Category Archives: Events

The First Morrison Cowboy Celebration

The Morrison Cowboy Celebration, so the story goes, was conceived early in 1996 when “uncle” Mel Justice was sitting around with a group of locals and sporting a mighty fine, rainbow-colored pair of suspenders. Bob Dougherty was on hand that night when a discussion about Mel’s suspenders led to his mention of a poem called “Billy Carpenter and Smith’s Elastic Braces.” Uncle Mel had never heard it. Bob recited it to Mel and all present, and the idea of a poetry gathering was born.

This inaugural event benefited from the talents of Mary Jordan, who convened a photo shoot at Teresa’s Holiday Bar (that archetypal Morrison saloon) that gave the event a lasting visual imprint. Performers, “saloon girls,” and one unnamed equine launched an image that rocked Morrison for five years running. Debby Mason and Roger Poe signed on as organizers; Patrick Gerace designed a logo and program artwork; and town businesses got involved as sponsors and advertisers. It was a community effort.

1996 performers gathered at Teresa’s Holiday Bar; Jerry Walker, Roz Brown, Bob Dougherty, Liz Masterson, Sean Blackburn. Also saloon girls with bar owner Kim Bianchi, cowboy Gary Gray, bartender Willie. Photo by Mary Jordan.

The Celebration was a major hit, even that first year! Bob rounded up a few of his friends and put together a show, held at the Morrison Town Hall in early September. Bob Dougherty himself acted as emcee, and other performers included Bill Barwick, Roz Brown, Liz Masterson & Sean Blackburn, Maggie Mae Sharp, and Jerry Walker. According to a later report (we’re pulling from the old website here):

Maybe we should start with what the Morrison Cowboy Celebration is NOT. It isn’t a weekend-long festival of all things cowboy. No pony rides, no chuckwagon cookouts. No rodeo. At least, not yet. You won’t find a whole lot of fringe and glitter, but lots of worn jeans and working cowboy hats. It is two grand evenings of some of the best and most diverse cowboy music and poetry you’ll find under one roof at one time. Two evening performances offering a great value for your entertainment dollar. (Because of the small size of the Morrison Town Hall, advance tickets are strongly recommended.)

Australian-born emcee Bob Dougherty entertained audiences with classic cowboy poetry and loud shirts at the Morrison Cowboy Celebration.

As Morrison’s resident (via Australia) cowboy poet, Bob became the emcee and focal point, known as well for his loud cowboy shirts as for his Down-Under-inflected poetry. Bob was once profiled in Westword, whence this introduction:

In the evening, Bob Dougherty works behind the bar at Theresa’s Holiday Bar in Morrison. Dressed all in black, his long gray hair pulled back severely from his face, a cigar clamped between his teeth, he will look up from the taps and say something terse and Western, such as: “Hello, trouble.” He will say this with an Australian accent.

Dougherty is a mass of details: tattoos, earrings, the Three Tenors on CD, an ability to converse in Thai, wine snob, baseball fanatic, extra in the film The Man From Snowy River—”my derriere, anyway”—and, sentimental fool that he is, a tendency to shower women with red roses and Swiss chocolate. —from The Odd Couplet BY ROBIN CHOTZINOFF, Westword, May 23, 1996

At the end of the two evenings, performers launched a tradition for the event by gathering onstage for a rendition of “Happy Trails” to send their audience home on a high note.

Part 1 of ?? …

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“A Tuesday in late March”

Quarry #10 near Morrison, or Clay Saurian #1, as drawn by Rev. Arthur Lakes.

One hundred forty years ago this month, Morrison entered the history of paleontology in an impressive way, with the discoveries made by Rev. Arthur Lakes on the hogback north of our small town.

On a Tuesday in late March 1877, a young professor made a discovery at what is now Dinosaur Ridge, near Morrison in Jefferson County, Colorado. This discovery transformed American geology and started a revolution in our understanding of dinosaurs. It also sparked a dinosaur “gold rush” that led the great scientific institutions of the East to turn their sights west. The fabulous wealth of such men as George Peabody, Andrew Carnegie, and Marshall Field was unleashed in a quest for the biggest and most bizarre dinosaurs to fill their museums. —Hunt, Lockley, & White, 2002

Arthur Lakes sketch of the quarries along the west slope of the Dakota hogback, from a letter to in 1879.

Ultimately, Lakes agreed to send the dinosaur bones discovered at Morrison to Professor O.C. Marsh at Yale’s Peabody Museum. For the next two years, Lakes and colleagues (including Benjamin Mudge, in white in above drawing) continued to send bones and reports to Marsh documenting their work at 14 sites along the hogback. Lakes also recorded their activities in his diaries, leaving us an extensive historical record of Morrison’s part in the “Bone Wars” of the late 19th century.

Lakes sent his first letter to Marsh on April 2nd, 1877. This letter told Marsh about the discoveries and their position in the sequence of rocks. He included good drawings of two partial bones and a detailed sketch of the geology of the area now known as Red Rocks Park and Dinosaur Ridge. —Hunt, Lockley, & White, 2002

Only four of the quarries yielded significant discoveries. Quarry #10, the Clay Saurian, is known for Apatosaurus ajax (YPM 1860). This site near the southern end of Dinosaur Ridge was relocated in 2002 and has been worked since then by teams from the Morrison Natural History Museum. Based on Lakes’s sketches of the hogback, his diaries, old photos, and field surveys, the location of Quarry #1 was identified in September of 2009 (Ghist & Simmons, 2010). The rediscovered quarry site was named a county landmark in 2014. This and other sites along Alameda Parkway are managed and interpreted by the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge.

National Natural Landmark Plaque on Dinosaur Ridge

The entire “Morrison Fossil Area” was named a National Natural Landmark in 1973. In 2011, the Landmark was expanded to include Late Cretaceous track sites near Golden, and is now called the “Morrison-Golden Fossil Area.”

References
Ghist, John, Simmons, Beth. 2010. Rediscovering Arthur Lakes’ Historic Lost Quarries at Dinosaur Ridge (Morrison, Colorado) Presented at 2010 GSA Denver Annual Meeting, 1 November 2010.)

Hunt, Adrian, Lockley, Martin and White, Sally. 2002. Historic Dinosaur Quarries of the Dinosaur Ridge Area Friends of Dinosaur Ridge and the University of Colorado at Denver Trackers Research Group.

JCHC. 2014. Preserving Prehistory: Friends of Dinosaur Ridge, Meyer Award for Historic Preservation. In Historically Jeffco magazine, Vol. 35: 39-40. Jefferson County Historical Commission.

JCHC. Dinosaur Ridge Describes Dedication of National Natural Landmark in May 2004.

Horton House Fire Update

Friends and neighbors gathered at the Horton House yesterday afternoon to board up the historic home after the destructive fire. Lumber was donated by Home Depot.

Workers at the Horton House after fire, October 1, 2015.

Workers at the Horton House after fire, October 1, 2015.

Boarding up the sunroom at the back of the Horton House.

Boarding up the sunroom at the back of the Horton House.

The Town of Morrison sent out this report:


The Horton House Bed & Breakfast in Morrison, Colorado, was built in the 1870s. The house was owned and lived in by Lila Horton. Many guests have stayed there while visiting Morrison and have had the chance to experience the historic building in all its beauty.

This morning the historic and popular bed and breakfast caught fire–while everyone did get out okay, the house was considered a total loss.

Lila does not have insurance and has created an account to help with the losses–everything from historic items dating back over 100 years to numerous personal keepsakes.

Please help Lila to rebuild! Go to: GoFundMe if you can help.


In the late 1800s, this was the dwelling of James and Amy Abbo; James ran Abbo’s Livery nearby on the property. The house was later occupied by Dr. Frank Luce and his family; he was Morrison’s “horse-and-buggy” doctor in the first half of the 20th century. From 1945 to 1973 the house was a Mexican Restaurant, El Gallo Tuerto, one of the first in the Denver area. Additions have been made over the years.

The photos below were captured by Kenny Noble Cortes, of KLOV Radio, during the fire.

Fighting the Horton House fire, October 1, 2015. Photo courtesy Kenny Noble Cortes.

Fighting the Horton House fire, October 1, 2015. Photo courtesy Kenny Noble Cortes.

Fighting the Horton House fire, October 1, 2015. Photo courtesy Kenny Noble Cortes.

Fighting the Horton House fire, October 1, 2015. Photo courtesy Kenny Noble Cortes.

Horton House Fire brings Painful Loss to Morrison

Historic Horton House

Historic Horton House in Morrison

Early this morning, the Horton House Bed and Breakfast was destroyed by fire! Heartbreaking photos indicate the extensive damage to Lila Horton’s childhood home, which she has run as a bed and breakfast for many years. (See “historic hospitality,” courtesy of City and Mountain Views.)

Lila has been at the center of Morrison’s history for many years, carrying on the preservation efforts started by her mother, Reenie Horton. She has owned and restored several historic buildings in town, some of which survive on the property.

If you have enjoyed staying at the Horton House, or just appreciated its quaint charm in a quiet corner of Canon St., please consider helping Lila and her family weather this tragic loss. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Lila replace basic necessities and find a place to stay.

Cabin Fever Dance January 26!

Join us Saturday night for the Cabin Fever Dance. (Details at link.)

No tickets, no cover, no minimum– but space on the dance floor (Morrison Town Hall, 110 Stone St.) is limited. Music by the illustrious Morrison Town Band. Sample a previous Cabin Fever Dance at our blog.

Help spread the word, or gather up your friends and hit the Town Hall for dancing, hob-nobbing, and general family fun. First set starts at 6:30, frolic continues to 11 p.m. or so.

Special Added Attraction!

A special showing of the new documentary The Rooney Ranch Legacy will take place next door at the Clubhaus (106 Stone St) beginning at 7:30 p.m. Appearing with it is a delightful short film on The Red Airplane Guy.

Historic Happenings in Morrison

Tucked behind the hogback at the edge of the Great Plains, along the banks of Bear Creek 20 miles west of Denver in Jefferson County, Morrison is known as “the nearest faraway place.” The spectacular sandstone outcrops of adjacent Red Rocks Park, with its amphitheater built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, draw visitors from around the world to the tiny community with a population of 430. Morrison is known for the 1877 dinosaur discoveries of the first Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Allosaurus, as well as the annual Mile-High Nationals drag race at nearby Bandimere Speedway. Survival has been the watchword throughout Morrison’s 140-year history, including disastrous floods and fires, the arrival and demise of the railroad, the economic ups and downs of tourism and mining, as well as the present-day pressures of urban growth. This website commemorates the willpower and pioneer gumption to survive that have been handed down through the families and businesses of this untarnished gem.

Morrison’s stories are accompanied by selected vintage images, collected by the Morrison Historical Society. Many were gathered in the 1970s by pioneer historian Lorene (Reenie) Horton. New images shared by local families supplement her work, along with selected photographs from other archives.

Cider Fest 2010

September 25 from 10 a.m. to Dusk
Grounds of Bear Creek Nursing Home,
Highway 8 and Summer Street
Morrison, CO, 80465

Free- make your own cider on “Apple Annie’s” historic cider presses —bring your own apples and empty beverage containers; bake sale by Red Rocks Elementary; horsehoe contest (register by 10:30am) by VFW Post 3471; car show by gocatspeedshop.com; ; live music at 2, 4 and 6 by Morrison Town Band and The Barley Bros./Holiday Bar.

Vendors include food by the Blue Cow, Smokin Yard’s BBQ, Pizza Casa, the Town of Morrison, Morrison Liquors, and the Morrison Action Committee; and a beer tent by VFW Post 3471.

And more: jumping castle by Mutual Of Omaha Bank; pedal tractors by Red Rocks Baptist Church; hay rides by Bear Creek Stables/Holiday Bar; climbing wall by the National Guard; massage by Lynn Downer’ Wood Art; women’s clothing by “Giddy Up” and others; wool purses by Susan; aprons and jewelry by Sally & Laurie; Beauty Control Cosmetics; Teddi’s Creations & Collectibes; Loose Ends Fiber Farm; and more!

Thanks to our Corporate Sponsors: Mutual of Omaha Bank, Canyon Tack & Feed, Bandimere Speedway, Aggregate Industries, Café Prague, Flights Wine & Coffee Bar, Morrison Natural History Museum Foundation, Morrison Carworks, Morrison Holiday Bar, West Chamber/Rooney Valley, Billfest Leonard, the Town of Morrison, and Others.

Also we wish to acknowledge the following the following for their generous in-kind contributions: Bear Creek Stables, VFW Post 3471, Bear Creek Nursing Home, Red Rocks Baptist Church, Chambers Consulting, Maja Stefansdottir Agency, Billy’s Home Cooking, Bear Creek Development,
Morrison Liquors, Budweiser Beer, Scramble Campbell, Kathy Wages, gocatspeedshop.com, Red Rocks Elementary School, The National Guard, the Morrison Action Committee, the Morrison Town Band, and all of the Ciderfest volunteers.