Black History MonthMuseum Blog

The Townsend Family

Henry Townsend and family, ca. 1895. Object ID: 2011.014.025; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

In the early 1890s, Henry Townsend and his family moved to Cañon City from Leadville. According to city directories from Leadville, Henry worked as a barber during his residence in Leadville. The 1900 U.S. Federal Census lists Henry as a barber, but he appears in the 1902 Cañon City’s city directory as a rancher, living at 1016 Main Street. Subsequent directories and the 1910 census list him as either a rancher or farmer.

The family photo above shows Henry with his wife and three children. Based on census and cemetery records, it is presumed the young man standing in the back is Archie, the older girl in the middle is Claudine, and the youngest child is Alice. It appears Claudine passed away at a young age, as cemetery records for Greenwood Cemetery list a burial date of March 9, 1896 of a child with that name.

Henry Townsend died at his home in October 1919. According to his obituary in the Cañon City Record, he had lived in Cañon City for 28 years. His exact age was not known, but it was thought he was in his eighties. With only two censuses and an obituary to rely on, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact age of Henry. The 1900 census lists his age as 49, placing his birth about 1851. The 1910 census lists him as 60 years of age, placing his birth around 1850. However, ages recorded in censuses are notoriously unreliable since the person who answered the door was the person who answered the questions – regardless if they actually knew the answers. Not only that, census enumerators often spoke with neighbors if no one was home or filled out the answers based on their own inferences. Another thing that might account for the age discrepancy is that Henry may not have known his birth date. As it appears he was born before 1865, it is possible he was born into slavery. Tracing records of enslaved people can often be difficult, especially when there is little information already known.

While there are many unknowns about Henry Townsend, some articles from the Cañon City Record tell us a bit about his life in Cañon City. For one, we know he had a subscription of the paper and was on the honor roll of subscribers for paying his fee of $3.75 on August 17, 1916. Another article from September 1, 1910 describes an incident in which Henry suffered minor injuries while near the post office. He had driven his horse and buckboard wagon to the post office and while inside something spooked his horse. With the help of several bystanders the horse was quieted but when Henry climbed in the wagon the horse began to run, throwing Henry to the ground where he was knocked unconscious. He was taken to Goodloe Hospital on Greenwood Avenue and Fifth Street where medical aid was obtained. Fortunately, he only had a few scratches and bruises to show from his experience.

Henry and his wife Alice were granted a temporary injunction[1] against Frank Powers on August 23, 1917 that prevented Powers from constructing a ditch on their land. Powers planned to build a ditch across the west end of the Townsend’s land to carry the water south to his own land. He was acting under the theory there was a right-of-way on the land. The Townsends and three other witnesses disputed this claim, stating that no such right-of-way existed. James T. Locke, a local attorney, represented the Townsends in their case. Unfortunately, no other articles were found that reported on the resolution of the case.

According to the 1900 and 1910 censuses, the Townsend home at 1016 Main Street was owned outright without a mortgage. After Henry died in 1919, Alice continued to the live in the house. The 1920 census lists Archie also living at the residence. Alice passed away in 1927 from pneumonia. According to the obituary, she was born in Alabama but moved to Iowa when she was about 10 years old. After some years there, she moved to Leadville where she met and married Henry at about 20 years of age. She was survived by Archie and her daughter, Mrs. L.B. (Alice) Moore, who lived in Denver. Unfortunately, no other information on Alice Moore has been found.


1016 Main Street with Alice Townsend possibly identified, ca. 1910. Object ID: 2011.014.054; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center.

Henry Townsend and Archie, ca. 1890. Object ID: 2011.014.026; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

Archie Byron Townsend lived in Cañon City until his death in 1948. He was born on May 6, 1885 according to his draft registration cards. He was a 1905 graduate of Cañon City High School and, according to the 1940 census, he attended college for a few years. Archie’s World War I draft registration card lists him as a truck driver but by 1920 he was living back in Cañon City and working as a coal miner. His World War II draft registration card lists the Victor American Mine in Chandler, CO as his employer. Archie died in October 1948 and employees of Emmerson Furniture attended the service as he had worked there for some years as well. His wife Mamie continued to live at 1016 Main Street until her death in 1955.


Young man possibly identified as Archie Townsend, ca. 1900. Object ID: 2011.014.002; Copyright Royal Gorge Regional Museum & History Center

The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.    


[1] a court order requiring a person to do or cease doing a specific action

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *