History of the South Platte Valley Historical Society
The South Platte Valley Historical Society began with a $30 donation…the one Cliff Lupton from England, in the area in search of relatives, gave to local history buff John T. Martin on September 10, 1987 to start an account earmarked to rebuild Lancaster’s fort. In response, Martin and others started the South Platte Valley Historical Society in January, 1988. By January of the next year, membership had grown to 200, and plans were underway to purchase the land that was the site of the original Fort Lupton. The society’s vision was to rebuild the fort, preserve history, including local historic buildings, and educate the public about the history of this area.
Unfortunately, the formation of the society was seven years too late to save the final wall of the original fort from demolition by workers erecting gas and oil drilling rigs on the site in 1981. The north wall of the original fort was part of a stock shed on the historic Ewing ranch, which was established in the 1860s. The headquarters site of the Ewing ranch was purchased by an oil rig manufacturer and the the Ewing ranch buildings were demolished. Only a truckload of the original adobe bricks was salvaged, stored under a tarp in the public works shop in Fort Lupton, the city of 7,500 that bears the name of the original fort builder. These original adobe bricks were later incorporated into various rooms of the reconstructed Fort Lancaster.
With the formation of the society, a board of seven directors was elected:
- John Martin, President;
- David Lupton, Vice President;
- Esther McCrumb, Secretary;
- Genevieve Leblanc, Treasurer;
- Board Members Bill Crowley, Ann Pepmeyer and Earl Harris.
Articles of Incorporation were received March 8th 1988 at which time a committee of John Martin, Don Stieber, Jim Meyer, and Earl Harris was appointed to look into acquiring land for the an historic park. The initial set of by-laws were written by Nancy Penfold, Ann Pepmeyer and Genevieve Leblanc.
In March, 1989, John Martin, in a letter to members, announced the purchase of 3.4 acres, the site of the original fort, and first right of refusal of the surrounding land. The vision of establishing an historic park and reconstructing the historic Fort Lupton was on its way to becoming a reality.
As can be seen in the timeline below the donation and restoration of two local historic buildings took precedence over starting the reconstruction of the fort. However by 2004, ground was broken and work began to recreate Fort Lancaster. Seven years,
25,000 volunteer hours and $220,000 later, the fort was finished in mid-2011. Supplier’s donations kept the cost to half of what the structure would have cost without their help, and as promised to the original members, the fort was privately funded.
Accomplishments of SPVHS
1989 — The original site of the fort, 3.4 acres, purchased
1992 — Shooting range constructed
1992 — A lease/purchase for the remaining 52 acres of master site negotiated with the City of Fort Lupton for $125,000
1992 — Fifteen acres of Scout Island donated by Ft. Lupton Development Corporation
1992 — The 1875 Independence Schoolhouse donated and moved to the site
1993 — Mobile home donated and renovated
1994 — Tallow River Trappers formed
1995 — Twenty five acres donated by Helen Parker Trust
1996 — Donelson House donated and moved to SPVHS site
2000 — Restored Independence Schoolhouse dedicated
2001 — Visitor’s Center building moved and renovated
2001 — Historic marker moved and rededicated by the Territorial Daughters of Colorado
2004 — Donelson House restoration completed
2004 — Ewing Barn designated an historic site
2004 — Ground breaking for the Fort
2006 —”Arnie’s Crossing” bridge linking lower and upper levels installed
2011 — Grand opening of the Fort
2012 — 1854 trapper’s cabin moved to Historic Park
2014 — Trapper Cabin restored and dedicated
See the video below for more about the background on the reconstruction of Fort Lancaster produced by the Bank of Colorado as a community service.