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The Milner/Schwarz Farmhouse Story

The Milner -Schwarz Farmhouse Museum (located on Fire Engine Red Rd in Loveland CO.) was built in 1873 by the sons of Joseph Milner, Sr., for his daughter-in-law Emily and his son Joseph Jr. His sons were skilled masons and built the house of three courses of brick, keeping it painted white most of its life.  An unsolved historical mystery is why, in 1872, Joseph Sr. deeded the westernmost parcel of his 80 acres solely to his daughter-in-law and not to his son.

Joseph Sr. and Ann Milner emigrated from Yorkshire, England, to Canada in 1830.  Joseph was a successful contractor and banker, and the family enjoyed a wealthy lifestyle.  The couple had six children: Joseph, Jr., William, James, Sarah, Samuel, and Benjamin.
The family moved to Chicago about 1850, but moved again, this time to Rockford, Illinois, to escape a cholera outbreak.   Joseph operated a large brick yard.  However, bankruptcy was unavoidable by the 1860s, brought on by over commitments on building contracts, havoc played by uncooperative inclement weather and the financial impacts of the Civil War.   The gold rush in Colorado Territory beckoned.   In 1864 the destitute family came West in two covered wagons.  After a 12-week hard trek across the great prairie they settled in Central City where the men all worked in gold mines owned by big companies.  

Arial view of Milner/Schwartz house during 2013 flood
Tour of Milner/Schwarz house with narration

A few months later they purchased a stage station on the St. Vrain River near today’s Longmont.

In 1866 after the entire family had recovered from an epidemic of Rocky Mountain fever, daughter Sarah moved to St. Louis to take the first teaching position offered by the new Big Thompson public school district No. 1.  She boarded with the pioneer family of William Osborn. Joseph Milner Sr. sold the stage station and moved north to the Big Thompson Valley.  He purchased 80 acres west of Osborn’s farm, half of a homestead claimed originally by Daniel Griffin, John Haynes and George Woodman.  They sold the land to John Bartholf in 1865.  Bartholf sold 80 acres to Catherine Douty in 1868 and the other 80 acres to Milner in 1869.

Joseph and his sons constructed a sturdy stone house, with locally quarried sandstone, that partially stands today.  Soon after her new

home was completed, Ann Milner passed away.  Sarah married Edward Smith the same year; Edward was also a teacher and a veteran of the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre in southeastern Colorado Territory.   It was said that he never quite recovered from his reluctant service in that bloody tragedy.  He took his family to live near LaJunta.  Joseph Sr. continued to live in the stone house, cared for by several of his children.  He divided his land into two 40-acre parcels, giving the easternmost one and the house to James and Benjamin, and the westernmost parcel to Emily, wife of Joseph Jr.  Joseph Sr. died in 1873, the year the brick house was built for Joseph Jr. and Emily’s family.  Emily sold her southernmost 20 acres in 1878, retaining the house and 20 acres around it.

Joseph Jr. and Emily had five children: Hattie, James, William, Lulu and  Joseph Milner III.  By 1880 Emily was a widow.  She and brother-in-law James sold both properties to Mary Leedham in 1880.  Emily invested in her brother’s Montana cattle ranch, but lost all due to a blizzard that plagued the entire Great Plains in 1882.  She remarried in 1887 to Richard Spencer.

After Sarah’s husband died, she returned to Loveland where she operated a boarding house for a few years.  She eventually moved with her sons to a Buckhorn Valley ranch near where her brother Benjamin was ranching. She also resumed teaching school.   The Milners were prominent citizens of the Big Thompson Valley area, contributing much to the growth and permanency of Loveland, and remembered by Milner Pass and Milner Mountain.

Mary Leedham owned the 60-acre Milner parcel until 1893, when she sold it to John Lapp.  The property changed hands numerous times until the Schwarz family bought it in 1906.  The Schwarz family was part of the large group of immigrants known as Germans from Russia, who came by the hundreds to work the sugar beet fields, Colorado’s booming new industry.  The family lived in the brick house Milners built for over forty years, growing sugar beets and producing dairy products and meat.

The Schwarz Farm was sold to Dr. Robert and Dora Newell in 1946.  Widowed Dora lived there until her death in 1962.  Her children divided and sold most of the property to Larimer County in 1970 to expand the fair grounds.  The brick house was still in use as a caretaker’s home until 2002 when the Fairgrounds was relocated to The Ranch on I-25.  The entire old fairgrounds property was purchased by the City of Loveland and developed into a popular new city park in 2002.

Public sentiment persuaded the City to refrain from demolishing the Milner-Schwarz Farmhouse Museum, since it is now the oldest remaining brick house standing in Larimer County.  In 2009 the City was awarded a $139,350 grant from the Colorado State Historical Fund with a match of $46,450 ($36,450 from the City plus $10,000 from the Loveland Historical Society) to stabilize the foundation and restore the exterior of the house.  The Loveland Historical Society, through many donations and support from the community, such as the Boy Scouts, has restored the farm house to its 1890s appearance.

The Loveland Historical Society operates a popular community garden each summer.  The museum is open to the public on dates coordinated with the Old Fairgrounds Park Farmer’s Market. It also makes the grounds available for small-venue rental events, such as weddings and receptions. Click HERE to see where it is.

The five-hundred year flood over three days in September, 2013, that caused tragic havoc all along the Front Range of the Rockies, also demolished Old Fairgrounds Park.  But it miraculously spared the old Milner-Schwarz Farmhouse Museum.  Its grounds were surrounded but not inundated by raging water carrying along huge boulders, debris and tons of silt, nor washed away, as the normally tame Big Thompson River widened to nearly a mile across, rolling through the park with unbelievable destruction.  We wondered if the Milners purposely built their house on the small natural rise?  If they did, it was old fashioned ingenuity and a farmer’s insight that saved their legacy for the future.

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