LA VETA- Come to La Veta this Saturday July 26, for the annual Francisco Fort Day celebration. Festivities start from 7:30 to 9 with breakfast at the library. Throughout the day, you can enjoy historic reenactments, contests for best costume and best beard, great music and food, and guided museum tours. Descendants of Huerfano’s pioneer families will be given special recognition as well.
This is a particularly special year for the Francisco Fort Museum, as it marks the 50 year anniversary of its founding.
The museum has its roots with Col. John M. Francisco, who had been the sutler at Fort Garland. He came to La Veta in 1862 to found a ranching operation, and said of the Cuchara Valley, “this is Paradise enough for me.” His complex had store facilities, pasture for his livestock, living quarters for the postmaster and others. The railroad was extended in 1872 to the site and a town was established at the end of the tracks at Franciso Plaza. The town was named La Veta, and was incorporated in 1876.
Col. Francisco maintained his home until his death in 1902. His brother’s family inherited it and over the years rented rooms to various persons. Today it is the longest inhabited building in Huerfano County.
In the late 1950s four of the rooms in the east wing were given to the town for the establishment of a museum. During 1957, renovations were done and word put out to the residents of the county asking for items to display, resulting in donations of many, many items portraying pioneer life of the county- even including an original letter written by Abraham Lincoln to one of his clients.
The museum opened in May of 1958. Today there are eighteen rooms of exhibits, including a medical room, mining, wagons, Ritter School, WWI and WWII exhibits, kitchen, an Indian artifact display of great quality, parlor, bedroom, Hispanic display, ranch and pioneer room, animal room, clothing, a country store, saloon and post office. The bar in the saloon at one time belonged to Bob Ford, killer of Jesse James.
It is managed by a board of trustees and the collection is owned by the Huerfano County Historical Society. There are two paid employees and most of the work of keeping the property in operation is furnished by volunteers. The museum is always in need of more volunteers. If you are interested in history and have a few hours of free time, your help would be appreciated.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 to 4 pm, and from 1 to 4 on Sunday. It is supported by admissions and the gift shop, which has a fine collection of books related to the area and Colorado. Francisco Fort Museum Board of Trustees meetings are the second Thursday of each month at the Saloon at 4:30 pm.