Holon Godfrey Was A Rugged Pioneer

By Hazel E. Johnson,
originally published in a supplement to The Greeley Journal, July 5, 1959

Mr. and Mrs. Holon Godfrey were pioneers in the La Salle area; settling there around 1869-1870. Their contribution to the early day affairs of Weld County was a considerable one and is still evidenced today.

Through the courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Godfrey of La Salle the following information, as well as the pictures was furnished: “Holon Godfrey was born in New York State in 1812, who at the age of less than twenty, went to Ohio, and about 1844, with a brother William, went to Chicago, looking for work at the carpenter’s trade. He was employed there when the city had a population of only two and three thousand. The next year he returned to Ohio and brought his family West with him, settling in Wisconsin, 25 miles north of Milwaukee, where he bought 100 acres of land and engaged in farming and carpentering. With his brother, William, he secured contracts for building docks and piles on Lake Michigan, and did other work on a similar nature.

“During the Pike’s Peak excitement of 1895-60, Mr. Godfrey left his family and started for Colorado. It was not his first experience in mining life for in 1849 he had via sailing vessel to San Francisco, but on account of trade winds they were delayed, spending three months and ten days on the water. On reaching California he began gulch mining at Wyreka and was fairly successful, remaining there for five years and returning with $5000 in 1854. Afterward he bought the right for cutting and welding wagon tires in several counties in Missouri and Iowa, but followed that business for only a short time. His time was then given to farming until 1860 when he outfitted at Council Bluffs and crossed the plains by ox-team to Denver.

“While going west he saw many people returning home, and the accounts they gave were most discouraging. By these reports he was influenced to change his plans. He settled on a ranch near Julesburg, Colorado and there remained for two years. Selling out in 1863, he settled thirty miles southeast of Fort Morgan on what is now known Fort Wicked ranch. Here he built a sod house and stable, and kept a general road ranch, remaining until the fall of 1868, when the Union Pacific RR reached Cheyenne. Previous to this he sent for his family in Wisconsin and all came excepting a son and daughter.

“Everything prospered with him until 1864, when the Sioux and Cheyennes attacked his ranch and drove away 85 head of cattle, set the grass on fire around the house and committed other depredations. He shot a number of Indians during that time and succeeded finally in driving them away. There was another raid in 1867, but afterward no further trouble was experienced with the red man.

“At the time the Union Pacific came thru to Cheyenne, Mr. Godfrey removed to the Platte River district and bought 3/4 of a section for $5,000. There he engaged in farming and the stock business for the remaining years of his life. In the development of (Weld) county he bore an active part. In 1869-70 he was the prime mover in organizing Section No. 3 Ditch Company (now known as the Godfrey Ditch) and assisted in building the ditch, which was the means of developing this section of country (Godfrey Bottoms). For ten years he officiated as the Company’s President. In 1873 he assisted in organizing the South Platte Ditch Company of which he was elected president.

“From 1860 to 1880 Godfrey engaged in farming and stock raising and was among the largest stockmen of the country.

“Politically Godfrey was always a Republican and was always interested in local and national politics. A man of energy, excellent judgment and executive ability, his influence was apparent for good during the early days of the county.

“His wife who was Matilda Richmond of Ohio, died in 1879. They had seven children: Martha, wife of Daniel Hawks; Allen R.; Anna, wife of H.M. Godfrey (no relation); Celia, wife of Wesley Mullen of Gunnison: Carrie, Mrs. CH Welch: Cuba of Wyoming; Nettie, who died in infancy.”

In a scrap book loaned the write by Mildred Howard Fralick, 396 So. Franklin St., Denver, there is a letter dated August 13, 1877, written by her father, Oliver Howard. Howard was a member of the Union Colony and an early day County Superintendent of Schools. In his school visitations he had this to say about Fort Wicked, so briefly mentioned above:

“Towards sundown, I came to the American Ranche famous for the tragedy enacted there a dozen years, ago, more or less. . .continuing my journey, I came to the former residence of “Uncle Holon” Godfrey and called by him Fort Wicked. Here I met Mr. Hosea Godfrey, who gave me some account of the siege of that place, after the American Ranche had been taken.

“There were only three men in the house at the time when the warriors environed it. The chief could be seen riding around on the inside of the circle. It seemed to be decided to burn out the whites, and accordingly the grass was set on fire. Uncle Holon saw the danger and crept along the corral wall and wet the hay with two pails of water. When the savages saw that the stack was not fired, a brave rode up to make an observation, holding his shield over his breast. Uncle Holon aimed with his double barreled rifle at the lower edge of the shield and fired. Hosea Godfrey said he had often tried, but never had been able to shoot through the center of one of these shields. When Uncle Holon fired, the brave dropped his hands and then clasping his pony’s neck was borne back to his crew, where he was placed on a blanket. Then the Indians raised their rifles and fired at the hay stack. It was Mr. Perkins, now residing in Evans, who at the risk of his life rode out that night and got soldiers from Fort Morgan.”