Every building in Cedaredge’s Pioneer Town has a long and storied past. The Coalby General Store reminds us of the importance these small stores played in supplying smaller communities and as a place to meet friends and neighbors.
“Mr. and Mrs. Fickes and their ﬁve children came into the area when Coalby (named for the early coal mines in the area) was a thriving community,” quoted from an undated newspaper article written by Hazel Austin, found in the historical society ﬁle. “The building was constructed in 1906 and 1907 to house the Coalby General Mercantile Store and Post Ofﬁce, owned and operated by Fickes. It was built to serve a vital need in the lives of the early settlers.”
The unpaved road into Cedaredge was virtually impassible at times, especially after a storm. Families found the Coalby Store to be a meeting place when they came for needed supplies and to pick up their mail.
A date of Jan. 8, 1908, appeared on Fickes’ postmaster commission. Hazel Austin’s newspaper item stated that according to family, “As near as they can remember, the post ofﬁce was operated until 1912.” She also wrote, “Mary Derosier carried the mail by horseback from Cedaredge to Coalby each day. The older Fickes children helped clerk in the store. Thelma Stillwagon clerked there in the store during the year prior to its closing in 1912.”
Located about 3 miles northeast of Cedaredge, the store stocked hardware, dry goods, notions, shoes, clothing, including long johns and corsets, school supplies, groceries and numerous other articles. The only platform scale and the only telephone in the area were located there. A hole cut in the ﬂoor allowed Fickes’ cat to come and go at will.
The store closed in 1912. A daughter and her husband lived in the building for a year. In 1922 Mr. Fickes returned to live alone there until his death in 1938.
The Coalby Club was offered the building as a meeting place in the late 1940’s. It was entirely reconditioned. The citizens of the Coalby area also used it as a social gathering place for many community events until the later part of the 1960’s. It fell into disrepair, deteriorating, and was about to collapse.
Through the efforts of Maynard Nelson, the building was donated to the Surface Creek Valley Historical Society in 1981 by Henry Skutchan of Denver, who had purchased the land from the Fickes heirs.
After much needed bracing, and with cooperation from the telephone company and power company, permission was granted to use the road. An escort was on hand. Seventeen phone lines and 27 power lines were raised then lowered as the building passed to arrive at its present location at the northwest corner of the main street in Pioneer Town. A plaque on the building has the donor’s name and a completion date of 1983.
A committee of volunteers, the “construction bunch,” led by Warren Brethower was formed to rebuild and restore the building. It was put to use right away to house a doll show. Many of those dolls can be seen in a separate building, the Doll and Toy House, later constructed especially for that purpose.
Dode Peterson and Joan Crocker unpacked, sorted and washed merchandise to display, then stocked all the shelves. Betty Brown and Lois Baker inventoried the entire contents.
Many interesting old items have come from various local sources. Among those on permanent display are a cheese cutter, sausage machine, scales, coffee grinder, smoking materials, dishes, canning supplies, spices, fruit jars, kerosene and gas lamps, dye cabinets, Coates and Clark spool cabinet, ﬂatirons, wafﬂe irons, lard can, early pressure cooker, wash boards, an unusual hanging angle lamp, and a National cash register.
Replicas of early Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs are on the counter. Visitors can leaf through the pages. It’s interesting to look at some of the listed prices on items such as fountain pens, decorative hat and hair pins, celluloid combs, steamer trunks, three pages of pocket knives, and thirteen pages of ﬁrearms. Over 600 pages of mail-order items appear in one of those catalogs..
The post ofﬁce front, not the original, has 68 oak mail boxes from the U.S. Post Ofﬁce in Lazear, circa 1890. It was acquired in 1982 as part of the Girling collection of buildings and artifacts.
This was the ﬁrst building to join the three original unique landmark silos at the site. The museum has grown to 24 buildings and exhibits ﬁlled with items from the late 1800s through the early 1900s.
Visitors have been overheard to say, “What do you suppose this was used for?” And, “I found some of these in the basement of an old house that I bought and didn’t think about giving them to a museum.” Another, “I remember, my grandmother had one of those!” One thing for certain, many memories are stored on those shelves, walls and on those counters.
Some of the material for this article is from ﬁles in Surface Creek Valley Historical Society’s archives written by Hazel Austin and an item that I wrote for the July 13, 1998 Mountain Valley News.
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