AGUILAR — Officers at end of year: Betty Rickel, President, Mike Kernor, Vice President, Karol Lyon, Treasurer, and Pat Romero, Secretary. Members of this organization have pledged to save the history of the Apishapa River Valley, the Town of Aguilar and the surrounding area. Our regular meetings are held the second Thursday of the month at the Aguilar Community Center at 1 pm unless otherwise posted.
In May, the Apishapa Valley Heritage Center at 151 Main St. in Aguilar opened for the summer months with the dedication of an official sign for the designation of the Foster Stage Station and Hotel to the National Register of Historic Places in March of 2015. Longtime member, William Tilley, worked on this project for many years. In 2011, the AVHS received a grant from the Colorado State Historical Fund to conduct an archaeological assessment of this mid-19th century stage station site. This was completed with the help of students from UCCS, W. Arbogast, principal investigator and Mr. Tilley, project archaeologist. This included an area of 2.5 acres located along the Apishapa River with one of the earliest cemeteries in the area. The two story adobe structure is in a deteriorated condition with only parts of the walls and chimney still standing, but it’s importance to the local history will forever be remembered.
We had a fun filled day beginning with member Mike Kernor, grilling his famous hamburgers before the group went to the site. After the dedication ceremony, Betty Rickel, a descendant of the Foster family, delighted the crowd with a few stories she remembered from her childhood when the Foster Hotel was still in use. What was probably the last Confederate veteran meeting was held at the Foster hotel, and she was there as a child. Local historian and author Bob Silva gave a talk about stagecoach history in the Las Animas area. This site is on private property and not visible from any public roads. For more information on this historic site, go to ://www.aguilarhistory.com/html/stories.htm. We wish to thank Mr. Tilley for all his hard work and the owner of this historical site for letting us pursue this project. Due to the heavy rainfall in the area this year, the water level in the Apishapa River was too high to cross to visit the cemetery. The sign was set into a natural rock in the shape of a mountain on the north side of the Apishapa River, with possible plans to move it closer to the original structure in the future.
One of the stagecoaches used to ferry passengers possibly from the Foster site to Aguilar was owned by the Baudino Livery Stable and recently returned to the family. It had been housed at the Bloom Museum in Trinidad for many years. This was a great accomplishment for the family and for Apishapa/Aguilar history. They would like to restore the stagecoach, but it is a very expensive endeavor that the historical society hopes to assist them in. In July the “Friends of Aguilar” held a “Celebrating Aguilar” festival beginning with a parade. Our group did not have an entry but hope to enter next year. We need some ideas! If you have any suggestions or want to help out, please let us know. It’s a good opportunity to educate the public about the history of the area. We encourage people to research and write about their family history. We want to continue adding to our Homestead Family Booklet and if you would like to submit your family’s story, we can assist you or answer any of your questions. We continue to encourage everyone to bring photos, documents, old newspapers and anything that we can add to our collection. We are hoping to expand our location or find a larger building where we can expand. It is one of our goals for the coming year. We may need to seek a grant to complete this. Keeping the doors to the Heritage Center open requires the help of volunteers. If you can help out next summer, please contact us at AVHS, PO Box 459, Aguilar CO 81020 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 719-680-1393.
Volunteering is a good chance to read the newspapers or some of the many ledgers and letters, we have and to study photos. We are generally closed from Labor Day until Memorial Day (no heat in the building!) but will gladly make appointments for groups or individuals. We can work around your schedule. This year our annual fall fundraiser was our third “chili cook off”. It was a great success and we will surely continue this event in the coming year. It was well attended and great fun. Proceeds from this event will be used for upkeep and costs of keeping the heritage center open. Finding the location of past businesses on Aguilar’s Main Street is fun when you study our diorama.
If you have any knowledge of any of the buildings in the Town of Aguilar, contact us so that this information will not be lost. Thank you!