High School


Establishment and opening

January 25, 1911

An offer from the Department of Interior was accepted to establish a high school to carry on "experimental work along the lines of agriculture, horticulture, animal industry, household & mechanical arts." The bill reached the governor's office. In 1911, the fort's property and buildings in Hesperus were transferred to the State of Colorado. That deed came with two conditions: that the land would be used for an educational institution and was "to be maintained as an institution of learning to which Indian students will be admitted free of tuition and on an equality with white students" in perpetuity (Act of 61st Congress, 1911). Both conditions have been the Fort Lewis school's missions and guides over the past century.

A view of Fort Lewis grounds

 Fort Lewis High School faculty outing in 1920. Photo courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center of Southwest Studies.

April 17, 1911

  • A resolution was adopted for the State of Colorado to take possession of Fort Lewis. Under this same bill, the State of Colorado received Teller Indian School in Grand Junction.
  • The school would be a secondary school for any boy or girl who had completed eight grades and was at least 15 years old. A demonstration farm would be set up to develop seeds that would grow at altitude.
  • George Snyder was appointed superintendent by the State Board of Agriculture. The school advertised that tuition was free to Colorado residents and would cost $20 for out-of-staters; board, room, and laundry would not be "over $20 per month."

June 18, 1911

  • Twenty pedigreed Holstein dairy cows arrive from the former Teller Indian School at Grand Junction.

October 2, 1911

  • Fort Lewis High School opened with an enrollment over the 100 projected. However, in mid-October, a flood destroyed the head gate, flume, bridges, and roads. Enrollment dropped below 20 students because many were needed to repair flood damage at home.


Starting out

Records show that six large officer's residences, the hospital, three sheds and barns, an old jail building, and a commissary building were left from the military fort era. From the Indian School days, a brick school building, a two-story brick building used as a dormitory, a brick dining hall, a shop, a laundry building, an office building, and a frame residence were located on the East side of the parade grounds.

  • The military hospital continued to be used as a girl's dorm.


  • First farmer's 10-day short course sponsored for both men and women. Topics included conservation, crop production, animal diseases, cooking, home decorating, and child care.
  • Men's and women's basketball teams began competing against local high schools.

Brick buildings in a grassy field

 This picture was taken from an old post card. We believe these to be buildings on the South East corner of old parade grounds in 1914.  Photo courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center of Southwest Studies.

1912 - 1914

Girls not allowed in normal curriculum

  • No girls were at school because enrollment could not justify expense.


  • Buildings were electrified using two boilers and a sawmill engine.


  • Telephone lines installed.
  • The first graduating class consisted of Robert McCulloch and Orin Reeder.
Powerplant machinery inside a brick building.

 Interior of the Fort Lewis High School electric power plant. Photo courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center of Southwest Studies. Learn more about this image


Gaining momentum

  • The legislature approved a mill levy to support Fort Lewis.
  • In June, Ernest H. Bader was hired as Director of Industrial Work and Farm Manager and began a career at Fort Lewis that spanned over 30 years.
  • Fort Lewis had over 200 acres under cultivation and owned small herds of Hereford beef cows, Holstein dairy cows, Oxford and Rambouillet sheep, Duroc-Jersey hogs, and Percheron horses.


Emphasis on research and training

  • Began 6-month summer session including Rural Teachers Training course to prepare young women for examination.
  • Colorado A&M established a branch experiment station at Fort Lewis, specializing in high-altitude agronomy and horticulture research.  Field crop varieties were standardized, and pure seed was produced and distributed. Seeds and plants were selected, and forage and pasture plants were studied.
High school graduates in suits and dresses, holding diplomas.

 Fort Lewis High School graduates in 1922. Pauline Rust - Second from right in first row.  Photo courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center of Southwest Studies.

1918 - 1919

Influenza closure

  • School closed October 1918 - April 1919 because of a flu outbreak.


  • Coal leases granted.
  • Attendance limited to 40 boys and 40 girls.
  • Gymnasium built on Southeast corner of old parade grounds.

1923 - 1924

Expansion of infrastructure, orchard and courses

  • 41 boys, 32 girls enrolled
  • Snyder hall was built using "good used bricks" purchased in Durango for $12 per thousand. Snyder served as the boys dormitory.
  • Dairy barn was built as an addition to the old stockade. The stockade became the dairy processing plant.
  • Experimental orchard planted. Trees included cherries, plums, crabapples, and six varieties of apples.
  • First Farmers Institute (field day) to share information from agriculture research.
  • In addition to their courses in Agriculture, Household Mechanics and Teacher certification, Fort Lewis began offering courses for college credit and the nine-month session became standard.

Snyder Hall in 1923

 Snyder Hall in 1923. Photo courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center of Southwest Studies. Learn more about this image


Access improvement

  • The county improved the road (Wild Cat Canyon) to campus from Durango.


Transition to two-year college

  • Legislature authorized 2-year college work to begin in fall. Twenty seven students attended.

1927 - 1933


  • High school and college co-existed with 50 - 60 students enrolling in high school classes.


All photos courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center of Southwest Studies.


From 1927 to 1933, Fort Lewis was both a high school and a two-year college. After 1927, records of high school graduates were no longer printed in the bulletins. Graduates have provided some dates.

This list was compiled from Colorado Agricultural College Bulletins—Catalogs for Fort Lewis School of Agriculture Mechanic and Household Arts. Courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center of Southwest Studies.


  • Robert McCulloch
  • Orin Reeder


  • Reuben Fredland
  • Clay McCulloch
  • Ray Michael

    March 1916

  • Bertha Pollock
  • Ethel Pollock
  • Raymond Roubidoux
  • Platt Hammond
  • Leonard Fielding

    September 1916

  • C.H. Baker
  • Albert Lindquist
  • T.J. Snyder
  • Frank Sullivan
  • Edward Willis
  • Alice Hunt
  • Laughlin McNamee
  • Paul Snyder
  • Willie Turner

    September 1917

  • Esther Anderson
  • Arlene Skelton

    September 1918

  • Arthur Eastman
  • Glenn Snyder
  • Elwin Parker

    September 1919

  • Bessie Burnham
  • Erma Caviness
  • Roberta Hunt
  • Ruth Walker
  • Catherine Dennison
  • Evelyn Hight
  • Lena Wiser

    April 1920

  • Earl Brown
  • Harry Greer
  • Clarence Snyder
  • Thelma Burnham
  • Lucile Kennedy
  • Gladys Taylor

    April 1921

  • Ella Scott
  • Irene Sponsel

    September 1921

  • Lena L. Bryant
  • Sonora A. Lewis
  • Clyde R. Huffsmith

    March 1922

  • Jessie F. Bell
  • Jewel F. Chastain
  • Marguerite M. Dennison
  • Karl W. Devenport
  • Jean R. Edgar
  • Johnwill Faris
  • Mary Hight
  • Dillon A. Longenbaugh
  • Harry L. Longenbaugh
  • Victor A. Paulek
  • Lewis D. Pollock
  • Freed E. Reddert
  • Joseph H. Snyder
  • Archie B. Toner
  • Lottie E. Walker

    March 1923

  • Harold B. Chapson
  • Leo D. Godfrey
  • Harry O. Hard
  • Lelia F. Horner
  • Raymond A. Smith
  • Edgar G. Stocks


  • Clifford Barber
  • Mason L. Farrow
  • Marion D. Linn
  • Charles T. Porter
  • Paul F. Shock
  • Francis V. Wilcox
  • Sylvia Spickelmier
  • Rose Ladd
  • Nate Neilson
  • Celia Luchini
  • Joe Travis
  • David Madsen


  • George Tiedeman
  • James Black
  • Verna Burnhum
  • Wayne Ellsworth
  • Mabel Farrow
  • Archie Garwood
  • Amelia Luchini
  • Lillie May Tonner
  • Lillian Tracy
  • Esther Wilcox


  • Isabell A. Briggs
  • Helen B. Christy
  • Joe Christy
  • Mary Agnes Dennison
  • Barbara Olbert
  • Albert Porter
  • Will Porter
  • Anita Marie Schifferer
  • Rolland Spickelmier
  • Will Huffsmith


  • Herbert E. Billings
  • Margaret Black
  • John Brownell
  • Nina M. Campbell
  • Leila Madge Dalton
  • Darrell L. Farrow
  • Lucile Marie Farrow
  • Esther V. Horner
  • Lillian Mary Klusman
  • Katherine A. Lincoln
  • B. Roy Lonne
  • Marietta McDaniels
  • William Francis Mote
  • Lawrence T. Organ
  • Pauline M. Rust

Courses of study

Areas of Study

  • A three-year course in Agriculture
  • A three-year course of Training of Rural Teachers
  • A three-year course in Household Arts for girls.
  • A six-week summer course in Agriculture for High School students.
  • A six-week summer course in training of Rural Teachers
  • A four-year course for those who wish to prepare for college admission.

Description of Individual Courses (from 1921 Catalog)


  • Field Crops and Crop Raising
  • Stock Judging
  • Breeds of Farm Animals
  • Botany
  • Horticulture
  • Diseases of Farm Animals
  • Soils
  • Stock Feeding
  • Farm management and Farm Accounts
  • Dairying
  • Animal Breeding


  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Irrigation and Leveling


  • Physiology and Hygiene
  • Physics
  • Chemistry

Mechanic Arts

  • Farm Mechanics
  • Farm Shop Work

English and Literature




Political and Physical Geography

Domestic Science

  • Hand Sewing
  • Machine Sewing
  • Dressmaking and Millinery
  • Cooking
  • Advanced Cooking and Serving of meals
  • House and Household Management
  • Laundry


  • Theory and Practice
  • Special Methods
  • School Management and School Law

1913-14 Course of Study at Fort Lewis High School

First Year

First Term Class1 Work2 Second Term Class1 Work2
Field Crops 5   Crop Raising 5  
Bench Work in Wood   (10) Breeds 3  
Stock Judging   (6) Forge   (10)
English 5   Botany 5  
Aritrmetic 5   English 5  
Drill   (3) Parliamentary Practice 2  
      Drill   (3)

Second Year

First Term Class1 Work2 Second Term Class1 Work2
Farm Machinery   (6) Farm Motors   (6)
Horticulture 3 (2) Irrigation & Leveling 5  
Physics 3   Horticulture   (2)
Physics Lab   (4) Physics 3  
English 3   Physics Lab   (4)
Algebra 5   English 3  
Adv. Stock Judging   (6) Algebra 5  
Drill   (3) Drill   (3)

trird Year

First Term Class1 Work2 Second Term Class1 Work2
Diseases of Farm Animals 3   Stock Feeding 5  
Chemistry 3   Chemistry 3  
Chemistry Lab   (4) Chemistry Lab   (4)
Soils 3   Farm Management 5  
Soils Lab   (4) Breeding 2  
Farm Architecture   (4) Entomology 3  
English 3   Dairying   (6)
Civics 3   Drill   (3)
Drill   (3)      

Fourtr Year

First Term Class1 Work2 Second Term Class1 Work2
Geometry 5   Geometry 5  
Economics 5   Economics 5  
General History 5   General History 5  
German 5   German 5  
Drill   (3) Drill   (3)

Class: Class figures indicate the number of recitation hours per week.

Work: Work figures in parentheses indicate hours of practical work per week.

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The Old Fort

18683 CO-140
Hesperus, CO 81326

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Land Acknowledgement 

We acknowledge the land that the Old Fort is situated upon is the ancestral land and territory of the Nuuchiu (Ute) people who were forcibly removed by the United States Government. We also acknowledge that this land is connected to the communal and ceremonial spaces of the Jicarilla Abache (Apache), Pueblos of New Mexico, Hopi Sinom (Hopi), and Diné (Navajo) Nations.

The Old Fort and Fort Lewis College are committed to reconciling their history as a federal Indian Boarding School from 1892 to 1909.

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The Old Fort is owned by the Colorado State Land Board and managed by Fort Lewis College.

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