CCVHS : History

March 1975 - March 2004

The Cherry Creek Valley Historical Society (CCVHS) was incorporated on March 21,1975, under the laws of the State of Colorado. It attained the IRS non-profit, tax-exempt status, 501(c)(3), and set as its purposes to study, record, preserve, and display the history of the Cherry Creek Valley. The impetus for its creation was to save the old Melvin Schoolhouse, a building of local historic value, which was in danger of being razed. CCVHS was successful. Members of the Society convinced the property owner that money could be saved if he let CCVHS have the building and move it. Administrators at the Cherry Creek School District (CCSD) saw it as a valuable educational tool, so the schoolhouse was moved to the southwest corner of the Smoky Hill High School campus in December of 1976. It is located at 4950 South Laredo Street in Aurora, Colorado. The cost of the foundation and the moving of the building was paid by CCSD. The schoolhouse was restored under the supervision of CCVHS with members, students, CCSD personnel, and community volunteers assisting. The exterior and one classroom were authentically restored while the second classroom was adaptively restored into a museum and a library. CCSD hired a "schoolmarm," and for many years modern students of all ages learned about the pioneer classroom, read from McGuffey's Reader, had arithmetic relays, and recited poetry.

The Dedication and 60th Anniversary of the Melvin School, built in 1922, was held on September 23,1982. It was fitting that the school district was honored at the program for its extensive assistance in the restoration and its continual support of the project. Even before the Dedication, CCVHS was using the classroom, setting up the museum and library, having quarterly meetings, and publishing a quarterly newsletter called The Quill.

One of the Society's purposes is to preserve the history of the Cherry Creek Valley. It was very active in helping save the 17 Mile House. Several members of CCVHS worked with the Colorado Historical Society to prepare the application for the 17 Mile House to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The House gained that distinction on October 6, 1983.

On January 5, 1984 the Melvin Schoolhouse Museum-Library was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also in 1984, CCVHS participated in Project Mail Bag. It commemorated the 125th Anniversary of the first Leavenworth and Pikes Peak (L&PP) Stage Line trip across Kansas and eastern Colorado to Denver. In this re-enactment, one of the stops was at Melvin School where the re-enactors were greeted by a large crowd of students and faculty of Smoky Hill High School, CCVHS members, and the general public. Mail from local dignitaries was collected by CCVHS members and placed in the L&PP mail bag to be delivered to Denver. This mail consisted of greetings to the people of Denver.

In the mid-1990s, CCSD found itself with serious budgetary problems, and several worthwhile programs were discontinued. Funds for hiring the "schoolmarm" were discontinued. Busloads of students no longer visit the schoolhouse. Researchers do continue to use the reference library. From 1999 to early 2002 CCVHS was inactive, dues were not collected, and The Quill was not printed. In early 2002, past and potential members responded well to requests to help reactivate the Society and work on several interesting projects. By mid-February of 2002 over 60 memberships were received. In October of 2003 there were 91 new or renewing members. CCVHS has undertaken the following projects: Smoky Hill Trail Project, 17 Mile House (planning, restoration, interpretation), and the Melvin-Lewis Cemetery (research, protection, and interpretive signs).

Smoky Hill Trail-Butterfield Overland Despatch: The purpose of this project is to recognize the Smoky Hill Trail as one of the great trails in the westward expansion of the United States and to recognize the significant part the Butterfield Overland Despatch played in the westward expansion by its use of much of the Smoky Hill Trail route. The Society's goal is to have the Trail designated as a National Historic Trail and to place historic interpretive signs along the route from eastern Kansas (Atchison, Leavenworth, Kansas City) to Denver. Several CCVHS members have been working on this project for a number of years by collecting information from individuals, historical societies, museums, schools, and libraries in Kansas and eastern Colorado. Documented sites are marked on twelve 18" x 28" maps which cover the area from the eastern border of Kansas to Denver between 38° and 40° north latitude. Documented sites include trail ruts, monuments, forts, stage stations, and mile houses along the Trail and along the military and territorial roads from Leavenworth to Fort Riley near Junction City.

17 Mile House: The 17 Mile House was built in the 1860s and the red barn was built in the 1870s. The House was one of six mile houses on the Smoky Hill Trail along Cherry Creek (one section of the old Cherokee Trail). Others were the 20,12,9,7, and 4 according to their distances from Denver. The 4 Mile House and the 17 Mile House are the only two still standing on their original sites. The property on which the 17 Mile House is located is prime land for development. CCVHS members attended numerous Arapahoe County meetings and spoke against destroying or even moving the building and barn. In 2001 the house, barn, and adjoining 32 acres of land were purchased by Arapahoe County with help from Douglas County, the Town of Parker, the City of Aurora, The Trust for Public Land, Great Outdoors Colorado, the Colorado Historical Foundation, and others. The 17 Mile House has been saved from demolition and will be restored. It is located at 8181 South Parker Road (State Highway 83), Aurora, Colorado. The exterior of the building has recently received a new coat of white paint after the old coat containing lead was scraped off. A new fence has been erected around the entire property. CCVHS plans to take an active role in the restoration of this historic jewel and its transformation into a living history museum.

Melvin-Lewis Cemetery: This pioneer cemetery overlooks the site of the former community of Melvin. It is located on the east side of Parker Road just north of Orchard Road in Aurora, Colorado. It is difficult to know how many graves are currently there because many of the tombstones have been stolen, and a number of the remains have been moved to Fairmount and other cemeteries. The State Anatomical Board has registered that 1,662 cremated remains(cremains) of those who donated their bodies to medical research were buried at the site. Unfortunately, the regular grave sites were not officially recorded. Commercial development has surrounded the cemetery on three sides. Members of the Cemetery Committee are working on a plaque and an interpretive sign to be placed near or on the decorative fence which has been installed around the cemetery.

CCVHS members look forward to serving the community by providing information and assistance in developing the above projects.

Clarice Crowle