fire on March 10, 1927 and bummed to the ground. One year later the larger Petersburg school was built.

Soon after the need for an established firehouse was recognized, a firehouse was built in 1936 and added onto in 1949. The City Hall occupied a residence next door and was later connected with a covered walkway. The original firehouse was torn down in 1959 and a new two-story firehouse was built almost entirely by volunteers.

In 1965 the buildings were flooded and many records were lost. The city hall was moved to temporary lodging at 4021 S. Federal. The property consisted of a grocery store and residence next door. It later bought the building and the residence for administration and police quarters.

General Sheridan

During the latter half of the 1800s, the citizens of Denver and the surrounding communities had made several requests of the Army to establish a military post in the area for their protection during the early years of Denver, but were denied because General Sherman, General of the Army expected the communities to defend themselves. However, in 1883 General Sherman and his successor, General Phil Sheridan, agreed that the exigencies of travel that had necessitated a string of "small posts along wagon and stage routes of travel" had been rendered unnecessary by the advent of the railroad. It was recommended that forts be located near cities.

In 1886, the Denver Chamber of Commerce made a second concerted effort to obtain a post at Denver. Senator Henry M. Teller introduced S.2477 on May 19, 1886. It authorized a post and appropriated $250,000 to build it. In July 1886, Secretary of War William Endicott submitted a statement supporting the Teller proposal to the Committee on Military Affairs and President Cleveland signed the bill on February 17, 1887.

General Sheridan arrived in the area on March 20 and the Denver committee took him around to all eleven sites over a four day period, campaigning vigorously for the site at Sloan Lake. He chose the site known as the" Johnson Tract," about eight miles south of the city because of its water supply , the proximity of the Morrison branch of the Morrison Branch DSP & P railroad, available space for a parade ground, artesian well possibilities, the beautiful view and the distance from Denver and its saloons.

Platting the Land

Once the decision was made public, enterprising citizens lost no time filing plats around the designated fort borders. Isaac McBroom filed Sheridan on November 16, 1887, county plat BAI P12. Divided into 6 Blocks, the street on the west was Sheridan Ave., now known as Lowell Boulevard. The far eastern street was not given a name, but the shape was an "L," the long portion being Blocks 3 through 6 along Sheridan Ave., Block 3 being the corner, at Brady St., now Mansfield, with Blocks 2 and 1 to the east, along Mansfield. No street name was given at the north end of Block 6. Here the Morrison Branch DSP & P railroad ran. Sheridan Ave., the only route to the fort came west from Orchard Place (Englewood) and curved south across Bear Creek at what is now Lowell Blvd.

He made a second filing, 1st Addition to Sheridan, on April 12, 1889, county plat BAl P38. This adjoins Sheridan by adding blocks 7-13. Blocks 7, 8 and 9 run north and south on Howard, now King St., separated on the east from 10. 11 and 12 by Denver Ave., also Knox Ave. Sheridan and 1st Addition to Sheridan were just outside the Fort Logan gates. Isaac was deeply involved in local politics, participating in the petitioning for the incorporation of Sheridan. He died on October 17. 1914 and is buried at Littleton Cemetery.

The rest of the filings made during this time included Sheridan filing 2 (2nd filing) county plat BAl PIB, recorded at the county on February 1, 1888 by Peter McCourt, half-brother of Baby Doe Tabor. Thomas L. Wiswall and G. Oskar Scott, Sheridan Subdivison, filed on March 1, 1888 also by Peter McCourt, Thomas Wiswall and G. Oskar Scott (county plat BAl P16) and Town of Sheridan, filed April 13, 1888 by L.D. Stocking and George Timmerman, County plat BAl P22.

These areas were roughly bounded by Petersburg to the east, Brady Ave. and Park Ave. (Floyd) on the North. Morey Ave. (Clay St.) on the west and Morgan Ave., somewhat south of Sheridan Ave. (Old Hampden Ave.) on the South.

To the south of these residential sections was Olson Park. A wooded area complete with a trout lake and a portion of Bear Creek where it flows into Platte River.

On January 14, 1890, a group of people including Peter Magnes, Peter McCourt and Jacob Puff filed a petition for the incorporation of the town of Sheridan. After the petition was accepted, a notice in the Denver Republican on January 30, 1890, told of the upcoming election on the incorporation issue. On February 18, 1890, the election was held with 69 ballots being cast. On April 14, 1890, the incorporation was approved and included Sheridan plats filed to that time, as well as Petersburg.

Sheridan began to grow as Fort Logan Homes was filed on February 27, 1891, county plat BA2 P25. It is the area bounded by Federal on the west and Oxford on the south, Jersey Ave. (Mansfield?) on the north and Clay on the east.

Boulevard Gardens was filed on May 20, 1925, county plat B4 P36. It is the area from Floyd to Dartmouth and Zuni to Clay. The Boulevard Gardens Annex was filed April 27. 1936 and was bounded by Federal on the west. Clay to the east, Dartmouth to the north and Hampden Ave. on the south, but was not annexed by Sheridan until the 1960s.

Fort Logan

The fort construction began July. 1888 and was completed by 1894. On October 22. 1887 the first troops arrived at the site of the fort in a snow storm. Captain L.E. Campbell arrived in November of 1887 and temporary barracks were established for the troops by December 24 and the guard house was completed by Dec. 31. 1887. F.J. Grodevant was the architect for the buildings.

The post had no name officially, being called Sheridan Post or Fort Sheridan by the locals. General Sheridan was offered the honor of having the post named after him, but declined, choosing instead to have a fort near Chicago bear his name. John Alexander Logan. the senator who had worked toward the approval of the Chicago post, was the namesake for the "Camp Near the City of Sheridan."

The fort was manned by a number of troops through its active years. at one time boasting the only balloon in the Army. Troops from Fort Logan participated in the battle of Bull Run, although ice impeded their progress and they arrived only in time to help with the clean up. The fort, with its parade grounds and the drills, provided Sunday evening entertainment for the people of the Area. as well as social events throughout the year.

The fort was authorized to purchase additional land in 1908 when it bought 340 acres of land south and west of the fort perimeter, including a reservoir .In September 1909 the "Post of Fort Logan. Colorado" was discontinued and a recruiting station took its place. It served as a recruit depot during World War I. It was reinstated as a training post but had only half the personnel it had during its heyday.

Renovation and improvements were made by the Second Engineers in 1927. The post was used for induction during World War II, a convalescent center for the Air Force and a POW camp for German soldiers. During this time period more than 5.000 people lived at the fort.

The fort became surplus May 7. 1946. Much of the property was, according to Earl McCoy, Fort Logan Historian, sold to "private developers. or transferred to municipalities for school and park use." Some of the fort was transferred to the Veterans Administration for hospital use. The Veterans Administration relinquished control of the land and the state took the property for use as a mental health center. Buildings were built and it was officially opened in 1961.

Religion in the Community

In the early days of Sheridan, religious needs were met by a few churches in the area. In 1894, the Catholic residents bought a piece of land from Isaac McBroom and built a low church of Castle Rock rhyolite which Bishop Maltz named St. Patrick parish. In 1959, this church was tom down and the parishioners built a new church. It was renamed Holy Name in 1960 and now serves approximately 700 families.

The Petersburg Mission did not fare as well. It was formed in 1902 and in its decline at the Petersburg location served less than 20 members. Sometime after 1915 the church merged its records with another and the property was listed for sale in 1927.

The flood of 1965 destroyed most the records of the city. It also devastated much of what had become the east half of the City of Sheridan. The bridge at Hampden over the Platte River which had been washed out in a previous flood was washed out again and part of the structure was never found. The bridge over the river at Oxford was washed out also.

After this period, the city began to grow again. In 1974, this growth prompted officials to enlarge Sheridan's police force and administrative staff and move again to larger quarters at 4400 So. Federal Boulevard.

A New City Hall

In the fall of 1987, the city incorporated all of its fire, police and administration offices into one facility to better serve the community. The building at 4101 S. Federal includes live in quarters for the fire department staff, a community room, council chambers, courtroom and spacious offices for the police and city administration staff. In 1983, the city hired a full time city administrator.

If the first hundred years is any indication, Sheridan will continue to prosper and grow in the next hundred years.


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