Aunty Stone


Many citizens have become prominent in the course of Fort Collins’ history. Mrs. Elizabeth “Aunty” Stone, in 1864 the first white woman to become a permanent resident of Fort Collins, remained until her death. From Connecticut, she traveled to Denver with her family, where twelve lots on the present site of the Union Station were purchased, but an interest in mining caused the Stones to come to Fort Collins. Theirs was the first hotel in the city, originally built to accommodate the military garrison, but opened to the public after their departure. Sold in 1873, the hotel was moved from Jefferson Street to the corner of Mountain and Mason. In 1908 the Pioneer Women of the Cache la Poudre Valley, who again moved it down Mason to a location between Oak and Olive Streets, intending to convert it into a museum, purchased it. Aunty Stone’s influential interest in community affairs continued until her death in 1895.

Aunty Stone’s niece, Elizabeth Keays Stratton, arrived in Fort Collins with her ten year old son in the spring of 1866, her husband having died in 1859. Her wedding to Harris Stratton in the year of her arrival was the first solemnized wedding ceremony in Fort Collins. No clergyman being available, Magistrate Jesse Sherwood officiated. Mrs. Stratton operated a private school in the Stone Hotel for her son and a few others.


Mrs. Stratton’s schoolroom was the location for the first religious service ever held in Fort Collins. As closely as can be ascertained, Father Joseph Machebeuf, later to become the first Bishop of Denver, visited Fort Collins in 1866, and celebrated Mass in Mrs. Stratton’s classroom. There appears to be some possibility that Mrs. Stratton may have been a Catholic. Father Machebeuf said Mass the following day on a farm owned by Henry Forbes. Masses were also said in the Michaud home, as well as in others. Father became a bishop in 1868, his jurisdiction being Colorado and Utah, and was appointed bishop of Denver in 1887. He died July 10, 1889.

The population of Fort Collins around 1880 was just over 1300. Bishop Macheceuf returned to the city in 1878 to say Mass in what was known as the Old Grout Building, at Linden and Jefferson Streets. This two-story structure was constructed in 1865, and contained a large hall which was used for Sunday school, theater performances, lectures, dances and church services. The architect was Harris Stratton.

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