Location: West side of the Westin Hotel, north of 104th Avenue and east of Westminster Boulevard.
Artist: Winsor Fireform Fabrication - Tumwater, Wash.
Year Installed: 2010.
How Acquired: Funded by the City of Westminster.
Comments: The history panel is located at the base of one of sixteen custom-designed light towers.
The Church Ranch
While mining was an important industry in Colorado history, most of the pioneers who crossed the prairie had far more experience with farming and animal husbandry. Their expertise lay in raising crops and livestock, although they would have to adapt their methods to the frontier’s dry climate. In addition, the growing communities of pioneers and miners needed fresh food products, opening a potentially lucrative market to those with the knowledge and desire to pursue farming.
Among the pioneers who settled in the Westminster area were George and Sarah Church, who migrated from Iowa in the early 1860s. They mined near Idaho Springs and farmed north of Mount Vernon Canyon. Although these efforts were unsuccessful, the Churches settled down in 1864 when they acquired land northwest of Denver. This tract contained the 12-Mile Station, a stop on the Denver to Cheyenne stage road called the Cherokee Trail. George built a house at the stage station, which became known as Church’s Station (which hosted Ulysses S. Grant for a night). Around 1920, the bunkhouse materials were used to build the Mandalay School, 10290 Wadsworth Boulevard. The 1860s stage stop well is located at 105th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard.
The Churches amassed thousands of acres that stretched from Sheridan Boulevard west to the foothills. Building a sizable livestock operation, they used some of the acreage as pasture and planted the rest with feed crops. George built an irrigation system involving a series of ditches and reservoirs that diverted and stored water from Clear Creek
George Church also served as president of the First National Bank of Arvada; Sarah served on the local school board. Their son, John “Frank” Church, married Katherine Jones in 1892 and shifted the Church Ranch headquarters to their 1890s farmstead at 10050 Wadsworth Boulevard. While Frank ran the ranch, Katherine involved herself in real estate development. The depressed agricultural market of the 1920s and stock market crash of 1929 eventually reduced Church Ranch’s holdings to 100 acres around the ranch headquarters and another 3,000 acres of pasture in the Rocky Flats area. Much of this land was acquired by the federal government after World War II and developed into the Rocky Flats plutonium trigger manufacturing plant (now repurposed as a national wildlife refuge). Today the Church Ranch headquarters remains on Wadsworth Boulevard and is recognized as a Colorado Centennial Farm.