The Town of East Collins
Image from the Archive at FCMoD of the Buckingham District, C01533.
On March 18, 1903, the Weekly Courier announced that Fort Collins was growing. A plat map had just been filed with the county clerk for a neighborhood just north of East Lincoln Avenue and just south of the new sugar factory. It was to be called Buckingham Place.
The plat map covered the southern 80 acres of what had previously been the Buckingham farm. The western half of the map included 176 lots for housing. The eastern half was broken into eight five-acre tracks. The north-south streets were named First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth, while the east-west streets were to be East Lincoln Avenue (a street that already existed), Logan, and East Linden.
From the Weekly Courier, November 18, 1903.
From the Weekly Courier, November 25, 1903.
Buckingham Place remained outside of the city limits, however. Soon it was filled with Germans from Russia who were brought in to help raise the great quantity of sugar beets that would be needed to operate a productive sugar facility.
Within the year, a petition had been filed with the county, not to annex Buckingham Place into Fort Collins, but rather to incorporate it into a town of its own, East Collins. The January 27, 1904 Weekly Courier announced:
BUCKINGHAM PLACE WILL INCORPORATE
To all intents and purposes the city now has an incorporated suburb that will be known as the town of East Collins, a petition signed by a great majority of the qualified electors having been filed in the county court Friday afternoon. The petition follows: To the Honorable Judge of the county court of Larimer county, state of Colorado: We, the undersigned qualified electors of Buckingham Place, respectively represent and show unto your honor, that, whereas, the inhabitants of that certain district not embraced within the limits of any city or incorporated town, known as Buckingham Place, wishing to avail themselves of the privilege given to them by the statutes of the state of Colorado, of incorporating themselves into an incorporated town, respectfully petition your honor, that the following described territory be incorporated under the name of the Town of East Collins, to-wit: The southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of section twelve, township seven, north of range 69 west, in Larimer county, state of Colorado, and now known as Buckingham Place as will appear by the plat filed herewith and made a part of this petition. The population of the proposed new town as shown by the census taken by Henry C. Brown and Geo. Sauer some week [sic] ago is 135.
A backlash quickly sprung up, largely focused upon the perceived reason behind the request for incorporation. The February 7, 1904 Rocky Mountain News summed up the situation:
START TOWN TO SELL LIQUOR
Saloon Men Said to Be Back of Scheme to Incorporate the Village of Buckingham Near Sugar Factory. Special to The News. FORT COLLINS, Colo., Feb. 6.—The controversy over the incorporation of a new town on what is known as the Buckingham place, which is seprated [sic] from Fort Collins by the river is becoming an interesting one to the people of Fort Collins. The matter came up in court the other day and the incorporation people were defeated. The petition had alterations in it and was signed only by a few’ taxpayers living on the proposed townsite. The promoters of the scheme left the court room and immediately went to work trying to sell lots to men who would favor a “wet” town. They report success. The road to the sugar factory from Fort Collins passes through the Buckingham place, and the site is considered by the men expecting to start a saloon in the town as a splendid location. The sugar factory people are bitterly opposed to the establishment of such a place, and as they own most of the land composing the Buckingham tract they are doing all they can to block it. Fort Collins has been a “dry” town for the past ten years, and at an election held every two years the majority for the continuation of this policy has grown larger. The citizens of the town are generally opposed to the starting of a town of this character so near by, for the court and police expenses caused by it would have to be paid by Fort Collins taxpayers without any return. Buckingham consists now of one house and thirteen shacks. A saloon building has already been erected and is only waiting for incorporation papers to open for business.
Note that it was “qualified electors” that had brought the petition before the county. In order to be qualified, one would have to be an American citizen that had lived in the county for at least a full year. The Germans from Russia had only been brought in to work the beet fields inside of the previous year, so none of them could have been the qualified electors on the petition (though it’s quite likely the immigrant Germans would have welcomed the ability to quaff a beer after a hard day’s work).
Attorney George W. Bailey filed a petition to dismiss the request of incorporation, though the Weekly Courier was unclear whether Bailey was representing the county or the sugar factory when he filed the petition. The reasoning given for why East Collins shouldn’t be incorporated was that there was not enough property within the boundaries to support a town government and that the sugar factory, being the largest property holder, would bear the brunt of the taxation.
Plat map of Bellvue from the Book of Plat Maps for Larimer County, from the Archive at FCMoD, LC00342.
The argument seems a little thin, given that the town of Bellvue had been incorporated just eight years before this and was of similar size. It’s possible, however, that the sugar factory did play a significant role in foiling the petition efforts. Given that they would have had a huge say in the goings on in East Collins, being over-taxed was likely not much of a concern. But if a saloon were being set up in the Buckingham neighborhood, they likely didn’t want to deal with drunken employees.
A February 10, 1904 Weekly Courier article points to the attitude of those who were against the incorporation of the town.
Another petition has been presented to the county court asking for the incorporation of the town of East Collins. The beer jerkers seem persistent in their efforts to open one or more bear [sic] gardens down on the sugar factory ground, but a hard fight will be made against it by the respectable citizens of the proposed new town.
There was clearly a racist overtone among those who were fighting the petition for incorporation. The February 24, 1904 Weekly Courier included, without explanation or preamble, a statement that seems to imply not only that the Russians (meaning the Germans from Russia) were going to be brewing beer, but that the Japanese working the fields would stream into the town to imbibe.
Steps should be taken at once to fortify the mouth of the Cache la Poudre river to prevent Japanese cruisers from coming up the stream during flood tide and storming the Russian settlement in East Collins.
Note the use of the name “East Collins,” not Buckingham Place. The emphasis was on the proposed incorporated town. A random comment like this was meant to trigger the reader to connect the possibility of a nearby saloon with a sudden influx of immigrant activity.
Fort Collins went so far as to appoint a committee of five men “to render all the assistance it can to the city attorney in fighting the incorporation of the new town of East Collins.” (The Weekly Courier, February 24, 1904.) The folks in power in Fort Collins had been elected on a dry ticket. Prohibition had been in force in the city since 1896 and every year the primary issue among voters was whether prohibition should remain in place or not. The fact that Fort Collins remained a dry town until 1969 gives a sense of who won every election.
The section petition to incorporate East Collins had been headed up by George Dugan (who, based on his last name, was likely an Irishman). It included 34 total signatures with 30 being needed to pass the measure. An attorney for Fort Collins and another representing the sugar factory, presented evidence that five of the signers were not citizens, four were not residents, and two were not property owners. Several signers of the petition were in attendance at a court hearing on May 1st. The newspaper article commented on the fact that several of the petitioners knew no English and required translation.
The struggle to incorporate lasted for a few years. Even the Fort Collins Courier, in a statement on April 6, 1904, admited that the sugar factory was “opposing the scheme with all its might” yet owned none of the land which was proposed to be incorporated into East Collins. And though the petitioners fought to prove their residency, it appears the county courts responded to the petition in the end by simply not responding to it. There’s no statement given in the papers that a final decision was ever made.
“Leading citizens” of Fort Collins began to buy up properties in Buckingham in order to file a petition of their own in 1906 to annex the neighborhood into the city (Weekly Courier, April 25, 1906). Doing so effectively dealt with the prohibition concerns once and for all and removed all possibility of there being an East Collins. Despite being annexed into the city, Buckingham roads went unpaved and sewer service was not added until many decades later, though the rest of the city had long been receiving such servcies.
All newspaper citations were given within the article. Newspapers were access through ColoradoHistoricNewspapers.org.
Dates for the incorporation in 1896 (and later unincorporation in 1914) of Bellvue were taken from the Nomination form for the historic designation of the Flowers Store (Bellvue Grange) which was written by Ron Sladek.