History Lost: The Miller Farm silos

The grain silos from Mary E. Miller’s Farm were torn down in 1993. Despite developers’ promises, nothing was ever built at the site where the silos once stood — it’s still a vacant lot in 2018. Photo by the late Jim Hutchison and contained in the 1990 book “Lafayette, Colorado History: Treeless Plain to Thriving City.”

The pressing need to preserve Lafayette’s coal mining and agricultural heritage was kick-started in 1993 after Boulder-based developers J.B. Telleen and Raymond Joyce callously demolished the Miller Farm grain silos, the last remnants of town founder Mary E. Miller’s pioneer farm formerly located on what is today’s Lafayette City Center Circle. At the time, an office park complex known as City Center was planned.

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Lafayette’s first schools

A handful of students at the Willow Glen school; photo was taken in about 1885. Photo courtesy Lafayette Miner’s Museum.

There were enough school-aged children on the farms in the Coal Creek area by 1875 for parents to want a school close at hand for their children. 1875 was before any of the small towns were settled, before even the coal deposits had been established as a resource to be developed. The first step was for five “legal voters” to call for a special meeting to establish Coal Creek School District 29. The organizers were Lafayette Miller, David Kerr, William Willis, W. W. Eggleston and A. S. Eggleston, and the meeting was at the Kerr farm on Coal Creek. Officers elected were Albert Eggleston of Davidson as Secretary, A.C. Goodhue of Erie as Treasurer, and David Kerr, President. Minutes of the meeting record that a tax was levied to build a school for the district, to be located at an area called Willow Glen which was near U.S. Highway 287 and Colo. Highway 42.

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Slag pile at Waneka Lake a shadow of its former self

The Interurban Power Plant at Waneka Lake shown operating in about 1920. The 3-story pile of slack coal and other debris from the Electric coal mine, also containing coal ash from the power plant, can be seen at left, on the south side of the plant.

The large, lava-like boulders on the southwest corner of Lafayette’s Waneka Lake, about 100 yards south of the boat house and picnic structures, are remnants of the sizable slack coal dump from the Electric/Summit coal mine that operated from 1898 to 1918. The former Northern Colorado and Interurban Power Plant that operated from 1906 to 1924 also dumped coal ash at the site.

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State records show that the Simpson mine was probably Lafayette’s first mine

This mine has been opened during the past year (1888). It is a shaft opening. The coal vein is fourteen feet in thickness. The mine is equipped with all modern appliances. A compressor plant is in operation, running five of the Harrison coal mining machines, which work very successfully.

In the future it is expected that this mine will figure among our largest producing mines. The company expects soon to sink another shaft, which will be used as a hoisting shaft, as well as complying with the law in using it as an air shaft, as it will be connected with their present hoisting shaft. This mine is owned by Mr. Simpson and sons.

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The Kneebone Dairy and the Home Dairy

Two early dairies in Lafayette that delivered milk door-to-door were the Kneebone Dairy and the Home Dairy. Kneebones delivered raw milk while Home Dairy delivered pasteurized milk.

The Kneebone Farm was at the corner of 111th Ave. and Arapahoe Road, but the Kneebone Family maintained their dairy herd of 40 to 60 head in the fields along the north side of E. Elm Street in Lafayette. Home Dairy bought milk from area dairy farmers.

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