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W.T. Early Home History

WT Early original house

The offices of Jim Saulnier and Associates are located in a house that was built in 1904-1905 as the personal home of W.T. Early, his wife, Sina and their son.  Mr. Early was an Englishman who spent a fair amount of time traveling before eventually settling down in Fort Collins.  As was common at the time, Mr. Early kept journals of his travels.  One such journal has survived and is currently housed in the Archives and Special Collections Room of the Morgan Library at Colorado State University.  This journal is interesting because it only contains entries detailing several trips Mr. Early went on.  One section is devoted to a trip he took to Paris in July 1878.  Two other sections describe his holidays at a place called Holly Hill in England in 1878 and 1879.  More importantly to us here at Jim Saulnier and Associates is the journal section that describes Mr. Early’s journey from Fort Qu’Appelle in the Northwest Territory of Canada (now Saskatchewan) to Fort Collins, Colorado in 1886.

Mr. Early left late in the afternoon of May 26.  He and his traveling companions Tracy and Clegg loaded up two covered, buckboard wagons with provisions, hitched the horses Bess and Nell to one wagon and Joker and Bob to the other, called the dog Boxer to sit in one of the wagons and left Qu’Appelle around 5:30pm.

Lousy Weather, No Water and Horse Thieves

Reading the diary, one realizes that travel was something people either HAD to do or really WANTED to do at the time.  Mr. Early’s discomforts and ordeals make what we endure at airports seem like a spa day.  During their first full day on the trail, Mr. Early and his traveling companions dealt with some very hot weather.  By the afternoon however, they were frantically holding on to the wagon covers to keep them from blowing off in the wind and trying to ride out a severe prairie rainstorm.  The weather was so terrible that Mr. Early describes trying to cook their evening meal over an oil-fueled stove in the back of a wagon and trying to sleep there as well.

After the storm, the weather turned hot and dry and remained so for practically the entire trip.  The dry weather made it difficult for the travelers to find water and Mr. Early commented that on more than a few occasions they all went thirsty.

On one of these thirsty days, the travelers’ troubles were compounded by horse thieves!  Mr. Early commented in his journal that four armed, mounted men and one man in a wagon with a string of horses tethered behind threatened them and demanded they turn over their horses. The travelers must have been a courageous bunch, because Mr. Early gives a brief account of how they fended off the horse thieves using rifles, revolvers and Bowie knives!

After the attack, they continued on the trail but still didn’t find any water.  When they stopped for the night the humans and animals were so dehydrated that none of them ate anything that evening.  It has to be bad if a horse refuses food.  Due to the dehydration and the fact that everyone was a bit spooked by the horse theives’ attack, no one slept that well that night.  At 3am on the morning of June 6th, the travelers set off again in the hopes of finding water.  Two hours later the dog, Boxer, came across a small pool of stagnant water that was filled with tadpoles.  They were all so desperate at this point no one cared.

River Crossings

Thankfully for Mr. Early, Tracy and Clegg, the horses and Boxer, their water problems were alleviated for the next few days.  On June 7th they crossed the Poplar River and on June 8th they crossed the Missouri River.  Mr. Early also makes it seem as if the wagon trail followed the Missouri River for a while, so water wasn’t a problem.  On June 12th, Mr. Early describes crossing the Yellowstone River.  Apparently the river was large enough at the crossing, it could not be forded.  The travelers crossed the river on what Mr. Early describes as a “kind of floating barge”.  It was also apparently a toll barge because Mr. Early seemed a bit put out that they charged $1.25 for each person to cross.

From June 15th to June 28th it seems that the travelers had a hot but uneventful journey.  By this time they had traveled approximately 780 miles from Qu’Appelle.  On June 29th however, their hot, dull trip got exciting again.  The travelers attempted to ford the Big Beaver River.  Unfortunately for them, it had rained heavily further upriver and the water was high and swift.  As they drove the first wagon into the river, the current started to carry it away.  The travelers fought to keep from losing the wagon and horses to the river.  They managed to tether the wagon to a tree with some rope and then someone crawled along the wagon, cut the horses free of their harnesses and brought them safely back to shore.

The travelers then took turns plunging into the swollen river and hanging on to the tether to unload the wagon so their provisions wouldn’t wash downstream.  They camped there that evening with some Indians who also could not get across the river.  The next morning, the water in the river had gone down enough that they were able to retrieve the wagon, repair the harnesses, reload the wagon and head off down the trail.  The headed off without Boxer the dog however.  Mr. Early seemed to think Boxer found the Indians more interesting traveling companions.

Cowboys

On July 2nd, the travelers were 160 miles outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming.  They met up with a group of cowboys herding cattle back to their ranch and traveled with them for a few days sharing conversation, meals and cowboy stories.  By July 4th, they had reached the ranch house.  Mr. Early mentioned that they stopped at the ranch that afternoon and had the horses’ shoes fixed at the blacksmith shop.  They continued on from the ranch and had a few hot but uneventful travel days before making it to Cheyenne on July 9th.  Although Mr. Early liked the town and probably would have liked to stay at an inn, the travelers opted to camp just outside of it so the horses would have somewhere to graze.  Mr. Early did manage to finish reading Great Expectations, the book he’d apparently been reading the entire trip.

Fort Collins (Finally!)

On Saturday, July 10th, the travelers stopped nine miles outside of Fort Collins.  Due to now unused social conventions, Mr. Early didn’t want to enter Fort Collins on a Saturday or Sunday.  They camped outside of Fort Collins until Monday, July 12th.  On the 12th, they drove into town, located a Mr. Dwyre and camped at his place.  No explanation is ever given for who Mr. Dwyre is or why Mr. Early would come all that way to see him.  Mr. Early’s parting words before completing his journal entries for this trip are that he “Like[s] the look of Fort Collins and its surroundings”.  We can only assume he did like Fort Collins very much because he later moved here from England.

We here at Jim Saulnier and Associates are thankful that Mr. Early did come back and build the home that we now occupy.  His experiences as a traveler must have convinced Mr. Early that quality mattered in everything you do, as his home is still standing after almost 120 years.  We appreciate Mr. Early’s style and have preserved some of the home’s original features like the stained glass in the front window and some of the original hardwood flooring.  We’ve modernized the place and made a few modifications and additions too, but we’ve tried to remain true to Mr. Early’s adventurous spirit and high quality building style.  Drop by for a visit, enjoy a cup of coffee and experience our piece of living history where we are grounded in the past but have an eye toward the future.

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Sina EarlyWilliam T and Sina Early