Built in 1878, the Hornbek House in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is significant for its association with Adeline Hornbek, a single mother who started a ranch in the Florissant area and lived in the house for twenty-seven years. The large one-and-a-half-story house is also an outstanding example of late nineteenth-century log-house architecture in the region. In 1973 the National Park Service acquired the house, and in 1981 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Hornbek Family
Adeline Hornbek managed to forge a life of her own in the late nineteenth-century West. She was born in 1833 in Massachusetts as Adeline Warfield. In the 1850s her brother worked as an Indian trader in what is now Oklahoma, where she met and fell in love with his business partner, Simon Harker. The couple married in 1858 and had two children. Soon Simon became ill, and in 1861 the family moved to Colorado, hoping that the territory’s reputedly healthful climate would help Simon recover.
In Colorado the Harkers homesteaded along the South Platte River northeast of Denver. With Simon also working as an Indian agent, the family was relatively well off, and Adeline had a third child in 1863. Disaster struck in 1864, when Simon died and the Cherry Creek flood inundated the Harker homestead, but Adeline was able to stay afloat by selling crops and livestock to miners.
In 1866 Adeline bought the land her family was homesteading. She also married a Denver man named Elliot D. Hornbek, about whom very little is known. In 1870 the couple had a son, but by 1875 Elliot Hornbek had abandoned his family. Adeline Hornbek was left alone with four children between the ages of five and sixteen.
Moving to Florissant
Soon after Elliot Hornbek left the family, Adeline and her children moved from Denver to Florissant, where Adeline filed the area’s first homestead application in 1878. Her land lay about a mile south of town and featured good access to water, wood, meadows for grazing, and transportation. She hired a builder to use local Ponderosa pines to construct a large log house for her family. Completed in 1878, the house had four bedrooms, a kitchen, and a parlor. It was the first in the Florissant valley to have more than one story. Nearby, Adeline also built a milk house, chicken house, and stables. She raised cows, horses, pigs, and poultry, planted hay and potatoes, and had a vegetable garden.
Clearly full of energy and drive, Adeline Hornbek became an active and prosperous member of the Florissant community during her twenty-seven years in the area. She worked at the Florissant general store, served on the school board, and hosted dances and other social events at her house. When she was sixty-six years old, she married a young German immigrant named Frederick Sticksel, who was probably a worker on the ranch. She died about five years later, on June 27, 1905.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
After Adeline Hornbek’s death, her property was owned by James Lafferty for a few years and then by the Harry family for a few decades. In 1943 the property was acquired by Palmer John Singer. Since 1927, Singer had operated one of the two main tourist attractions at what was known as the Colorado Petrified Forest south of Florissant. The former Hornbek property, located just north of Singer’s ranch, allowed him to expand his operations.
After decades of private owners selling tickets to see the area’s fossils and petrified forest, in the 1960s the National Park Service started to pursue protected status for the fossil beds. The effort stalled for several years until the threat of a new housing development nearby spurred the creation of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in 1969. In 1973 the National Park Service expanded the monument by acquiring the Singer family ranch. When the park service found that the Singer ranch included an early homestead, it started to highlight the Hornbek House as part of an effort to focus on the area’s human history. The park service attempted to recreate Adeline Hornbek’s homestead by moving historic buildings from other parts of the monument to the sites of her original ranch structures.
In 1981 the Hornbek House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today rangers offer guided tours of the homestead buildings, and in late July volunteers dress in period costumes at the homestead for Florissant Heritage Day.