Local Myths: Was town founder Mary Miller a legendary pie baker?

In a 1912 interview with the Boulder County Miner newspaper, Mary Miller said that the circus from Cheyenne came through the pre-Lafayette area in 1869, when she and Lafayette Miller operated the Miller Tavern saloon and stage stop. This was located a mile south of today’s Lafayette where the current Rock Creek Open Space is located at U.S. 287 and Dillon Road. Mary said she and her brother, James B. Foote, “made hot biscuit, opened canned vegetables and gave them lots of milk and cream,” but did not mention pie-baking.

Mary’s grandson, Frank Miller, said in a 1968 presentation at a local school that “there were several experiences at the stage station and one in particular I should tell is when the circus came through from Cheyenne one time and camped there overnight. My grandmother had an orchard, and she baked 100 pies that day and got $1 a pie and sold them as soon as they were taken from the oven.”

A contemporary narrative of the circa 1869 circus troupe stopover has Mary including the whole town in baking 100 apple pies for the circus, and selling them for $1 each. This variation of the story probably isn’t true, since there wasn’t a town of Lafayette until 1888-89.

In a different 1968 presentation, Frank Miller commented that Lafayette Miller’s sister, Sarah Church, baked the pies at Church’s stage stop, 8 miles south of the Miller Tavern. “In fact I’ve heard Mrs. Church tell about Jesse James coming through and staying with them overnight,” said Frank. “And I’ve also heard her tell about when the circus came through from Cheyenne to Denver one time. She baked a hundred apple pies, got a dollar a pie for them as fast as she took them out of the oven.”

In a 1971 interview, Frank’s brother, Ralph Clinton Miller, Sr., said that Mary Miller didn’t bake pies for a circus but rather a cavalry troop that “camped nearby.” This was probably after Mary had established the Foote-Miller Farm in 1878. “I remember my grandmother telling once about the military, the cavalry, came through,” said Ralph. “They stayed overnight. They were on their way north. She (Mary) stayed at the kitchen range and baked 100 pies for the militia men — a dollar a pie, as fast as she could get them baked.”

Still another variation of the pie story was told by old-timer Cliff Alderson (1907-1995) in 1986. “Miners used to go down there (to the Miller’s farm),” said Alderson. “I guess Mrs. Miller was quite a cook and they used to go down there — and also the Indians — and she used to give the Indians some of the pies to keep them away.”