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Military Man and Early Settler

George Buss

by  | Oct 3, 2019 | Fort CollinsFrontier FacesTimnath | 0 comments

George E. Buss. (Photo from Evadene Swanson’s book, Fort Collins Yesterdays.)

On April 12, 1861, the Civil War began with a Confederate attack upon Fort Sumter. One month later, at the age of 31, George Edgar Buss enlisted in New York’s 14th Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company F, signing up for two years of service. In 1863, when he was mustered out, he re-enlisted for a three year term, this time in a cavalry unit. The war ended before his second tour of duty was finished, so he was sent to Fort Collins, a small military outpost along the Overland Trail in the northern part of the Colorado Territory. When George mustered out of the cavalry in 1866, he selected some land along the Cache a la Poudre river and planted crops of corn and potatoes. Then he headed east to get his wife of twelve years, Frances Amelia, and their daughter, Varah Alzina, and bring them to their new home.

There was no train in Colorado at the time that George Buss was moving his family. People traveling westward would take a train as far as they could, which in the case of the Buss family meant traveling to Omaha, Nebraska. From there they joined a large wagon train. (The use of the word “train” in this case refers to a line of horse-, or oxen-, drawn wagons.) Amelia Buss was the only woman in their group as they traveled to Colorado in 1866.

Following their exhausting transcontinental journey, the family’s first winter was exceedingly difficult. Amelia kept a diary of her first year in Colorado. In it she tells of one of her nearest neighbors, Mrs. Jesse Sherwood, coming to visit and saying, “I really pity you in coming here.” Sherwood eventually gave up on the homesteading life and moved back east with her children, but Amelia Buss carried on. After their first five months at their new home, her husband finally had enough time to construct an outhouse. Amelia thanked her husband by making him a pair of buckskin pants.

Modified image made from HistoryGeo.com and Google Maps showing approximate boundary lines for George Buss’s property. Present day roads give a sense of where sections of land were. (A section is a square piece of land one mile by one mile in size encompassing 640 acres. Homesteaders could work towards a quarter section.)

 

Frances Amelia Buss with her daughter, Verah Alzina. This photo was likely taken about the time that George joined the infantry. (From the Archive at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, H07395)

Though George did apply for 160 acres under the Homestead Act, his first land purchase was made through the Scrip Warrant Act of 1855. He bought warrants from Betsy High, the widow of John High who had fought in the War of 1812. George then turned the warrants over to the General Land Office in Denver in 1868 to secure the 160 acres near the Cache a la Poudre river where he and his family had settled. (See map above. Most of that land now contains Fort Collins’ Arapahoe Bend Natural Area, the Harmony Park and Ride, and a segment of I-25.) He likely began homesteading the neighboring property to the north quite soon after his first purchase of land as homesteading was a five year process and he proved up on his claim in 1874.

Despite their distance from Fort Collins, it was the only community of any significance at the time. (There are no census totals for Fort Collins or Loveland/St. Louis in 1870, but by 1880, Fort Collins had a population of 1356 while Loveland and St. Louis had a combined 304 people. The town of Timnath didn’t get its start until 1882, when the train came through.) George Buss also had a history with, and friends in, Fort Collins. So the Buss family was involved in Fort Collins life to some extent. They were founding members of the Presbyterian Church (now called First Presbyterian Church) and in 1876, when the congregation decided to build their first building at Walnut and Linden (where the Right Card is now located), the Buss’s hosted a chicken dinner at their house as a fundraiser to support the purchase of the church organ.

The Busses property “in the country.” This photo is undated, but was likely taken several decades after the Busses had moved out. (From Fort Collins Yesterdays, by Evadene Swanson)

But the Busses couldn’t head to Fort Collins very often, given that they lived about six and a half miles away (as the crow flies) and walking would likely take at least an hour and a half one way. So George built a log school house for Varah and other local kids to attend. The building was also used for church meetings when the itinerant preacher included them in his circuit. The building hosted the Flora Grange and many community events as well.

In 1877, George and Amelia’s daughter, Varah, married Jacob Armstrong Jr. Varah and Jacob had four children, Laura (1878), Lucy (1880), George (1882), and Clarence (1884).

In 1879, George and Amelia celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary, which merited two full length articles on the third page of the Fort Collins Courier. Here is one of those two articles, which gives a sense of how beloved the couple were in the community.

A Visit at the Pleasant Home of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. E. Buss,
The 25th Anniversary of Their Wedding Day.

EDITOR COURIER : About ten miles down the valley from the foot hills, on the banks of the Cache a la Poudre, nestled among the Cottonwoods, is the home of our genial friends, Mr. and Mrs. Geo. E. Buss. Long, long years have passed away since their advent to this country from the old Empire State, where they then enjoyed a home near the waters of old historical Black river. But, like many of us, they left the home of early life among the vine-clad hills of the east and journeyed away to this far off country. And to-day many an eastern heart would gladly share the pleasantness of their beautiful home. The same ties that bound them to home and loved ones in the far east now binds them to the home made by their own hands in this beautiful valley, and to their great circle of friends who have learned to love them because of their good and genial hearts, which ever seem loving and kind.

It was our privilege to enjoy the freedom of this happy home on the evening of the 25th of April, when friends from far and near gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary wedding day of these our favored friends. The evening was delightful, and the house crowded with friends and neighbors, all extending in gladsome thoughts and expressions their welcome greetings. We noticed with pleasure many beautiful presents of silver, which will ever remain a part of their household, as remembrances of the happy event. A bountiful repast was served, which gave great credit to Mrs. B. as a cook.

Among the company assembled we noticed quite a number of former York State people, and now and then mention of the homes forsaken but not forgotten was heard, showing that the homes of our childhood and the things we learned to love long years ago still finds place in all our hearts. After reading the marriage certificate dated Boonville, N. Y., April 25th, 1854, by Rev. D. E. Finks, and a poem by Mrs. Finks, fitly prepared for the occasion, the crowd dispersed to their homes, feeling that a profitable and happy time had been enjoyed. The hour to me was made unusually pleasant; made so by knowing that kind hearts had given me a welcome; and as I left these scenes of joy: I exclaimed: “Long live and happy be the home of Mr. and Mrs. George E. Buss!” A FRIEND.

Mrs. George E. Buss (Image from Ansel Watrous’s History of Larimer County.)

In 1882, a train line was built through the northeastern corner of the Busses land, bringing not just economic benefits, but social benefits as well with passenger service to both Fort Collins and Greeley as well as the founding of a new nearby town, which came to be called Timnath after a Biblical town of the same name.

Things took a turn for the worse, however, and on May 8, 1884, the Fort Collins Courier included a small note just along the fold to the effect that Mrs. Buss was extremely ill and it didn’t look likely that she would recover. The following week the paper reported that she had passed away from her illness on May 14th. At this point Varah was pregnant with her fourth child. Within four days of losing her mother, she gave birth to Clarence Melvin. It must have been a very emotional time of mixed feelings with the loss of one life and birth of another.

George E. Buss in his later years. (Image from Ansel Watrous’s History of Larimer County.)

Just over five months later, however, on October 23rd, George married a woman by the name of Harriet (Hattie) Treat. This quick turnaround seems to have bothered historians prior to myself, because many histories of the Busses state that Amelia died in 1882, though the Fort Collins Courier articles that mention her sickness and passing are both from May of 1884. (Grandview cemetery, where all three of the Mr. and Mrs. George Busses are buried, also lists Amelia as having died in 1884.) Earlier histories also state that Hattie came from Wisconsin, which might technically be true. She did have some siblings that had moved to Wisconsin. But she was born and raised in Aurora, New York and lived there at least until the 1880 census. So if she did spend time in Wisconsin, isn’t wasn’t for very long. How George Buss in Larimer County met up with Hattie Treat in either Aurora, New York or Sharon, Wisconsin isn’t clear.

While George Buss seems to have been primarily involved in growing crops and raising horses, Hattie’s arrival led to a shift in focus. Hattie enjoyed making cheese. So George obtained 40 milking cows and Hattie became the first cheese maker in Larimer County. Her cottage industry earned a sizable mention in Ansel Watrous’s History of Larimer County, in fact.

A Woman Starts a New Industry – The first commercial cheese and, perhaps the first of any kind, except cottage cheese, manufactured in Larimer county, was made by Mrs. George E. Buss in 1886, on the Buss farm near Timnath. She had been reared on a farm and had seen and helped her mother make cheese and knew how it was done. Her facilities at the start were of the crudest kind. The hoop was hollowed out of a portion of a Cottonwood tree and the press was constructed out of the remnants of an old grain reaping machine, the tongue being used for the weighted lever. Notwithstanding her lack of up-to-date facilities and appliances, she made a number one article of cheese and it found a ready sale in Fort Collins and in the surrounding country. For quality, it beat the imported article all to pieces and was in great demand. The following year, encouraged by her success, Mrs. Buss obtained some galvanized iron cheese hoops and engaged more extensively in cheese making, turning out that year 7,000 pounds of first-class cream cheese. This, too, sold readily at good prices, Mrs. Buss realizing a nice little sum in the way of profit. That year (1887) a creamery was built at Fort Collins at which cheese was also made, but Mrs. Buss’ cheese was so much superior to that made at the factory that there was no sale for the latter. The owner and manager of the factory called on that lady and tried to induce her to quit the business or else to market her cheese in Greeley and Eaton, saying that the competition was injuring his business. Mrs. Buss calmly told him that she had a good home market for all the cheese she could make and that she saw no reason why she should be at the extra expense of sending her product to other markets; that, if he was not satisfied with his market, he had a perfect right to hunt up a better one. This ended the conversation.

The labor involved in making so much cheese finally began to tell upon her strength and she had to give up the business, not, however, until she had demonstrated that cheese equal to the best New York or Wisconsin cheese could be made in Colorado. In 1889 Mr. and Mrs. Buss sold their farm and moved to Fort Collins which has since been her home. Her husband, Capt. Buss a gallant soldier of the 21st New York cavalry, which was stationed here in 1865-6, died in 1908.

(From page 97 of Ansel Watrou’s History of Larimer County.)

209 W. Olive once stood on the south side of Olive Street where the First National drive through is now located. (Photos from the Larimer County Tax Assessor Collection at the Archive at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, 209bWO48 and 209WOl68.)

George Buss decided to retire in 1889, at the age of 60. He and Hattie moved to Fort Collins where they lived at 209 W. Olive Street. But they may have held on to their riverside property because the July 9, 1896 edition of the Fort Collins Courier makes mention of “a reunion of the Old Settlers” which was held in Buss’s grove.

George suffered from physical ailments in his later years and wasn’t able to get out much. He passed away on April 7, 1908. Hattie continued to live in the Olive street house until 1915, when she also passed on.

In 2010, the town of Timnath decided to rename County Road 40 after George Buss and the central role that he and both his wives played in the early founding of the community. They chose the name Buss Grove Road because, as the Timnath history book explained, “The Buss Grove was one of the few places along the Cache la Poudre River where there were many trees; consequently, it was the site of community celebrations such as Fourth of July picnics and other special occasions.”


Sources for this article:

Information regarding military service came from the following documents:

Information regarding where George Buss lived and how he acquired his land came from the following places:

General information about the Busses came from:

  • Fort Collins Yesterdays, by Evadene Burris Swanson.
  • Timnath, by the Columbine Club of Timnath.
  • History of Larimer County, by Ansel Watrous

Sources for images and newspaper quotes

  • The map of property lines was made with both HistoryGeo.com (for the boundaries of Buss, Sherwood and Strauss’s properties) and Google Maps (for alignment with historic buildings and present-day streets).
  • The 25th Anniversary editorial for George and Amelia is from the May 1, 1879 Fort Collins Courier as found through ColoradoHistoricNewspapers.com.
  • Many of the images (if not all of the images) that were used from Evadene Swanson’s book, Fort Collins Yesterdays, can be found at the Archive at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery. The same is true of the images from the History of Larimer County, by Ansel Watrous.
  • The following document of George Busses purchase of 160 acres using warrants he bought from Betsy High is from the BLM General Land Office Records.