Historic Turner Farm and Apple Orchard

829 West Main Street

Open Memorial Day through the end of September, Friday & Saturday

The homestead farm is closed October 1, 2020 for the season.  

Admission: $5.00 per adult and children under 18 accompanied with an adult are free. BVH members are free. 829 West Main Street, Buena Vista, Colorado

The Historic Turner Farm was purchased by Buena Vista Heritage in order to restore the old apple farm to a "living museum" of the early 1900 vintage.

Work on the grounds has been completed. Restoration work on the historic buildings is underway, funded by private donations and grants from the Colorado State Historic Fund. The farm features about 50 apple trees and five buildings: the two-story farmhouse, the "mother-in-law cabin," the homestead cabin, the garage/workshop, and the barn/tack room.

On the second Saturday each year in September from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Buena Vista Heritage hosts Apple Fest with tours of the farm, apple pie contests, demonstrations of historic trades and old-time entertainment.

HISTORY AND USE
The town of Buena Vista and Chaffee County, located in the upper Arkansas Valley, saw settlement as early as the 1860s, in the form of ranchers and farmers that were drawn to fertile bottomlands surrounding the Arkansas River. Mining activity in Leadville and Cache Creek area near Granite also drew settlers into the upper end of the valley. By 1875, mining activity in the Chalk Creek Mining District southwest of Buena Vista was well established. It drew interest in the area.

Located midway between Leadville and Salida, the town became an important proposed site for the extension of several railroad lines. In 1879, the town was formally incorporated as Buena Vista and one year later was designated as the County seat of Chaffee County.

By the turn of the century, Buena Vista had been firmly established as a railroad and supply town for ranchers, farmers, and outlying mining districts. Three railroads now provided service to the community: the Denver, South Park & Pacific, the Denver and Rio Grande, and the Colorado Midland Railroads. Additional permanence was brought to the area with the completion of the County Court House in 1882.

The Turner Farm was originally part of a homestead that was to the west of the town limits of Buena Vista. Located along the Cottonwood Pass Road on West Main Street, it provided easy access to downtown Buena Vista. This property was undeveloped with the exception of a homestead cabin that was built between 1885 and 1900 at the rear of the property. After 1900, Gilbert Walker of Buena Vista purchased many of the large homestead tracts to the west of town limits. He purchased the area including the homestead cabin with the intention of building a home and developing a farm site for himself. In 1910, construction began on the Turner Farmhouse.

Due to the close proximity to Town, the property was able to take advantage of, and tap into, the town water system and electricity provided by the hydroelectric plant on the Arkansas River. A primitive septic system was constructed to the east of the house with gray water used for irrigation. When constructed, the house was one of few residences in the area with water and electricity as an original feature.

The Farmhouse was constructed as a two-story frame structure with a gable roof and painted wood siding. It included three bedrooms and a larger common room upstairs, a living room, dining room, full bath, and kitchen downstairs. The upstairs was reached by an enclosed central stairway. A spacious crawl space and partial basement were also installed during construction. A covered porch also dates to the construction of the house along the front and west side. The house and porch were roofed with shake shingles.

Interior embellishments consisted of fir flooring, trim, and molding and half-light etched glass doors at the front and side entries. All interior walls were wallpapered and all woodwork was stained. Plain trim was used on the exterior of the house with the exception of the porch where cove molding was used on the fascia. Turned columns were also used in the porch construction. The front and side entries to the porch were fronted by plain wooden steps with no railing.

While construction of the house was taking place, Gilbert Walker lived in the Homestead Cabin at the rear of the property. It is unknown how much farming was taking place during his residence, but he did devote a section of the property to an apple orchard, which still survives. In 1911, he planted approximately fifty-five seedlings including Wealthy, Transparent and Crab apples and one cherry tree. The orchard was watered by irrigation water from Cottonwood Creek.

Due to ill health, Gilbert Walker sold the house upon its completion in 1912, to Clara A. Turner Kroll. The purchase included the house, shed, homestead cabin, apple orchard, and thirty acres located to the east, west, and south of the house for $5000.

Clara Kroll and her husband Al were relocating to Buena Vista from the railroad town of Como due to his transfer to the Colorado and Southern Railroad Line via St. Elmo and the Alpine Tunnel. While in Como, Clara Kroll had been raising her children from a previous marriage, (Turner), and running a boarding house.

The Turner family originally came to Colorado from New York State in 1861. Hiram and his wife Julia came to follow the gold strikes but were also interested in ranching. Their youngest son, William Erasmus Turner, was born in Central City in 1863. He lacked a formal education, however, he followed his father’s footsteps as a rancher. In 1888, he was married to Clara Amelia Bruce. Two children were born to this union. However, in 1895, Wm Erasmus Turner developed pneumonia and died in the later part of 1895.

To support her family, Clara Turner opened a boarding house in Como named the Travelers Home, which still stands today on 8th and Rowe in Como. At the time, Como was a busy railroad town that also attracted miners and cattlemen. She later married a railroad engineer by the name of Al Kroll. When Al was transferred they bought what is today known as “Turner Farm”. Her only surviving son, Wm. Everette moved with them to Buena Vista.

After the Krolls took up residence in Buena Vista, they began to actively develop the property as a farm. Those early years saw the construction of the Original Chicken Coop in 1915 and the Two Story Log Barn in 1918. Mrs. Kroll also added to the property with an additional purchase from Gilbert Walker of eight irrigated acres to the west of the Turner Farm in 1913. Her son Wm. Everette Turner, married Lora Meldrim in 1917, and they moved to a ranch four miles west of Buena Vista and continued a close relationship with the Krolls.

Clara and Al Kroll lived alone at the Farm and slowly developed the outlying fields with oats, alfalfa, and hay with the help of her son. Clara Kroll died unexpectedly in 1922 and left the property to her remaining son. The William Everette (Bill) Turner family moved into the Farmhouse and Mr. Kroll took up residence in the Original Homestead Cabin.

Seven children were born to Bill and Lora Turner. The children became significant assets in running the Farm when they were old enough. From 1922 until 1925, Bill devoted himself entirely to the development of the Farm. In addition to field crops raised, a large vegetable garden produced most of the family's needs, and they began raising cattle, milk cows, chickens and pigs as a revenue source. The eldest boys helped with milking, deliveries and feeding livestock.

Bill also was a self-trained blacksmith and repaired his own equipment and that of the townspeople. Prior to his marriage, he had contracted to haul ore during winter months at the Mary Murphy Mine above St. Elmo. While living at the Farm prior to his marriage, he and Al Kroll had built a blacksmith shop where the garage now stands. This was used as a blacksmith until 1945 when it was replaced by the current garage.

In 1925, Bill Turner, along with Harv Flowers of Buena Vista, started the Eveready Freight Service. This was one of the first inter-state trucking firms in Colorado. In addition to hauling freight all over Colorado, an important part of the business was lettuce delivery from the Buena Vista area to the Denver market. He also used the business to transport hogs raised at the Turner Farm to packing plants in Denver.

While operating the freight service, Bill Turner was frequently unavailable to help at the farm. The burden of taking care of the property fell on his wife and children. At an early age, all the children helped in doing the daily chores and frequently were responsible for cutting and threshing.

In the late 1930s, Bill sold his interest in Eveready Freight and set up a sawmill near Hangman Ranch on Cottonwood Pass. The sawmill was operational year-round and provided lumber for Buena Vista and other markets. The operation, which was later moved to Buena Vista, east of the Court House, ran until the late 1950s. Lumber for the garage and other improvements at the Turner Farm was milled on this sawmill.

While Bill was in the freight business, little maintenance was done on any of the buildings at the farm. By 1940, the Turner House was completely bare of paint. With the help of his sons, the house was repainted and new wooden shingles were installed on the House and Original Homestead Cabin.

Further improvements took place after WWII, with the return of his sons from service. An enclosed back porch was installed on the House, which covers the entryway to the basement. Also, the blacksmith shop was torn down and replaced by the large garage that exists today. The Mother-in-Law’s Cabin was also moved on-site at this time and the tack room added to the barn.

In the 1950s, the Turners raised pack and saddle horses that were used for hunting, fishing, and guided trips to the mountain peaks and high mountain lakes in the Buena Vista area. Bill, along with his sons, led many of these trips.

By 1960, most of the children had married and had families of their own. Bill Turner was aging and was unable physically and financially to keep the property operational. Most of the farmland was sold off during this period for residential development. The two-acre site containing the orchard, house, and outbuildings was retained, as well as pasture land to the south. Lora and Bill continued living in the house with only a few animals left at the farm site. After their deaths in 1976 and 1979, the property was occupied by a grandson and his family. The two-acre farm site was sold in 1993 to a private individual and then was purchased by the Buena Vista Heritage in 1997.

TURNER FARMHOUSE
The Turner Farm House was built between 1910 and 1912. The house was constructed as a two-story frame structure with a gable roof and pained wood siding in a style typical of early farm homes in Chaffee County. Double-hung, single-light windows flanked the front entry-way, side, and rear doors. The pattern was repeated on the upper floors, and on the east elevation. A covered porch was also original to the construction of the house along the front and west side. The only embellishments on the porch were cove molding on the fascia, turned columns, and molding adjacent to the house and around the columns. The front and side entries were fronted by plain wooden steps with no railing. The entire structure had a shake shingle roof.

Heating was provided by three wood stoves located in the upstairs common room, kitchen, and living room. All stoves were vented by a brick chimney that extends through the ridge of the roof. This was a heating system that was very common for residential structures of the period.

The frame structure included three bedrooms and a common room upstairs; a living room, dining room, kitchen, and full bath downstairs. Original fixtures in the bathroom were a claw foot bathtub, wall sink, and commode with an overhead water tank. Water was also available upstairs with the use of a corner sink installed in the southeast bedroom.

The frame structure included the usage of used lumber in the upstairs rooms evidenced by the remnants of false front sign materials. Interior finishes consisted of rough milled one-by material covered with muslin or cheesecloth and wallpaper. Both ceilings and walls were wallpapered throughout the house. All flooring installed throughout the house was 4” tongue and groove fir flooring, which was commonly used in the area. Fir was also used in floor molding and all other trim. All exterior doors were single light with three horizontal panels on the bottom. The front and side doors had an etched glass, an expensive embellishment.
During construction, a large crawl space was retained under the front portion of the house and a half-basement was installed under the rear of the house to store food items and coal. Access to the basement area was gained from the exterior of the house by cement steps with a wood hinged covering. There was also a coal chute installed on the west side of the house. After WWII, the Turners built an attached enclosed rear porch over the basement area the entire width of the house. Materials used were consistent with the main house, with the exception of fixed multi-light windows along the south wall and a poured concrete floor.

In 1958, the entire house was rewired and the first wall plug-ins were installed. Previously Mrs. Turner had used all-electric appliances with the aid of a light socket adapter.

The house has been furnished with period items.

APPLE ORCHARD
Apple production was an important food and revenue source for the Turner Family. The orchard was planted in 1911. The 52 trees that were planted by Gilbert Walker began bearing fruit at the time the Bill Turner family moved permanently to the farm. Apples were used by the family, sold, and kept as livestock feed. Apples that were not used immediately were either canned or stored in the barn in layers of hay. Lora Turner was noted in Buena Vista for apple pies that she brought to all church functions and other gatherings.

The orchard is currently watered by a combination of irrigation water and a hose sprinkler system.

MOTHER-IN-LAW’S CABIN
Originally, this structure was one of the 45 cabins located at the Webb Cottage Camp in downtown Buena Vista. These cabins provided overnight accommodations for visiting auto tourists. In addition to electric lighting, these cabins also offered attached garages or carports for the traveler. Located near the main highway in Buena Vista, this was a popular camp. With the move of the highway and more modern facilities located along that highway, the Webb Camp was dismantled beginning in the 1940s. The cabin that is located at the Turner Farm was moved there in approximately 1945 by Bill Turner to provide separate living quarters for his wife’s mother.

Few modifications have been made to the basic structure since it was first used as a Camp Cabin. After it was moved, the garage or carport was shortened to provide only a covered entryway. The cabin still retains original doors and windows and was never plumbed.

GARAGE
The frame garage was constructed by the Turner Family in 1945 and replaced a blacksmith shop built by Bill Turner in the 1920s. Lumber used in the construction of this building was milled by Bill Turner at his sawmill located in Buena Vista. By 1945, Bill Turner had retired as a blacksmith and was closing down his milling operation. The garage still retains original doors and windows and was never plumbed.

THE ORIGINAL HOMESTEAD CABIN

This cabin with its attached woodshed offers a very unique view of an early Farm in Chaffee County prior to the turn of the century. The homestead cabin was utilitarian with a one-room living space and an attached woodshed. Built of rough milled lumber with bat and board siding, they were easily constructed and provided immediate shelter to the builder. After construction, interior embellishments typically included wallpapering over the interior rough finishes. Although a common structure of the time period, most examples in Chaffee County have been torn down. Few changes have been made to this structure since its construction with the exception of the extreme water damage that has occurred due to lack of roof maintenance. During the late 1940s, the interior was “updated”, and walls and ceilings were finished with Celotex, shelving was installed on the west wall, and linoleum tacked over the plank wood flooring. Fortunately, all wall coverings were left intact underneath the Celotex. Additional changes included the replacement of the original paneled door and installation of two additional fixed windows alongside the original single fixed sash.

Water damage to the structure has been severe. After the mid-1950s this cabin was no longer used for residential purposes and no maintenance was done. By 1993, the shake shingle roof had totally failed and the shed roof had fallen. A corrugated roof was installed over the shake roof in 1993, but extensive damage to the roof structure and interior flooring had already occurred.

The cabin is furnished with period items.

TWO STORY BARN AND TACK ROOM
Built by Al Kroll and Bill Turner in 1918, it was constructed to house both milk cows, horses, and provide hay storage, this building was an integral part of the Farm and was used consistently until Bill Turner’s death in 1976.

Horsehair was added to the chinking to make it stronger and when it was chinked in the restoration, horsehair was saved and added. There was a time a person would be able to see some of it in the chinking. Very few examples of two-story log barns still exist in Chaffee County today. Of those remaining, most have notched logs.

In February 1956, Bill and Al Turner’s packhorse, “Elijah”, became famous. Elijah was an intelligent horse at home in the wilderness. He was born in the mountains and lived there peacefully until wranglers caught him. Bill bought the horse for his and his Brother Al’s pack-trip company, in Buena Vista, to carry gear for hunters and fishermen into the high country. It was said Elijah was a hermit horse. He disliked cars and women in skirts and he was prone to running off.

The story begins when a Gunnison pilot spotted a lone horse stranded between Mt. Harvard and Mt Yale around 12,000 feet. The pilot mentioned his discovery and news spread locally and then to the Denver Post and beyond. A plan was hatched to drop hay from a plane to feed the horse until it could be rescued in the spring. The story was even featured in Life Magazine in the April 30, 1956 issue. Techniques for a possible rescue were bandied about as hay drops continued. Oats and salt were occasionally added to the menu and Elijah looked forward to feeding time. As reported in Newsweek magazine, April 23, 1956, Warren said, “He’s always waiting for us. When we make a pass to drop the first half-bale, he kicks up his heels”.

By this time, Bill Turner suspected that the famous hermit horse was his packhorse that had run off after an autumn hunt.
The rescue was staged in May and the Turners were able to lead Elijah down from his mountaintop via a snow trench.
Social engagements for the famous horse began; he was feted at Denver’s majestic Brown Palace Hotel, ran a race at Centennial Race Track and starred in parades, carnivals, and a rodeo.

But did the hermit horse really want to be rescued?

THE ORIGINAL LOG CHICKEN COOP
The Chicken Coop was built in 1915 by the Turner Family, the chicken coop is an excellent example of log construction in agricultural usage. The log walls are squared and notched and the roof was made of lodge poles with rough wood sheathing covered with tin, which was available at the time of construction. The structure was oriented to the south to take advantage of solar heating and had fixed southern windows and a plain shed door.

Chicken coops were commonly seen on ranches and small farms in this area and were built as a frame structure or as in this case built out of logs. As commercial egg ranches were developed in the 1930s and 1940s the need for these structures no longer existed. Many were torn down or turned into sheds. Very few structures similar to this one still exist in Chaffee County.
The only modifications to this outbuilding have been the loss of roofing and damage to the sidewalls from lack of maintenance. It is believed that it has been in disuse since 1955.

MODERN CHICKEN COOP
This structure was built after Bill Turner had essentially retired and the original log chicken coop was no longer able to be used. Much smaller in size than the original coop, it reflects the downsizing of the Farm and the Family.
The modern chicken coop was primarily used for raising chicks and had a small area devoted to nesting hens.

PIG PEN
Between the 1920s & 1940s, the Turner Family raised upwards of thirty hogs at a time. Pig pens were located on the property to the west and to the south of the Homestead Cabin. As the farm was downsized, the current pigpen was built adjacent to the Barn and Tack Room.

Buena Vista Heritage
P.O. Box 1414
Buena Vista, CO 81211
buenavistaheritage@msn.com