The early history of Lafayette is a history of coal mining. The earliest miners were the Simpson and the Cannon Families.
John H. Simpson was born on the 13th of May 1843 in Parton, Cumberland Co., England. He married Isabella Twentyman of Allenby, England in 1865.
When John Simpson first came to Colorado he lived in Louisville with his brother William. Together they erected the first business block and the first dwelling or building in what is now the town of Louisville. They also managed the general store, Simpson Brothers. John Simpson was the first engineer to install the machinery in the old Welch mine. Later he operated the Welch mine.
John Simpson owned a farm near Louisville, Colorado, which he called Carlo Rotolo. He was very civic minded, and in the fall of 1878 he was elected the justice of peace in Louisville.
John Simpson was a close friend of Mary E. Miller and James Foote. Mary E. Miller named Simpson Street after John H. Simpson. In 1887, he obtained an option for a lease from Mary E. Miller and James B. Foote to prospect the land on the Miller Ranch known as Section 2. It is on that Section 2 that the town of Lafayette is now located and that John Simpson sunk the shaft for the mine known as the Simpson Mine. (It was located at the east end of Simpson Street by the railroad tracks.)
John Simpson loved Lafayette. He said that anything that could be thought of or erected or purchased was not too good for the citizens of Lafayette, and that he and the rest of the people should do all they could in the community for a better and bigger Lafayette.
The first child born in Lafayette was Eneeie Simpson, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John H. Simpson. When John Simpson died the 7th of July 1909 he left his wife and three children to mourn him. In his obituary it states that the only mistake John Simpson ever made in business was to go into business with United Coal Company.
William Simpson was born 16 March 1852 in Cumberland, England. He married Mary A. Jones, of Youngstown, Ohio, in February 1879. He came to America with his brother John H. Simpson and ran an engine at the coal shaft at the Welch Cal Mining Company. Then he and his brother ran a general mercantile store at Louisville called Simpson Bros. William Simpson was Secretary of the school board for Louisville in 1879. In 1896, William Simpson was listed in the Boulder County Directory as Superintendent of the machinery department of the United Coal Company of Lafayette.
James Simpson, a brother of John H. and William, was also born in Cumberland Co., England, about 1858. Before coming to Colorado he was a sea captain. He came to Colorado with his wife Mary in 1890 and became partners with James B. Cannon [James Cannon Jr.]. They sank the first shaft for coal on the Miller Ranch, the Simpson being the second shaft. It was called the Cannon Mine and was abandoned because of water problems in that mine. James died in March of 1939.
James B. Cannon was born in Newberry, New York, on the 13th of November 1830. He spent his life in new York City. From New York, he came to Colorado and first settled in Douglas County, Colorado, where he went into the coal business for about 8 years. He came to Lafayette in 1881.
James B. Cannon, along with James Simpson, sank the first shaft at the Miller Ranch, but James Cannon was known mostly for organizing the Northern Coal and Coke Company. He died Saturday the 6th of March 1909.
George B. Cannon at first owned interest in one of Lafayette’s first mines. He sold his interest in it to build a greenhouse in 1893. He enlarged his greenhouse in 1895 and named it Cannon Floral and Seed Company. Cannon Street in Lafayette was named after George B. Cannon by Mary E. Miller.
This article, by historian Beverly Mason Carlson, appeared in the Nov. 11, 1971 Lafayette Leader.
(Lafayette History editor’s note: This “Reprints” blog posting is content that appeared in a publication that is no longer in print or is no longer copyrighted. Very little effort was made by the blog editor to correct misspellings or errors in fact. Please be aware that reposted items in the “Reprints” category of this blog may contain significant factual errors. An example of a factual error is the timing of the first coal mine in Lafayette. A Lafayette Leader article from October 8, 1926 states that the Simpson was the first coal mine sunk “in the Lafayette district.” If you wish to cite “Reprints” content and need help sorting out what’s fact and what isn’t, please feel free to contact the Lafayette History editor.)