Early Morrison

A river, a railroad, and resources brought George Morrison in the 1870s

Beautiful Bear Creek flows through the center of downtown Morrison. It provides water for Denver, Englewood, and Morrison, as well as towns upstream, and has been a primary attraction for residents and visitors alike. It has also been the source of much destruction. A wide bench carved by Bear Creek near the hogback first attracted George Morrison’s attention as a potential townsite. The creek also provided a passable route to move people and supplies into the goldfields to the west.

The town of Morrison got its start in 1872 when a group of Denver businessmen headed by Colorado Governor John Evans incorporated the Denver and South Park Railway. A narrow gauge railroad was built west from the Platte River to Mt. Morrison. The plan was to extend the line to South Park and the mining country. This spur brought work and wealth to our little community. The panic of 1873, crop losses in 1874-76, and a more practical route up the Platte Canyon ended the plans for extension, and the railroad stopped forever at Morrison. It was completed in 1874, and made scheduled runs until 1925, but was abandoned after the floods of 1933.

During its life, however, the railroad was Morrison’s lifeblood. It carried building stone and other products of Morrison’s quarries into Denver, brought tourists to the town and to nearby Red Rocks Park (then known as Garden of the Angels), and made Morrison a supply center for growing communities in the canyons and mountains to the west, as well as to the ranches east along the Bear Creek Valley.

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28 responses to “Early Morrison

  1. I’m wondering if my Grandfather William Morrison who lived for some time in Durango CO has anything to do with Morrison CO? I am trying to find relatives in that area my maiden name is Nancy Morrison, father Charles Morrison. My grandfather worked on the railroad for many years, he was born in Scotland . Nancy

    • Nancy– please forgive my delay in replying. Unfortunately, we’ve never heard of a William Morrison. We do have a Charles, but he is grandson of the town founder, George Morrison. His brother emigrated with him, but he was named David, and soon returned to Nova Scotia. According to family members, there may have been a third brother, but I don’t have a name.

      The Morrisons are of Scottish descent, but ours came from Canada. I’m told that many Morrisons emigrated from Scotland in the 1820s. I trust you’ve checked Google; there’s lots of Morrison family info online.

      Good luck with your search!
      Best– Sally

    • Anna McG. Chisman

      Dear Nancy:

      Good to make contact! I think we may have a connection, but it’ll take time to work out.

      My grandfather, Alexander Stevenson, was born and died in Central Scotland. His older siblings emigrated to the US in the 1860s, and legend has it, travelled to Colorado in a covered wagon, and became one of the first families to settle in or around Denver. They started a coal mining company called the Clayton Coal Co., which had its office in downtown Denver.

      In the 1950s, a friend of my mother’s went to Denver on a visit, and met a descendent of the emigrants from Scotland. Her name was Mary Morrison. The friend reported back that the family was quite wealthy, and the daughter (21 or so at the time) was driving a Cadillac!

      My aunt May Stevenson’s middle name was Morrison, but I never quite understood why. I’ll try to find out from my cousin.

      Best,

      Anna McGregor Chisman

  2. What was in the Post Office site in 1930

  3. Anna, how great to find out your connection…..let me know if you ever hear anything from your cousin its all very interesting…Nancy

    • Anna McG. Chisman

      Nancy: Thanks for your message! I’m about to go off to England for a month (hooray!), but will be back mid-August, and start planning a little visit to Colorado to do some on-site research. If you live in the area, perhaps we could talk or meet.

      BTW, my mother’s name was Nancy (Agnes) Stevenson.

      Best, Anna

  4. Looking for any record of my 2nd great grandfather J.H. Lathrop and family. Owned land west of Indian Hills near North Turkey Creek. Married in Evergreen in 1887. Son Martin Elisha Lathrop was born in July 1888. Most available records for Martin list his birth place as Denver. But some records have his birthplace as Morrison. J.H. Lathrop relinquished his Homestead Land Grant on North Turkey Creek in 1888. I have lost track of him from here. He may have been back in Iowa by 1891. He came back to Colorado and went to Cripple Creek in 1894. These people have been extremly difficult to track. None of his 3 children appear in any birth indexes in Colorado or Iowa, though its absolute that they were born there. I was hoping there exists an old country doctor’s diary that list births he attended or some other unofficial list of births in 1888.

    • Looks like your best bet is the Foothills Genealogical Society. Link is at historicjeffco.org on the Resources page (scroll down). I found marriage of J.H. Lathrop and Zadie B. Ritchey on Sept 6, 1886, and he is in the 1885 county census. I will email details. — Sally

  5. Edward– thanks for stopping by! Indian Hills is a little out of our immediate area, and the name Lathrop doesn,t ring a bell, but let me do some checking and get back to you. Unfortunately, our country doctor left us no records, but I will check our files and let you know if anything turns up.
    Best regards– Sally

  6. I am looking for any information on the Hillcrest Guest Ranch with was located in Morrison approximate in the year 1940 through 1969 and owned and operated by Thomas and Mabel Cavenaugh. They adopted my mother in 1944 and her name is Virginia Wright. I have heard many stories about this town although I don’t remember much about it when I was small and lived there. My understanding is that there is/was a museum that had pictures of my grandparents and the guest ranch. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Linda. I do have some information on that and will email it to you separately as it,s not online yet. It,s another item I probably should get online one of these days. The museum is gone for now, but we do still have the pictures, so i,ll have to get Hillcrest handled for you soon. –Sally

  7. Hi there, my husband and I had the Thrifty Grocery Store. The building was owned by John Schneider. He owned the drug store on the corner.We were there in the 1950’s.
    Our daughters attended the school that was built before Colorado became a state. I think the building is in sad repair now. The mayor at the time was Joe, but I cannot remember his last name. I used to fix his wife’s hair. Father O’malley (I think that was his name) was the priest of the home on the hill.
    I knew Mabel Cavanaugh. One time when they were going to have a group of people ride out of town and have a cook out. Any way Mabel came to the store and needed to buy some pork chops for the cook out. I took the loin out of the meat case and attempted to cut the pork chops she needed. I must say they were not very neat, but I bet they tasted good.
    My girls were girl scouts and one ot the badges they earned was for riding horses. We (the girls and I) rented the horses from the Hillcrest Stables and went off on our ride. During the ride, the horse Elaine (daughter) was riding decided to go back to the stables. So here we are Elailne’s horse heading back to the stables and me riding as fast as I could to catch her. I think it was a tie.
    There was a young woman working for the Cavanaughs who would take a group of men out to hunt for deer. They (the men) usually stayed in camp (playing cards and drinking) while the young woman would go hunt and get the deer for the guys. Sounds about right. What do you think? I wonder if she could be your relative.
    Our store had very large tree trunks in back and on the side to protect it from flood waters and debrie. The walls of the store still had the marks from the last big flood in 1936. On the west side of the store there was a little building attached to the store and Mrs Billings had a little what not shop. She also taught my girls how to do needle work.
    One time we had a fellow come into town soliciting sexual favors. Mrs. Billings called the Marshal to come and arrest him. We had his trial in Golden later.
    We had an ice house for ice for the people from Denver and around who came on the week ends. The fellow who took care of it for us was mentaly incapacitated. He could not see to well either, but could tell what the coins were by the feel of them. We sold picnic supplies and 3.2 beer. Lots of people came then. When the week end came to a close it was bumper to bumper of cars with the people going home after a good time in the foothills.
    We had three bars. Bear Creek Bar on the other side of Bear Creek, Tabor’s Bar in the middle of the block. The fellow who owned that one used to drink so much during the day that he would go home drunk every night. I can’t think of the other one unless it was Amos. he is the one we bought the business from.
    Don was in Dallas selling Frosty Frozen Foods because when summer was over we did not have as much business. He sold many freezers and food to people in and around Morrison and up on the grapevine road.
    I wish we had kept the old cash register. It was really neat, but we bought a National Cash register. We also had a walk in cooler, were we kept the beer and milk. We kept it running with quarters all the time.
    We had customers in Indian Hills and I would deliver their groceries. One night when coming back from Indian Hills my lights on the panel truck went out. Boy it sure gets black. Anyway I stood out in the middle of the road hoping to get help. Good thing they did see me and stop in time. I had a fuse they put in for me and away I went back to Morrison.
    We used to eat at the Standard Service station owned by the Heldabrands. When they retired and sold the station they moved to Tempe, Arizona.
    There also was a quanset hut over by the river where we would eat sometimes. I don’t remember who owned it.
    The Friedmans owned and delivered the butane gas to people. Later they also built a washateria next to our store. The building that had been there was washed away with the 1936 flood. It has been told that when the water was so high in the drug store that when the fountain was floating about it broke the front window and the fountain went out with the water. Bill Schneider told that story. Our daughters played the piano in a Christmas play at the community center. That is also where we had Church. There was also another church. I think it was the Church of the pille of fire,
    Many mor stories,but that is all for now.

  8. Thank you so much! Yes the young woman was my mom. She would wear her hair in braids all the time.She would take hunters up on the mountains all the time. The nameSchneider sounds so familiar. Do you have any pictures of the guest ranch?

    • I live at the hillcrest guest ranch now! If anyone has pictures I would LOVE TO SEE THEM.
      I’ve been here about 8 years now and love it here. Great place to live and raise kids!
      Thanks
      Kerrieandnoah@gmail.com
      Kenny hill 9704061288

      • sallymorrisonhistory

        Thanks, Kenny. I’ll have to see if we can dig out some pictures of the Hillcrest Guest Ranch. We do have a good story on the place from a former owner; I’ll see if I can post that soon.

  9. My grandfather was born in Trinidad,Co in March of 1916 his parents were Albert Michael Morrison and Agnes(Rovich) Morrison his brother worked in the coal mines in Gray Creek. Just wondering if there might be a connection thank you

  10. They could be related. We lived in Morrison in 1950’s and had the Thrifty Grocery store. You might try emailing Sally White in morrison and see if she knows any thing about them. We were originally from Denver and when my husband Donald E Silver was selling realestate we bought the business. We have lots of good memories of Morrison.

  11. i am trying to find where my great grandmother alponia jordan was buriedplease help if you can i am a reletive of the matthews jordan and lagrows

  12. I have a very nice, mounted 8×10 studio portrait of George Morrison and his family and a number of candid’s of his son, Cowboy Pete Morrison, that I acquired from an estate sale 3-4 years ago in Hollywood. If you would be interested in seeing these, please forward an email and I can send you some scans to determine if they are dupes of images you already have or are something new that you would like to add to your collection. Thank you.

    • Reza Ardehali

      Hello, I just read your E-mail. I own Tony Rigatoni’s at 215 Bear creek ave. in Morrison. We are revitalizing our home/business after 23 years. We are going back in time to the golden days of Morrison past. I would be honored to make use of our place with any pictures or memorials that you would like to share. Reza

  13. I will send your email on to my daughter and see if she would be interester.

  14. Pat Nahring Williams

    I am a descendent of Carl Gottlieb Nahring who had a farm in Morrison. He lived in Denver since 1880- 1888 and owned a saloon called “Concordia Hall & Gardens”. He moved to Morrison with wife Hulda by 1900 census. Daughter Pauline teacher at little one room schoolhouse in Morrison (picture per Ken Schultz). 1900,1910, census shows family w/5 kids in Morrison on farm. He dies on farm 1928, leaving property to wife Hulda (Perlick) Nahring, and son Arthur W Nahring, daughter Pauline (Nahring) Heim all of Morrison, Oscar Paul Nahring (my grandfather) of Denver, Carl Nahring of Brush Co., daughter Gertrude (Nahring) Bevans of Morrison. He owned 32 acres and half of Harriman Lake listed in his probate records. Big family events- marriages, deaths, etc happened on the farm. Have old photo of Hulda’s birthday on farm with 40+ people in attendance. Happy to share anything of interest. Would love any info/photos/ of life during this time period in Morrison. Have some colorful stories from genealogybank.com website about some of my relatives there. Please direct me to any help possible. I visited Denver to research my family and need to return to Morrison. I am enchanted by your beautiful town and its people. Warmly,
    Pat Nahring Williams

  15. Hello, I’m Related to Thomas Lewis and his father Joel Lewis. Joels brother William Lewis lived at Rapid City, S.Dakota and was involved with Black Hills Gold rush which Thomas went up to for a few years. Brad Lewis is a Direct descent from Joel Lewis is on Ancestry. Thought you might like the Info. George Thomas

  16. Gaye Buzbee Jacobs

    Hello,
    My Great Aunt was Sarah Ella Donovan, who was the wife of Thomas A. Lewis. Their children were Amy (Abbo) and Oscar. Any information you have on Sarah Ella would be much appreciated!
    Thanks!

  17. Samuel and Nora Hebrew and Frank and Julia Baker are our ancestors. Lots of Morrison history with these two families
    Juanita Baker raccoon@scottsbluff.net

  18. Kenny Hill, I will go and see my mom and look for her photo album that had pictures of her at the Hillcrest Guest Ranch. Tom and Mabel Cavanaugh adopted my mother when she was 13/14 yrs old. My mothers name was Virginia Wright.

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