In the 1920s, the Charleston was the dance rage, Calvin Coolidge was president for most of the decade, and Charles Lindbergh piloted the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic.
And Conifer was a thriving community, with people making their livelihoods from ranching, farming and lumbering. In that decade, the Yellow Barn, owned by the Mullen family, had become a popular spot for dances, meetings and more.
The area’s population was about 500, according to historian John Steinle, and the core of Conifer had about 15 businesses including stores, a post office, a music teacher, stagecoach line, two churches and a painter. Fields Trading Post opened in 1929.
Steinle provided historical information about Conifer for a Conifer Historical Society and Museum virtual program on April 11, aided by other area historians Bonnie Scudder, Suzi Morris, Rex Rideout and more, who chimed in with stories of the area.
Steinle told about 30 participants in the virtual meeting that he was proud that CHSM was keeping Conifer’s history alive.
“This wasn’t just a place,” Steinle told them. “It was a community.”
Participants heard old and new stories about the area, trying to envision the vibrant town 100 years ago. According to Steinle, root crops including potatoes, carrots, beets, onions and other varieties were grown and sent to Denver. In fact, he said, the annual potato harvest was said to be 50 to 60 tons.
The Luben family harvested Christmas trees, and in 1923, the Littleton Independent newspaper said the lettuce crop was huge. Long Brothers Garage opened in 1917 and has moved three times as the longest continuously operating business in Conifer.
The Conifer Junction School, which is now known as the Little White Schoolhouse, opened in 1923, though it was not the first school in the area. Both the Medlen and Pleasant Park schools are older.
Prohibition started in 1916 in Colorado and in the nation in 1920, and Steinle said many Conifer ranchers hid stills back in the woods.
Tiny Town opened in 1921 and became one of the area’s top tourist attractions, and it originally had a full-size dance hall on the property, which burned in 1935, he explained. Beaver Ranch was known for its Independence Day celebrations that included horse races, boxing matches, rodeos, dances and more.
One of the most famous people from the area was Isham (pronounced Eye-sham) Jones, who lived in Shaffers Crossing. A band leader and composer, Jones is known for writing such classics as “It Had to Be You” and “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”