Watson Colman, Broomfield Pioneer, Fought Frontier, Fires, and a Bull

One of the dozen or so pioneer couples who first settled in the Broomfield area in the 1880s was Watson and Julia Colman. Though Watson Colman was a machinist back in his home state of Maine, he and Julia started a Broomfield dairy farm in 1885. They provided milk products to cheesemaker Mary Wright (who appeared in one of my earlier columns).

Colman later became a major landholder in the area, a real estate agent, mill owner and rancher. At one time he was said to be one of the wealthiest men in northern Colorado. In 1908, he and his son Ralph developed the area south of West 120th Avenue (near the 36 interchange), which they originally called “Maine Street” after their home state. They christened it the Lakeview Subdivision because it afforded a nice view of Zang’s Reservoir (the site of Target today).

As did Mary Wright, the Colmans endured a series of tragedies during their many years in the area. They had originally moved west due to the ill health of their daughter, Helen, but she died at 26 in 1890.

On Christmas Eve 1907, workers on the neighboring Adolph Zang ranch started a prairie fire, which spread to Colman’s property and ended up destroying every building on his ranch and homestead. In a bitter public fight, Colman sued Zang for $8,000, saying Zang’s employees had carelessly thrown out some hot ashes. Zang’s attorney argued that the fire started when the wind knocked over a tent onto an outdoor cooking stove. The jury apparently believed Zang because they awarded Colman only $500.

According to the Colorado Transcript, a newspaper of the day, this was the second fire to have ravaged Colman’s property. His flour and cereal mill had been destroyed by another fire a short time earlier.

On August 11, 1911, Watson Colman waged his last battle. He had gone out to drive a bull from a pasture. Although the bull did not have a bad reputation, something happened between them and the bull attacked. Colman, who was near 70 at the time, managed to sidestep the beast as he scrambled back toward the safety of a fence. He had only a few feet to go when the bull gored him, breaking a rib and puncturing his lung. Somehow, Colman managed to get behind the fence and walk home. Although he rallied for a time, he died the next day of his injuries.

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Her first week on the job, and Marshal Beth Mayo is hit with a sex assault case. It’s a nasty shock for the bucolic mountain town of Sugarloaf and for Mayo, who is still recovering from her husband’s death. Her initial skepticism grows into disbelief over the victim’s zany story, and she dismisses the case as a false report. Unfortunately, the same woman is soon discovered in the ruins of a ghost town, most definitely murdered.

Mayo unravels the complex case through a parade of colorful suspects and misfit family members, all the while following a common thread from 150 years earlier — Colorado history’s most notorious event, the Sand Creek Massacre.

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