Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines
In 1878, Adeline Hornbeck purchased property west of Colorado Springs in what was known as the Florissant Valley. Here the widow, with her four children, carved out a livelihood for themselves. Not only did the property have a well-constructed home, but it had many outbuildings including a milk and chicken house. The home itself was a marvel, the first two-story home in the area when it was completed in 1878. It still stands today and was in use as a home up until the 1960s.
Adeline's journey began with her birth in July of 1833 in Massachusetts. It was there she met and married Simon A. Harker. They had three children, Franklin, Anna, and George. According to the 1860 census the couple were in Creek Nation, Indian Land, Arkansas (Oklahoma) where Simon was an Indian agent, according to one record. By 1861 they moved to the Denver area and filed on 160 acres. Then in 1864, Simon died, he may have been sickly and moved to the area for his health. His death ended up leaving Adeline to fend for herself and the children. Instead of being defeated at the change in circumstances Adeline instead showed her business sense. She purchased 80 acres of the homestead, using a clause in the act, for $100.
|Mt. Pisgah, in Colorado south of Florissant Fossil Beds
In September of 1866 she married Elliot Hornbeck. They had a child together, Elliot Jr. But things did not remain calm. Elliot disappeared in 1875. There is speculation he may have been married to another woman back east, or he may have died, no one seems to know. But it seems Adeline was not defeated. She accumulated enough cash to purchase the land in Florrisant Valley. It is from this base that she built her 'empire', although when starting out she worked in the mercantile in the new town of Florrisant.
Adeline chose well. Her homestead was on the route to the gold and silver fields in the South Park area. Sitting on one of the tributaries of the South Platte River it had good pasture land, pine trees, and water. She was also an astute businesswoman, active in the community, holding social gatherings at her home and serving on the school board. By the time she paid off her homestead claim, in 1885, the property value was at least five times the price.
Around 1900, at the age of 66, she married 47 year old Frederick Sticksel, an immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1882. Five years later, Adeline passed away at age 71 of 'paralysis'.
The property where Adeline Warfield Harker Hornbeck Sticksel built her home for herself and children is now part of the Florissant National Fossil Beds and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Adeline is buried in the Four Mile Cemetery, Florissant, Colorado. Adeline was a true pioneer.
In the novel "Chasing a Chance" Mary Gilpin is another woman who made her way in the west. After the death of her husband, she made her living as a mercantile owner.
Below is a short excerpt:
"When you're ready, fire away," Stu laughed.
Mary stood inside her store, horrified at the callous disregard the men who'd overrun the town had for anyone. Watching the one they called Stu force the gun into seven-year-old Bobby's hand and demand he shoot brought an anger she hadn't felt for years.
"What if I miss?" young Bobby asked, his hand shaking with the weight of the pistol and possibly fear.
"Well, just keep firing. You'll eventually hit something. You get six tries," Stu laughed, then jumped back when Bobby accidentally turned the gun toward him. "But not me!" he shouted, shoving the gun away and toward Tad, another child who'd been playing with Bobby.
Unable to let the scene continue, Mary could keep quiet no longer. It was bad enough the town was hiding behind their doors, justifiably fearful of these men. But to allow their children to be subjected to the games of these same men was outside enough. She marched out the door of her general store and grabbed the gun from Bobby's hand. She then pointed it at Stu's face, the anger giving her strength to hold the heavy gun, declaring, "Take your games and foolishness somewhere else and leave the children alone."
Perhaps it was the surprise that saved her, for Mary continued, smiling as she sweetly said, the gun still under Stu's nose, "Should I give it a try? Shall I keep shooting until I hit something?"
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Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet