This Date in Lafayette History

1867- The Circus Comes to Town

In 1866 Mary and Lafayette Miller operated a stage stop and hotel along the Denver-Cheyenne stage route at Rock Creek, just south of Lafayette. They took in many weary travelers, including Ft. Collins families on their way to Denver to shop, traveling merchants with wagonloads of goods, and notably, future president Ulysses S. Grant when he was Commanding General of the US Army. One summer day in 1867 a gentleman emerged from a dusty stagecoach and asked Mary if she would be able to feed his circus troupe which was not far behind him on the trail. Without missing a beat, Mary whipped up hot biscuits, opened jars of canned vegetables, and poured milk and cream for one hundred performers from John Robinson's Circus, the first circus to ever tour in Colorado.

historic circus poster with ballerina

August 3, 1843 - Happy Birthday Mary Miller!

Mary Foote Miller, founder of Lafayette, was born on August 3, 1843 in Geneseo New York. In 1863, a few months after marrying Lafayette Miller, the couple headed to Colorado in six covered wagons.

Even though in 1878 at the age of 34 Mary found herself a widow with six young children, her resilient drive led her on to many accomplishments. She started the Simpson Mine, subdivided her land into residential and commercial lots for the miners, platted the town of Lafayette which was named after her late husband, became the first woman bank president when she established the Lafayette Bank, and built the Congregational Church. Mary lost four of her six children before she died on November 14, 1921. Read more about Mary Miller.

Mary's great grand-daughter Lois A. (Miller) Speer was also born on August 3 in 1932 and was the first girl in the Miller family in 3 decades.

Mary Miller portrait

June 21, 1914 - W.H. Frantz General Store Fire

The W.H. Frantz General Merchandise Store (SE corner of Simpson & Michigan) collapses during fire on June 21, 1914. Members of the Lafayette Odd Fellows Lodge #91 raised $8,500 to construct the building and occupied its second floor. Member George Barrett rushed into the burning building and saved the lodge charter. The man in uniform is likely one of the soldiers sent by President Woodrow Wilson to suppress violence between miners and strike-breakers at area mines.

histoirc photo of the Frantz General Store fire

May 13, 1893 - Dedication of the Congregational Church

Lafayette's first church, the Congregational Church, was dedicated on May 13, 1893. Mary Miller fronted $3,000 to construct the church and paid the minister's salary. The building exists today at it's original location 300 E. Simpson Street. It is now known as the Mary Miller Theater and is home to The Theater Company of Lafayette.

historic photo of the Congregational Church/Mary Miller Theater

April 25, 1927 - Coal Mining Heritage of Lafayette

From the 1860s until the 1930s, Lafayette was a major coal town. Mines in and around Lafayette supplied fuel for heating and power along the Front Range. Some mines continued production for several more decades,but the industry passed its peak as natural gas for heating became widely used and as better grades of coal from more distant mines became economically competitive. Learn more about Lafayette's Mining History.

The crew of miners in this photo are gathered in front of the mine tipple and other works. A drum in the front row has "State Mine 4-25-27" written on it.

historic photo of the State Mine in Lafayette

April 15, 1869 - George Ira Miller is born

On April 15, 1869, Mary and Lafayette Miller's son George Ira Miller was born. George's accomplishments for the Town of Lafayette included serving as Vice President under his mother at the Lafayette Bank, creating irrigation projects, owning a portion of Plant Lake (an electricity plant at Waneka Lake), and serving as a member of the Fire Department. George lived his life in Lafayette and his three sons all attended Lafayette schools.

In 1893, George along with five other men platted the Lafayette West Subdivision on the west side of Public Road between Geneseo Street and Cleveland Street. While Mary's original and subsequent plats included a provision that prohibited the sale or consumption of alcohol, this provision was intentionally omitted from the Lafayette West Subdivision. Soon salons and taverns sprouted up on the west side town. One of the first was the Elkhorn Salon at 101 S. Public Road.

April 2, 1889 - Voters approve the incorporation of Lafayette; 31-28

On April 2, 1889 residents voted 31 for and 28 against the incorporation of the new town of Lafayette.

This 1907 view of Lafayette is from high above the town. Railroad tracks are in the foreground. This postcard was sent to Miss Gwendoline Reese, postmarked Oct. 10, 1907. Postcard published by Geo. W. Smith.

birds eye view of Lafayette circa 1907

March 18, 1840 - Birthdate of Lafayette Miller

Lafayette Miller was the husband of the City's founder, Mary Miller. Mary named the town after her late husband Lafayette Miller who passed away in 1878.

Lafayette and Mary Miller arrived in Burlington, CO in Aug 1863 and operated a stage stop. In 1866 Lafayette, along with his wife Mary and two young sons Thomas and Charles, moved to Rock Creek and bought a hotel and a stage station there. In 1868 while still living at Rock Creek, the Millers purchased 160 acres and cultivated hay grain and raised dairy and beef cattle. In 1871 they moved to Erie where Lafayette ran a meat market.

In 1874 the family moved to Boulder where Lafayette was a member of the town council and known as "a public spirited man, generous, whole-souled and hospitable". Following his death, Mary and the six Miller children moved to her family's farm where she later found coal and platted the town of Lafayette, Colorado.

historic photo of Mary Miller posed standing next to Lafayette Miller

February 15, 2011 - Backyard Chickens are approved in Lafayette 

We thought this was an appropriate date to share this picture of Joseph P. Simpson, holding a live chicken (circa 1920). Mr. Simpson emigrated from Mary Port, Cumberland, England; making his way to Louisville, Colorado via Canada in 1879. He built a house in Louisville and moved it by wagon to Lafayette in 1888. In that same year, he discovered the Simpson Mine east of town. In its heyday, it was one of the largest coal mines in northern Colorado. Mr. Simpson's house still stands at 303 East Simpson Street.

historic photo of Joseph Simpson holding a chicken circa 1920

February 4, 1889 - Post Office is established for a town of 400 people 

Sam Carlisle stands next to a pull-cart loaded with mail bags in front of the Lafayette Post Office (circa 1910). The Lafayette Post Office, originally located in the 400 block of East Simpson Street, was authorized on February 4, 1889. Home delivery began in 1956 when the population had reached 2,000. James E. Simpson, Jr. was Postmaster at the time this photo was taken.

View this photo in the Historic Photo Gallery: /gallery.aspx?PID=486

Historic photo of a man with a cart of burlap bags standing in front of the Lafayette Post Office

February 23, 1889 - Lafayette's final incorporation papers are filed with the Boulder County Court

In February of 1888 Mary Miller set aside 150 acres of land from her farm and filed the original plat for the town of Lafayette. On February 23, 1889 she filed final incorporation papers with the Boulder County Court.

Mary named the town after her husband Lafayette Miller who had passed away in 1878. Her sentimental side was also apparent in the way she used personal meaning to name the streets.

East/West Streets

  • Geneseo - Mary's birthplace
  • Michigan- Mary's girlhood home
  • Cleveland - President Grover Cleveland
  • Cannon - Cannon Mine
  • Chester - President Chester Arthur
  • Emma - Mary's niece

North/South Streets

  • Gough - Originally Couch, a local dentist (perhaps a typesetters mistake) 
  • Simpson - Simpson Mine
  • Iowa - Mary and Lafayette were married
  • Foote - Mary's maiden family name

The "towns.woman" public art piece is located in the roundabout on the south end of So Public Road near the Coal Creek trailhead. This Tim Upham sculpture is a tribute to the inspirational life and accomplishments of Mary Miller, the "Mother of Lafayette", and represents the plat of the original town site. Listed on the facing side of the sculpture are the meanings behind the street names. This piece was originally installed on Baseline Road in front of the Bob L. Burger Recreation Center, but was relocated to its current site in February 2014.