The following article was written by Jack H. Gillette and was first published in the Weld County Past Times, Greeley Tribune, February 20, 1999, in Vol. 1 No. 7.
With the hard times of the 1890s some of the little prairie towns in Weld County all but disappeared. Hopeful homesteaders, leaving the place of their dreams, moved away to find a job to survive. It was a dim time.
By the turn of the century the economic outlook was brighter. The drought was over, and the crops could again be raised. New homesteading laws came into play, and homesteaders began to refill the land.
By 1908 and 1910 new towns were being constructed. New post offices were established. Some of those were not much more than a little office in a rancher’s or farmer’s house, but it did give the area a sense of permanence.
One of the towns that survived the hard years and began to grow with the new homesteading was Grover. All the towns, especially along the railroad, experienced some good growth. Hotels were built. Lumber yards, grocery and dry goods stores were built to supply the needs of the new settlers. The prairie towns were alive with commerce.
E. B. Franklin was one of those men who established a general merchandise store in Grover. He had come first to Carpenter, Wyo., in 1908 to establish a homestead but decided to settle in Grover.
In 1910 he went across the street, the north side of Chatoga Street and built his own brick building. Perhaps he didn’t care for those cold north winds blowing in the front door when customers came in.
Mr. Franklin’s store carried just about anything a person would need to keep a household operating. He had already been in business more than 30 years when I first went into his store.
Though not a big man, he was a kind man. He was known to be fair and honest. My mom knew how he did business and would work for him sometimes when he had to be away. One day a young lad came into the store and purchased a pocket knife. A few minutes later he came back in, the blade of the knife was broken.
Mom could tell it had been used to pry something and broke. Knowing what Mr. Franklin would do, she gave the kid another pocket knife.
I remember in the 1940s when there were in Grover at least two grocery stores, a drug store, an eatery or two, the post office, a locker plant and a cream station. The post office was in the old bank building.
The bank had closed in 1920. There was, also, a pool hall, a newspaper, two auto repair shops, a well supplied lumber yard and a grain elevator. Before there were many cars in the area, Grover had a large livery stable.
One of the grocery stores of the 1940s had originally been the opera house and then a cheese factory before becoming a grocery store.
Some of the town buildings were used for different businesses throughout the years, but Mr. Franklin stayed with his business in his same building for 47 years.
He was active in the Grover Community Church, and I can still see him pulling on the rope to ring the church bell to call the people to worship. He finally retired and moved with his wife to Wheat Ridge to be with their daughter in their final years.
When he closed the store, I was told that he had a large inventory of old merchandise. My mother bought a pair of ladies high top black laced leather shoes for about 50 cents. Those are now filled with sand and are used for bookends in our home. I don’t know what became of the rest of the old inventory.
While still in business, even though he had the old merchandise stored away in the back, he kept up with modern supplies. Before school each year, while still in grade school, we would go to Mr. Franklin’s store to buy pencils, crayons and our red Big Chief tablet.
Little by little, people started doing their shopping in the bigger towns like Greeley, Cheyenne or Fort Morgan. That, of course, took business away from the small town stores that were vital to the town not so long before.
E. B. Franklin’s store building is now gone as are many of the other buildings I remember seeing there when I was a kid. But even at that time, there were foundations along Chatoga Street where business buildings had been. The vacant lots are getting wider, but I suppose that is progress.
We need to be thankful we have our memories of those past times and places and people like E. B. Franklin.
There were many others who helped to make the town of Grover the center of commerce and activity for that area of the prairie.
The Grover school district recently finished a major renovation of the high school, which has the look of a good modern school. It is located at the west end of town. At the east end of town is the museum housed in the 1887 Burlington depot. Within its walls are artifacts of bygone days and reminders of what once was.
Grover has been there for more than 100 years and still has a few businesses. As long as there are people who will stay, there will still be a town.