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Death Comes to Fosston, Colorado

Monday, January 25th, 2010

"Fosston, Colorado, Water Tower" © 1977 by Paul F. Moloney


Thirty-three years ago in May fellow Greeley, Colo., Tribune reporter Lynn Heinze wrote about Fosston’s only remaining structure, a long abandoned tower that housed the indoor plumbing’s water supply to H. W. Foss’ home.    

His story fascinated me. In August 1977 my Aims Community College photo student Kathy Fiolkoski and I photographed the tower that brought us visual nostalgia. Wind finally took its toll, and I returned to the vanishing community just off Colorado Hwy 392 between Cornish and Briggsdale in northeastern Weld County. 

It was terribly sad, for the tower was flattened. I returned this past summer  en route to Keota, another vanishing northern Colorado community, and found only crumbling concrete foundations and a withering tree — certainly not photogenic.  

So, I am reproducing my November 25, 1977 column for those unfamiliar with the Fosston landscape in 1977 and its history:  “The historic Foss home at Fosston is dead, a victim of weather and vandals. 

Heavy winds in August 1977 blew over the tower with the skeleton flattened to the ground.

The tragedy of the Foss tower is that “vandals weakened the structure to the point that it couldn’t withstand the wind,” Fosston area farmer Tom Tabor said in explaining the end of the building.

“I shall be forever thankful that I made several pictures of the tower last May (1977).  I approached it from every angle I could think of, including an ‘ant’s eye view’ of it using my extreme wide-angle ‘fisheye’ lens.

"Fosston Taken with Wide-Angle 'Fisheye' Lens" © 1977 by Paul F. Moloney


“The Foss home was built in 1909. It was a seven-room building with a tower at the south end.  Atop the tower was a water tank. Water flowed down, enabling the Fosses to have indoor plumbing, the first indoor plumbing in Weld County.

“Fosston, which was on the Union Pacific spur railroad, thrived until 1921. The Foss tower began withering away. The tower, age 68, inevitably fell to the wind in August 1977.

“Tribune farm reporter Lynn Heinze in November 1972 did a photo feature on the Foss home and tower.

“In reviewing his pictures, I found that in the last five years the effects of weather and vandals were ravaging.  Lynn had a picture of the tower’s pinnacle, and it was still plumb in 1972.  In May 1977 it leaned heavily to the east.

“Heinze wrote: “ ‘What started out as a routine photo trip ended as quite an adventure. I was driving along the dirt road (WCR 392) which connected Cornish and Briggsdale when I came upon what I thought was an old mill of some sort.

“ ‘It was quite a challenge for a photo buff, an area very beautiful in its own humble way.  As I began to shoot away, I couldn’t help but wonder what purpose the structure had actually served’.”

“Heinze searched for someone in the Fosston area to interview about the building.  He talked to author Mrs. Dorothy Bolin.

“ ‘… Mrs. Bolin grew up in the area, knew the people, saw the building and was able to tell me a brief history of the town which once prospered at the site.

“ ‘The structure which I had photographed was the remains of the very fashionable and modern home of the Foss family. The home, built in 1909, was the first in the area to be equipped with indoor plumbing. The structure I believed to be a mill was actually the water tower which provided needed pressure for the plumbing system.

“ ‘The Foss home had seven rooms in the main structure with three ‘utility rooms’ in the tower.  Mrs. Bolin told me the home was quite stylish and beautifully landscaped.

“ ‘… At its peak, Fosston had about 25 residents. It became so prosperous that it rated a railroad depot agent to look after things.

“ ‘The town and the mercantile business prospered until about 1921 when fire destroyed the store building.  By this time, the elder Foss no longer operated the store himself, and the man who had leased the store disappeared after the fire.

“ ‘The home was occupied until the early 1940s when property was sold to a man from the Loveland area.

“ ‘As fitting memorial to a grand home, the house, barn and other buildings were dismantled and rebuilt as a new home on a site near Loveland.

“ ‘Today (November 1972) only the old water tower stands.  Proudly its weathered face oversees the townsite of Fosston.

“ ‘But the water tower, which once symbolized a new era, today (1972) symbolizes a dream which has passed into the night’,” Heinze concluded. “Unfortunately, now there is no symbol at all.”

For more history read “Then Fosston Story” section of “Three Coins:  Cornish, Osgood and Fosston,” by Dorothy Bolin, copyright 1980.

Also, “Homesteading the Dryland:  A History of Northeast Weld County, Colorado,” Bud Wells, editor, copyright 1986 by Curtis Media Corporation.

Both publications are at the Greeley Museum.