Windsor Middle School students investigate Windsor’s past in special nine-week project honoring the town’s 125th anniversary |

Windsor Middle School students investigate Windsor’s past in special nine-week project honoring the town’s 125th anniversary

James Redmond

Windsor Middle School students have delved into to Windsor's history and started bringing it to life in honor of the town's 125th anniversary this year.

In Ruth Brunner's I-Search class, students are undertaking a nine-week research and investigation into the history of Windsor, and what it can tell them about its future.

Already students worked to develop what they call "essential questions," such as what if Windsor had focused on recreation instead of business, what did Windsor's early school system look like or how did Windsor become a town. Answering each question, students learned about Windsor's history from its economics to population change and education, Brunner said.

Students poured through history books, old newspapers and even went out into the community to visit historical exhibits and speak with museum curators to gather their information.

“Hopefully they’ll see how all those things come together, to make them understand what makes a community work.Ruth BrunnerWindsor Middle School teacher

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The goal, Brunner said, is to have the sixth, seventh and eighth grade classes learn history, writing skills, math, science and more as they work the research project.

"I try to hit all the content areas," she said.

Students will have to research key elements of Windsor's history, look into the life of a historical Windsor figure and visit Windsor's historical sites to see how they changed over the years.

"Hopefully they'll see how all those things come together, to make them understand what makes a community work, how (Windsor) worked in the past and what the community might be like in the future," Brunner said.

In the next phase of their research projects, students step into the lives of Windsor residents.

The students will have to demonstrate knowledge of their subjects by portraying members of Windsor's past at a special market their class with participate in this week. Only two days after selecting their historical figures, the seventh grade students in Brunner's class tried figure out how their people would answer questions.

Nolan McCracken introduced himself as Charles Yancey, a business owner and innovator who worked to bring early automobiles to Windsor near the start of the 1900s. Still learning his historical figure's past, he talked about how Yancey owned a few different business in Windsor including a livery, admitting he didn't know some things and would need to do more research before the fair.

Other students took turns too; Melanie Martin took a few moments to describe her life as Ina Rains, a local opera singer. Even Brunner herself told the first-person story of Effie Kurtz, the child of Russian-German immigrants, a teacher and Brunner's mother-in-law.

Many of the figures don't have enough historical merits to be found easily through search programs like Google, so it means the students have had to get creative in their research, Brunner said.

That's sort of the point of her class. She wants to teach her students to be scholars, working to investigate ideas and topics, proving points with systematic and analytical research.

"It's a good way to look at life," she said.

Essential Windsor questions

Windsor Middle School gifted and talented education teacher Ruth Brunner shared the following essay her student wrote about this history of Windsor for her class:

“First Forty Years: the Early History of the Town of Windsor

By Bryce Medlyn

I started my research with one question: What key events and people helped turn Windsor from a buffalo wallow to a small town? I did research from the early 1870’s to 1930’s and learned about our growth from a halfway house to boom town.

I learned about the halfway house built by J.L. Hilton in 1873. It was the first building in what would be the town of Windsor. The halfway house was called such because of its location, halfway between Fort Collins and Greeley. It was 12.2 miles to any of these towns. People would come to J.L. Hilton’s halfway house to rest and eat on their long journey from Fort Collins to Greeley (or the other way around). Just prior to the construction of the halfway house, settlers were purchasing land in what would soon be the town of Windsor. The event that truly upstarted Windsor was the Greeley Salt Lake & Pacific railroad coming past the halfway house and bringing in new people who could buy some land or start a business in the not-quite-yet town. On April second of the year 1890, Windsor officially became a town. Soon after the town’s founding, a man by the name of Charles Yancey built a livery stable for the many travelers that came through the small town. His stable originally only had one horse but that soon grew to a huge 35 horses. Yancey also bragged of selling a lot of harnesses for people’s horses. There were two ideas for Windsor, an industrial town or a bustling recreational resort, although Windsor has seen both industry and tourism.

In the 1900’s, Germans from Russia began to move to Windsor and planted sugar beets. The climate was perfect for growing the sugar beets. Windsor became home to the Great Western Sugar Factory, which triggered a 500 percent increase in population between 1900 and 1910. Windsor’s bank opened in 1903 and grew a large capital stock of nearly $30,000! An important man lived in that time by the name of Roy Ray, he was an author and a newspaper editor, the manager of the Windsor Bank, a town clerk, a town board member, the mayor, the district chairman of the USO, and a member of the Colorado House of Representatives. His wife’s name was Ethel Dumas. Roy Ray died in 1942 but left a historic legacy in his writings.

One of the early business in Windsor was the Cable Brothers Merchandise which opened in the 1910’s. In 1921 their business replaced the original bowling alley and pool hall, but it became the bowling alley and pool hall it used to be in the 1930’s. At about the same time, two brothers named Carl and Walter Besel created a business called the Windsor Hardware and Supply Company. They had a nice long run of about 65 years! In the 1920’s, Windsor’s first auto shop opened. It gave the people of Windsor a place to go to get tractors or their cars fixed, both essential for the town’s economy. The tractors were used for farming, and cars were needed for commuting to work in Greeley, Fort Collins, or Loveland. In the 1930’s the Community Cold Storage opened. Back then, no one had freezers at home like we do today, so they had to go to the Community Cold Storage and get a frozen food locker. The community cold storage also sold frozen and refrigerated goods, whether it was ice cream or a carton of eggs.

As a result, Windsor grew much in its first 40 or so years thanks to its industrious citizens and has grown even more in the 85 years since. From a buffalo wallow to a town that combines business with resort living, Windsor can thank its early settlers for creating our historic town with a lakeside resort and strong businesses.”