Charley Blackwell was one of Berthoud’s first merchants

By Mark French

The Surveyor

Photo courtesy of the Berthoud Historical Society
Charley Blackwell (standing at far right) was one of the senior members of the Berthoud Hose Company in 1890. Blackwell was one of Berthoud’s first merchants and a manager of the local flour mill before taking the highly-prized janitorial job at the Larimer County Courthouse in 1905.

Charley Blackwell was one of the first businessmen to sink roots in Berthoud after the town was moved up from the Little Thompson river bottom in the winter of 1883-84. Born in the state of Maine, Blackwell lived in Illinois and Iowa before coming to Colorado for the sake of his poor health. The Fort Collins Express Courier once noted “When Mr. Blackwell came to Colorado he had been given up by his physicians but the salubrious climate worked wonders for him.” Colorado cured Blackwell’s condition and helped him live to the age of 78 years.
Berthoud vacated its original location on the river bottom when several of the town’s buildings were moved to a new town site on the bluff to the north. One of the relocated buildings was put to use as a general store at a location that would be present-day 549 Third Street. Blackwell, who was associated with the store, lived with his family in the back of the building. In 1885 the firm of Blackwell & Piatt purchased the store’s stock and operated a mercantile business at that location.
In the fall of 1886 Blackwell built one of the first houses in Berthoud at a location the Fort Collins Weekly Courier described as the “west part of town.” While the address of Blackwell’s residence is unknown, the dwelling was certainly located within the original Berthoud town plat that extended as far west as present-day Fourth Street.
As one of the first residents of Berthoud, Blackwell was involved in a variety of civic groups. One was the town’s volunteer fire department — Berthoud Hose Company No. 1 — that was first organized in 1888. The photograph that accompanies this article, taken by a “photograph gallery on wheels” in December 1890, shows Charley Blackwell standing at the far right. The hose team posed in front of the bank building (vacant in 1890) at the northwest corner of present-day Third Street and Mountain Avenue. At 44 years of age, Blackwell was one of the senior members of the hose company.
Blackwell and his wife Marietta were involved with the town’s Methodist church congregation that met at various locations around town. They were also active in Berthoud Lodge No. 83 of the Masons, Woodmen of the World, and Order of the Eastern Star.
The Blackwell family included three daughters: Lulie, Marhon and Sada.
Charles’ oldest sister, Miss Thankful “Thankie” Blackwell, also came to live in Berthoud in about 1890. Prior to that time she had made her home with a sister in Iowa. Around 1905 Thankie built the house at 962 Fifth Street. She lived there until failing health caused her to relocate to Fort Collins where she lived with her niece, Mrs. Sada Walker. Thankie Blackwell died in Fort Collins in November 1925.
By 1898 Charles Blackwell was employed as flour mill manager for the Berthoud Farmers Milling & Elevator Company. He held that job until the spring of 1905 when the Berthoud Bulletin announced, “Charley Blackwell has been appointed janitor at the courthouse in Fort Collins and will move his family there and begin his duties March 1. We are pleased to know that Mr. Blackwell has a good position and believe he will perform the duties with credit to himself and honor to the county. The salary of the office is $800 per year.”
One benefit of Blackwell’s new job was that he was provided with living quarters for his family in the courthouse basement.
Charley Blackwell, Berthoud pioneer town resident, died in Fort Collins in May 1924, a few years after failing health forced him to end his days as janitor at the Larimer County courthouse. He was buried at Grandview Cemetery in that city.

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