Lorin Cassandre: Mead Founder of Highland Lake

The following information was provided by Pauli Smith
Executive Director, Historic Highland Lake

Lorin Cassandre Mead Founder of Highland Lake

Lorin Cassandre Mead Lorin Cassandre, the son of Rufus and Anna Janes Mead, was born on his parent’s farm in Cornwall, Addison County, Vermont, on March 12, 1832. One of nine children, Lorin, or L.C. as he was often called, first attended the local public schools and after graduation enrolled in Castleton Seminary, the oldest institution of higher learning in Vermont.

He married his first wife, Roxanna Electra Peet, on August 8, 1855 in Cornwall. Four years later, on August 15, 1859, Roxanna gave birth to a daughter, whom they named Electra or Lettie for short. Roxana died of unknown causes soon after Lettie’s birth.

When the Civil war broke out, L. C. joined up in October of 1863.[i] After the war, on June 20, 1866, he married Elizabeth Sheldon, daughter of Oscar P. and Parmelia W. Sheldon, in Salisbury, Vermont. Lorin and Elizabeth had two sons, both born in Highland Lake, whom they named Malcolm and Rufus.

Sometime around 1870, L. C. contracted tuberculosis, a common disease at that time.

Desperate, Elizabeth, Lettie, and L. C. traveled to Chicago, where the doctors there suggested that the dry air and high altitude of Colorado would be best for Lorin’s deteriorating health. While still in Chicago, they heard of the newly formed Chicago- Colorado Colony (now called Longmont.) Leaving their belongings in storage, they hurried to Colorado by train, arriving in early 1871. After visiting both the Chicago-Colony and the Greeley Colony, a day’s travel northeast, they decided to reside in the former.

Upon returning to Chicago to retrieve their belongings, they discovered to their horror, that all had been lost in the great Chicago fire. After a delay, in which they attempted to gather their lives and a few belongings back together, they joined a wagon train with other Colorado-bound pioneers. [ii]

Shortly after returning to Longmont, Lorin staked a claim to 80 acres on the east shore of a “prairie pot-hole.”[iii] Naming the lake and the future community, Highland Lake, after the lake in his favorite poem by Sir Walter Scott, Mead set to work proving his claim.[iv] For a few years, he and his family continued to live in Longmont, while he traveled each day to his homestead on the lake to farm his crops and build his house on its eastern shore. In September of 1875, Lorin finished his home on the lake and moved his family permanently there to live; just two days before their eldest son, Malcolm was born.

Mead and his family were charter members of the Longmont Congregational Church. After they moved permanently to Highland Lake, Lorin rode his gray mule every Sunday, 10 miles into Longmont for church. Eventually tiring of this commute, he convinced his friend, George Davis, a congregational missionary who had founded the first three Congregational churches in Colorado, to help organize a fourth church in Highland Lake. Organized in 1881, the Highland Lake Congregational Church had 16 charter members and met in the schoolhouse.

Shortly after moving to Highland Lake, Lorin faced the challenge of getting the Highland Ditch, stretching from near Lyons to the lake, finished. More than 18 miles still needed to be dug, and his grain was suffering badly from a drought. After doing the surveying and plowing a shallow line where the ditch was to go, Mead put out the word that he would give anyone who came to help dig, ten dollars worth of stock for each day of work. About a dozen men with teams responded, more to help than get what they considered worthless stock. According to L. C. Mead’s paper that he read years later at a Highland Lake Lecture series, “I never saw so much dirt moved before in one day.”[v]

Completing the ditch by the end of the first day, the men turned the water in. The rushing water washed the ditch deeper, so no more work was necessary except in a few rocky places. Local citizens still frequently discussed this feat of excavation thirty years later and eventually it became a legend to be passed down to subsequent generations.

In 1879, St Vrain Valley citizens elected him to the first State Legislature, where his leadership ability was promptly recognized. As chairman of the water/irrigating committee, he succeeded in getting a bill passed which helped the young state define the water and irrigation laws that still impact our state today. After his time in the State Legislature was finished, he served two terms as the Weld County Clerk and Recorder.[vi]

A newspaper article of unknown origins, dating about 1897 when Lorin was 63, extols L. C.’s virtues as the Republican candidate for Weld County Clerk and Recorder, an election that he eventually won. "Mr. Mead will bring to the office of county clerk and recorder ability of an exceptional order and a fitness unusual. A republican of steadfast principle and untiring zeal, he may always be found fighting the battles of that political organization. Courteous and affable, he will bring to the office those essentials so requisite to the successful performance of the duties entailed."[vii]

Lorin’s favorite author was Sir Walter Scott. He so loved Scott’s writings that he was known to hold scheduled, “debates and monologues” about the famous author at community socials and concerts. Lorin also peppered many a conversation with “scottisms” and quotes.

This quirk gave his neighbors and friends a constant source of jokes and stories at Lorin’s expense. For example, in the January 20, 1882, edition of the Longmont Ledger, you can read, “This evening, among other things will be a discussion between Messrs. Mead and Scott.” This was apparently the author’s humorous way of saying that L. C. Mead was going once again to discuss his favorite author, Sir Walter Scott.

Lorin was a man of strong opinions and had some very pronounced views of the way one should live one’s life. This sometimes made him difficult to deal with, but despite his shortcomings, he commanded respect throughout the Highland Lake community as well as beyond.

Lorin died on July 6, 1908, of heart failure. He was seventy-six years old. In his obituary in the Longmont Ledger, a tribute to him reads:

"Probably no man in the State kept in closer touch with the tread of public events, or was more capable of correctly diagnosing them. A close student and deep thinker, he always kept fully abreast of the times." [viii]

An article in the Greeley Tribune dated Thursday, December 09, 1897, page 11, lists L.C. Mead as the County Clerk along with the following biography:

"The Clerk of Weld County is L.C. Mead. He was born in Cornwall, VT., in 1832. He was raised on a farm and attended the district school. At the age of twenty one, he was engaged in the business of raising and shipping thoroughbred sheep, West. In 1871 he gave up the sheep business and came to Weld county, taking up land at Highland Lake, thirty miles southwest of Greeley. He was appointed superintendent of construction on the Highland Ditch, and succeeded in forming a company to build the ditch after two companies had failed. It is one of the largest and best ditches in the state. In 1874 he took up a homestead and by buying additional land soon owned 800 acres. He made a reservoir of Highland Lake, and thus brought under irrigation a large scope of country. In 1879 he was elected to the state legislature, on the Republican ticket. During the time he was a member of the legislature, he was chairman of the important committee on irrigation and secured the passage of a bill that has been the foundation of all the irrigation laws of Colorado. In 1895 he was elected county clerk on the Republican ticket. Mr. Mead is married and has three children, his oldest daughter being the wife of F. F. Weston, now in the government printing office at Washington."

[i] History of Addison County. Edited by H. P. Smith D. Mason & Co., Publishers. 1886. 435. (Entry states, “Furnished under draft – L. C. Mead”).

[ii] They Came To Stay. St. Vrain Valley Historical Association. Longmont, CO: 1971. 169

[iii] Spring-fed pond or lake with no other source of water excepting rainfall.

[VI] They Came To Stay. St. Vrain Valley Historical Association. Longmont, CO: 1971. 169.

[V] The Highland Ditch, a paper read in the Highland Lake Lecture Course Feb. 21, 1889 by L. C. Mead.

[VI] Newspaper clipping dated 1897 where L. C.’s qualifications for County Clerk and Recorder are listed, is an almost mirror image of his obituary eleven years later. This article is located in a scrapbook currently owned by Lawrence Jensen, great grandson of L. C. Mead.

[VII] Ibid.

[VIII] L. C. Mead’s Obituary. July 6, 1908. Found in a scrapbook currently owned by
Lawrence Jensen dated July 1908.