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Finally at home on the range

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SPVHS hosts annual meeting in historic fort

By Gene Sears

There was a vision 25 years ago. So began the annual meeting of the South Platte Valley Historical Society Feb. 4, for the first time held in the historic Fort Lupton. A crowning moment, the society feasted on prime rib while recalling the journey thus far.
    Started with a simple donation of $30 from Lancaster Lupton descendant Cliff Lupton, in the area searching for relatives of his famous ancestor. Lupton gave the money to local historian John T. Martin in hopes of starting a fund to rebuild the famous frontier bastion and trading post on the banks of the South Platte. The idea blossomed, and with the formation of the SPVHS in 1988, the dream took flight, culminating within the completion of the historic fort.
    Of the original board of seven directors, more than half were in attendance last night: Genevieve Leblanc, Bill Crowley, Ann Pepmeyer and Earl Harris. That’s a testament to the staying power of the organization, an icon in the community and with the recreated fort, a gathering place for some of the most significant events in Fort Lupton, and Weld County.
    Society President Barbara Kirkmeyer hosted the event, accepting a generous $40,000 donation from Chris Castillian, representing Anadarko Petroleum, long a supporter of the fort reconstruction.
    Castillian praised Kirkmeyer’s efforts over the past year as instrumental to enabling Anadarko’s support.
    “The ringleader in this entire process, a strong advocate for the historic fort here, and without her we wouldn’t have really been able to participate,” Castillian said. “I just wanted to make sure you were all aware of her strong support and everything she has done for the fort.”
    Entertainment for the evening came via the legendary Rattlesnake Kate, ably played by storyteller Tannis Bator.
    The original Kate — a 1920s frontierswoman par excellence — wound up in a tight spot while looking for ducks in a marshy area on the family property. Accompanied by son Ernie, who remained on horseback, Kate stepped down to open a gate. Swarmed by migrating rattlers, Kate swung a fencepost for upwards of two hours, decimating the reptiles and saving her son in the process. Returning with a neighbor hours later, the pair discovered 140 snakes, which they rounded up in washtubs.
    Made famous by the incident, Kate decided, she’d look the part as well, fashioning a flapper dress, shoes and a neckband from the skins. Complimented by a rattle necklace, the outfit saw the now-celebrity Kate through numerous public events and fairs, until she donated it to the Greeley Museum just prior to her death in 1969.
    Also on the evening’s agenda, a presentation by Four Mile Historic Park Site Manager Bill Suhr, who explained the nuances of running that organization, staffing and fundraising efforts.
    Following the presentations and reports, the society voted on three board positions, vacated by Troy Norby, Bill Harris and John Bell.  Elected to the board were Penny Rankin, Joe Lamos and John Ewing. Nominated from the floor but not selected this year were Carol Runde, Trudy Wise and Bill Crowley.

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Contact Staff Writer Gene Sears at gsears@metrowestnewspapers.com.