Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Lock Family

Matthias Lock, originally from the Rhine Valley, left the environs of Quincy, Illinois in 1859 with a wagon train bound for Denver.  He brought his young family to Fountain in 1860.  As this Gazette Telegraph (May 1, 1938) article relates, one building on the Lock homestead still stands. It was built in 1876 of thickly sawn boards, produced at the Fountain Valley’s first saw mill, and was being used as a garage.  Lock’s 880 acre estate included the 160-acre parcel on Fountain Creek, which was preempted, another 160-acre parcel four miles east that was homesteaded, and lands purchased from other homesteaders.  Lock had brought two black lava millstones with him from Illinois, and in 1864 set up a mill about ½ mile south of the Lock ranch headquarters, on the east bank of the creek near the head of Ditch 14.  The mill was destroyed by the Memorial Day flood of 1885, but the millstones were said to be prized relics at the ranch.  Lock was the sole owner of Ditch 15. [Lava from Illinois?]

Mrs. Henry Williams (nee Lock) recalled tales of her father befriending the northern Utes, who would sometimes pass through the valley in bands of hundreds.  Lock was able to communicate with them in Spanish, and sometimes provided biscuits. 

Notes from the Bulkley files add further information on the Lock Family.

Their wagon train left Ft. Kearney, NE in May 1860, after joining with another from Council Bluffs.  At Ft. Lupton the road branched, one going to Boulder and the other to Denver.  News had just reached the wagon train of a big gold strike in Boulder, so Matthias took that road and they reached camp on June 2.  The gold was very elusive, but Mathias worked hard until the mining camp closed down in the fall.  Their money was running low, so they went to Denver and found work for the winter.  He was a baker and Barbara worked at odd jobs.  They began to save money for supplies and equipment so that they could continue on to California the following spring.

The Bulkley notes pick up again in 1862, so it is not known when they settled in the Fountain Valley.  The story has it that they were headed south down the Front Range and upon coming through the Fountain Valley, they met Tom Owen.  He invited them to stay in his house, which at the time was only grout walls, and later convinced them to stay in Colorado.

Continuing from the Bulkley notes... Mathias helped Tom finish  his house and then the men went to work on one for the Locks, after getting the crop in.  Owen's house was one room with a dirt floor and a large fireplace. Water was carried from the Fountain Creek a 1/4 mile away. 

Mathias built a two-wheel cart to use hauling provisions back from Denver, which was a three week trip.  He would purchase flour, sugar, and calico cloth to make clothes with.  They soon started raising everything they needed, rather than make this trip.  In 1864, he built a mill on the Fountain Creek some distance north of the house, where he could divert water to use for grinding corn and wheat.  Barbara raised a garden and chickens, and their cattle provided milk and meat.  When a store was built in Fountain in 1870, folks no longer had to travel to Denver for provisions.  The first train arrived in the valley in 1872, changing life forever.

The Locks remained friends with Tom Owen all their lives. Marguerite wrote "Thomas never married and it is my belief that he was always in love with Barbara. I guess he was always only a friend to her or she would have married him later."  Tom is said to have gone back home for his childhood sweetheart in the early years, only to find that she had married someone else.  After that he was heartbroken and never bothered finding a wife again.
Barbara Gruber Lock

In about 1880, Barbara and the children had to take over running the ranch because of Mathias's health. Marguerite wrote that he would leave home for periods of time and then come home and seem normal again. 

This entry from a Dec 6, 1911 Gazette shows that he was hospitalized in Pueblo for a time in 1881.
Another article from a Jun 1, 1878 Gazette showed a real estate transaction, where Mathias paid William F. Muir $1000 for two parcels east of Fountain Creek (S1/2 NW sec 21 Twn 16S, Range 65W and SESE sec 9 T16SR65W).  The land in section 9 was originally claimed as a cash entry by Thomas F Auldridge in 1873.

Barbara Lock had nine children.  A girl, Anna, was stillborn in Denver and buried there.  Uhland was born in September 1862 in Fountain.  He didn't attend any school until 1875, when the grasshopper plague ate all the crops and the family moved into Pueblo.  Hovena was born in July 1865.  Betsy, born in 1866, may have been stillborn or died as an infant.  Mathias had dug a well on the ranch but didn't find water, so they buried the baby there.  Another baby girl was born in Feb 1868, and died in July.  She was buried on the ranch but was later moved to Fountain's Cemetery.  Tenia was born in September 1869, William Bismarck in December 1871, and Anthony in November 1872.  Anthony died the following March and was buried on the ranch.

Indians - In about April, 1863 Barbara saw Indians riding up the road. Raiding had been bad this year, and she grabbed the baby and started running to the field where Mathias was, screaming. The Indians saw her and took in after her, and Mathias grabbed his gun and ran towards her as well, both reaching her at the same time. The Indians said they meant her no harm, but apparently Barbara heard the sound of hoof beats in her dreams for the rest of her life.  During times of unrest, there was a fort at the Buttes that the women of the valley went to several times in 1864.  In 1868 there were many Indians scares and Barbara and the kids forted up several times at a strong fort that a new neighbor had built north of Fountain.

The Love family settled south of the Locks along Fountain Creek in 1869, and Archie Ames did so in 1871.  Later, James Love bought the Ames place.

Mathias died in Albuquerque, NM on Mar 6, 1888.   It is not known where he is buried.   No obituary was found online for him, and he is not known to be buried in El Paso County.  The 1938 article produced above does state that he was buried beside Barbara, but the records and headstones do not support that.

This article about the Lock House is taken from the Fountain Valley Centennial Review Souvenir Edition, published by the Security Advertiser and Fountain Valley News, Sept 15, 1976. Copy courtesy of the Fountain Chamber of Commerce.

Pioneer Home Still Stands.  The Mathias Lock house still stands about 3 miles south of Fountain on Old Pueblo Road.  These photos show the home before and after a remodel in the 1940s.

photo courtesy Jill Leonard

photo from Fountain Valley News


The walls are made of grout, a process whereby wooden frames are constructed, and layers of rock, gravel, lime and water are added. It is tamped to remove air.  The layers are completed and allowed to harden, and the forms removed.  The walls are at least 12 inches thick.  In the old days, the windows were 6 inches wide, and ran from roof to floor.  This excluded savages trying to break in but allowed rifles to poke out and protect the residents.  The windows had no glass but were covered with cloth.  Floors were made of planks hauled from the “Pinery” in the Black Forest by mule team, about 25 miles northeast.  In those days this was about a 2-day trip.   
            Mathias Lock ran a flour mill about 600 yards southeast of his house.  Remnants of the foundation still remain.  The Lock Ditch, dug for about 2 miles with a hand plow and mules, began near the south end of Fountain.  It follows an old Fountain creek bed to the homestead.   This 4 by 4 foot ditch irrigated farm land and an orchard east of the house, now gone.  Lock also built a well alongside Fountain Creek, and pumped water from it into the ditch when he could not draw water from the stream. 
            Mathias' son-in-law, HT Williams, who married Tina Lock, inherited the ranch.  It was then owned by Emil Clark, a Springs banker, who sold it to JP Wilson.  The next owners were George Jones, Ralph Leonard and then the Ochs Brothers.  Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Leonard bought this ranch in 1948 and remodeled the house into a Spanish hacienda.  He removed the top story, added bigger windows and more bedrooms.  Walls were originally covered in bright blue or burnt red plaster and niches covered in the outer walls.  They now have a white waterproof coat.

A Jan 25, 1989 Advertiser and News article adds more detail, including information on the renovation:

Ted Hanson moved to Fountain with his parents, Martin and Ruth Hanson, when he was seven.  He attended Fountain schools and became a general contractor.  The house which he is remodeling is known as the Lock house as it was built by Matthias Lock in 1862. Matthias died in 1888, and his wife Barbara lived there until her death in 1915.  The house was purchased in 1978 by Wendell Goodbee.  Hanson planned to preserve the grout walls and replaster them, maintain the viga ceilings added by Leonard, and refinish the original oak flooring.  He expanded the living area from 1880 to 3548 feet, adding a solarium, garage and other rooms.  Goodbee planned to replant the cherry orchard, which formerly grew on the northeast corner of the property.

photo courtesy Jill Leonard, after the remodel 

In an Apr 17, 1935 Gazette article, AM Allen wrote that the Lock Ranch was being managed by EU Williams, Mathias's grandson.  Williams noted a tremendous change in the valley in his time.  Because they no longer had the water they once did, they could produce only a fraction of the thousand tons of alfalfa and bluestem hay that they used to.  He said the water in Fountain Creek had been “diverted by certain selfish municipal interests upstream.”  Faced with these difficulties, Williams had sunk a 52-foot deep well near Fountain Creek a few years back, that provided 900 gallons of water a minute when a turbine pump was applied via a tractor. Combined with a second source on Sand Creek [the local name for Jimmy Camp Creek], just above the ranch, Williams was able to irrigate 100 acres.  That left 450 acres of cropland and a 350 acre bluestem meadow without water.  There was rarely a full head of water in Ditch 15 (Lock Ditch) during the growing season.  Crop rotation was followed, using alfalfa, corn, sugar beets and grain, with beets and wheat the main cash crops.

In a Gazette article from 2-21-1937, it's noted that Owen’s house was destroyed in the 1935 flood, and the adobe house of the Lock family also vanished.  The frame and earth house [of the Terrells] at the south edge of Fountain was torn down after the flood. A ranch house with windowed lookout from the roof, some distance north of Fountain had been razed, and the bronze memorial marker had been stolen.  South of Fountain was an old earthen building which Tom Owen helped build. 
There is now a city trail system through the Jimmy Creek floodplain behind the Library.  Near the south end of the trail is an 8 inch standpipe, possibly part of a well system.  Remnants of old ditches can also be seen, but given the massive floods that have occurred here over the past 150 years, it is hard to say which are old stream beds and which are man-made. 


  1. Thank you so much for posting this article. Mathias and Barbara Lock were my Great-Great Grandparents. H. T. and Tena Williams were my Great Grandparents. Their daughter Esther was my Grandmother. My mother, Ella Mae lived on the ranch when she was 13 years old, around 1944. As soon as I found your article, I had to tell her about it. She remembers everything about the ranch, especially the millstones you spoke of. When she lived there, it was a two story home and she slept upstairs.

    She recalled a story her grandfather H.T. Williams told her about the Indian attacks. An Indian did capture one of the daughters. Mathias grabbed his gun and shot above the Indians heads as they rode away. He did not want to harm them, but he wanted them to drop the girl. Luckily, they did drop her and she was saved.

    As I started to read the part about the northern Utes to my mother, she began telling me how her Great Grandmother always kept a pan of biscuits for them. She was always prepared for them to pass through.

    Thank you again for the article.

    Amy Norton

  2. I know that house because every time we visit, Dad points it out. Peg and Ralph are my grandparents, but I don't know if they are the same. Aunt Joyce is in Simla and has completed a historical book of the Leonard's history with a lot of photos. Grandma grew up at the Broadmoore and showed Saddlebreds, played Polo, and hunter jumpers. She met Ralph as a groom and respected his horse skills and great smile and sense of humor. They had four children, Jane, William, Joyce, and Virginia.
    William went to school in Fountain, then to CSU for undergrad and Veterinary school. He met Mom

  3. Mom after she went to visit Ernie Hammer at Great Uncle Henry's cattle ranch near Fountain where Dad worked. Mom graduated from Colorado College. Elsewhere in this blog, his book is mentioned. My name is Margarethe, which is the correct spelling of Liz's mother's name. I have three sisters, and Kathleen's middle name, Harriet, is after aunt Hattie, named for her mother, the first female doctor in Manitou. I love that area, but Dad wanted to work on lots of horses and we eventually moved to Lexington, Kentucky. Most of the families are still out there in Colorado. I enjoyed the blog. Maybe someday we will be able to call it home again.