Battery A: Bound for Europe

Camp Merritt (in New Jersey) was the final stateside station for Colorado’s WWI Battery A soldiers. On January 23, 1918, they boarded the steamship Baltic, bound for Europe.  After a stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia, they set forth on January 27, escorted by a British cruiser (and later in the journey, eight destroyers). These precautions were necessary to ward off U-boat attacks.

On February 5, 1918, the artillerymen witnessed the sinking of the troopship Tuscania by UB77 off the Irish coast. The Doughboy Center website ( tells us that “The Tuscania was the first ship carrying American troops to be sunk, and public opinion in the USA regarded its loss as an outrage.”

Hurdle’s scrapbook page shows a typical transport convoy; the Prince George; and a shot of the Tuscania taken from the Baltic.


The soldiers disembarked at Liverpool, traveled by train across England, then across the English Channel. Heavy seas were running, and “packed like sardines,” the men uniformly became seasick before finally setting foot in France. In a letter home, John Hurdle discussed the seasickness – and a dubious remedy for it – on the trip across the Atlantic:

“We went on the boat in the afternoon, and before midnight had several cases of seasickness while the boat was still tied tip to the pier. … One of the boys in B Battery had a sure method of preventing seasickness [eating onions]. … But let me give you a tip—if you ever take a sea voyage, don’t eat onions, and don’t let any of your associates eat them, because they don’t help any…”


Two days of discomfort riding in boxcars on French railroads brought the regiment to Camp de Souge, where it spent the next two months in additional training. The highlight came when the regiment received its artillery piece, the 155 mm Grande Puissance Filloux (GPF).  John Hurdle’s gun crew called their GPF “Gila Monster,” and Hurdle would later give a very extensive description of its use in the war. Here’s a picture of it, labelled “My gun, ready to move, in position.”


Post by Doug Ernest.

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WWII POWs in Colorado

Did you know that during WWII German prisoners-of-war were held at a camp just west of Greeley on Highway 34? POWs from Camp 202 were dispatched to farms in Larimer (and Weld) counties, often to bring in the sugar beets. The camp housed about 3,000 prisoners (about 2,500 were held in the camp in Trinidad; 12,000 in Colorado Springs).



The Archive has a booklet called World War II German Prisoners of War in Larimer & Weld Counties (published by the Pioneer Association in 2011; cover photo above), which includes recollections of local area residents of their interactions with the POWs. Below is my favorite story from this booklet, titled “Remembering Mr. Helmke,” by Ruth Wagner Haake (trust me, you’ll be glad you read it to the end).


If you’d like to learn more about WWII POWs in northern Colorado, you can:

  • Read Janet Worrall’s lecture (a Fort Collins Historical Society Program from 1995)
  • Visit the Camp 202 website which includes pictures of the site as it looks today
  • Learn about the preservation of the Camp 202 site at Colorado Preservation, Inc
  • Flip through the vertical files “LC – Military – POW Camps” and “CO – Military” at FCMoD’s Local History Archive
  • See the original (1944) beet field manifests from this camp at the Local History Archive

And for personal recollections about WWII in general, check out this page – our World War II Oral History Excerpts, on the History Connection website.


Post by Jenny Hannifin

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Thank you Comet Chicken!

We’re so delighted to be Comet Chicken’s Tip Jar recipient for the month of October! You can enjoy some delicious food and support FCMoD at the same time!

We thought it would be fun to comb through some of our local historical resources here at the Archive at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery to uncover some of the history of Comet Chicken’s location at 126 West Mountain Avenue.

By checking the 1886 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, we can see that the location (in blue) was a grocery, flour, and feed store, and jutted up next to a roller skating rink!

By 1918, the block has filled in with more buildings, and 126 West Mountain was a grocery store alongside a notions and wallpaper shop.

Here’s a nifty view of the area from the 1920s. Note the trolley tracks running down the center of Mountain Avenue.

By 1955, the building was home to the Bea & Beryl Shop, a children’s clothing store owned by Beatrice Shoberg and Beryl Hess.

A Larimer County tax assessor card from 1969 shows that the address had become the Household Finance Corp, a loan company managed by J.W. Giles. The façade of the building had changed quite a bit to be more “mod.”

After hosting a copying company and other office-oriented businesses through the 1980s and 1990s, the location was outfitted as a restaurant about 16 years ago. Today, we welcome Comet Chicken to this historic location, and thank them for their support of FCMoD!

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Remembering the 1997 Spring Creek Flood

July 28, 2017 marks 20 years since Fort Collins experienced the one of the biggest natural disasters in its history.

A slow moving storm cell on July 27-28, 1997 stalled over Fort Collins and dumped 14.5 inches of rain in 31 hours creating flash flooding that wreaked havoc on parts of Fort Collins. One of the hardest hit places was the Spring Creek area west of College Avenue. Debris clogged a railroad underpass which caused water to back up into a Johnson Mobile Home Park where 5 people were killed.

Flood waters also damaged numerous buildings on the campus of CSU including the basement and first floor of the library. In the aftermath of the disaster the City of Fort Collins implemented extensive flood mitigation planning that has shaped the landscape of Fort Collins. This work resulted in Fort Collins avoiding the extensive damage that ravaged much of northern Colorado during the 2013 floods.

Spring Creek Flood Resources

  • The Follow the Flood Event and Remembrance Ceremony is taking place on July 28th at Creekside Park beginning at 6:30 pm. Flood Education Day is July 29 at Spring Park. Learn more about both events here.
  • You can also learn more about the flood at the Fort Collins History Connection.
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Art as Science: Early Botanical Artists

RARE II – at FCMoD from May 6 to August 6 – is an exhibit of contemporary botanical illustrations depicting globally imperiled plants found in Colorado. Members of the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists created these works of art using the Master List of Rare Plants (produced by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program). I hope you have a chance to see this rare combination of scientific accuracy, aesthetic appeal, and technical mastery.

Which brings me to my subject today:  a glimpse at the role botanical illustration played in the early history of science.

Surgeons traveling with the Roman army – including Greeks Dioscorides (circa 40-90 AD) and Galen (131-200 AD) – compiled herbals (text + drawings) that remained the primary materia medica texts for centuries (by some accounts, at least 1500 years). Herbalism traditions were preserved through the middle ages in the monasteries of Britain and Europe, where monks copied and translated works of  Hippocrates, Dioscorides, Galen, and non-Western scientists like Ibn Sina (aka Avicenna). The advent of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century created unprecedented access to mass-produced books, some of which included botanical illustration. (Details in this paragraph drawn from the University of Virginia’s Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, ).

So, Printing press + Woodcut illustrations (later lithographs) = Beautiful botanical books of both scientific and aesthetic value.

For more details about the background of botanical illustration, check out these folks:

  • 16th century, Leonhart Fuchs
  • 17th century, Maria Sibylla Merian
  • 18th century, Pierre-Joseph Redouté
  • 19th century, Pieter de Pannemaeker (Ghent) and Emily Stackhouse (Cornwall)

And enjoy the Rare II exhibit!

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Archive Fun: Great Pranks Edition!

Today, a 1965 CSU alumnus stopped by the Archive to dig up an article from his college days. On April 21st, 1963, five members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity decided to go to a showing of the new Hitchcock film, “The Birds,” with a little something up their sleeves.

Smuggled in the jackets of these young Greeks were several dead pigeons. These young men waited until the part of the film when the birds start attacking, then began tossing the dead pigeons onto the unsuspecting audience. The Coloradoan reported it to be “near pandemonium.”

It seems these boys pulled off quite the coo…er, um, coup.

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