This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise (3/15/2009).
You’ve probably heard stories during the past couple of years about the sudden unexplained disappearance of bee colonies. (I know – one more thing to worry about !) We rely on these colonies to keep the pollination machine running for certain crops. Although this has been going on for awhile now, scientists can’t agree on what’s causing it. Suspects include stress, bad diet, pesticides, global warming, and radiation from cell phones.
What you may not know is that bee-keeping was an important early industry in the Broomfield area. There was even a county official called a bee inspector. Newspapers of the day buzzed with articles on bees and bee-keeping. One 1894 article from the Boulder Daily Camera devoted considerable column space discussing the weight of a bee, both loaded and unloaded. If you’re curious, an unloaded bee weighs one five-thousandths of a pound, which means five thousand unencumbered bees weigh one pound. A loaded bee weighs three times that. (You can find many more such fascinating details in the Boulder Daily Camera, March 09, 1894.)
Back in the 1890s, bee keepers suffered from their own bee troubles – something they called “foul brood,” a name that, according to one writer, meant all the bees in the colony were dead. This bee expert complained that “there are some person or persons who are traveling through the county trying to sell a foul brood cure. It is a fraud…” (Colorado Transcript, June 14, 1893.) Seems a bit of a hard sell if the bees are all dead.
Broomfield’s own pioneering bee-keeper was Harry Crawford. Harry came here from Ohio in 1891. He managed to snag one acre of the Zang property and worked various jobs over the years, including postmaster, justice of the peace, and general merchandiser. Harry’s most abiding profession was bee-keeping, an award-winning skill he apparently learned in his younger years.
In 1900, Harry married an Englishwoman named Ada and the couple had three children – Miles, Dora, and James. Miles Crawford took over his father’s apiary and became a beloved “elder statesman” of Broomfield. Miles wrote down some of his recollections about life in early Broomfield, which are now housed at the Broomfield Depot Museum.
If you’ve ever wandered over to Zang Spur Park, you may have noticed several charming white structures next to the museum. The largest of the three is the Crawford Honey House, built in 1905, part of the late Miles Crawford’s estate. According to Miles’ recollections, the Crawfords kept about 500 colonies of bees. Their honeycombs must have sweetened the entire region, and the quality wasn’t too shabby either. In 1904, Harry Crawford won a silver medal for comb honey at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. No small feat – almost as impressive as flying around with a load that’s twice your own weight.