Albert Hahnewald, builder of the Hahnewald barn, had a larger impact on the Vail Valley | VailDaily.com

Albert Hahnewald, builder of the Hahnewald barn, had a larger impact on the Vail Valley

Kathy Heicher
Special to the Daily

These days, nearly everybody in the valley has an opinion about the Hahnewald barn at Avon. That discussion is going to continue for a while.

Less known is the story of Albert Hahnewald, the pioneer rancher who built the barn, happily unaware of the controversy it would generate 111 years down the road.

This is a classic Eagle County pioneer tale. Born in Germany in 1867, Albert was one of four brothers. Energetic and adventuresome, he immigrated to the United States in 1881, landing in Fredericksburg, Texas, a German immigrant town in the hill country. There he met and married a fellow German, Francisca (Frances) Schuck. By the mid 1890s, the Hahnewalds and their three children had followed his brothers to Leadville for the silver boom.

Taking risks

“He came to the United States, a youth, with little education at that time because of this youth and no personal fortune to aid him in his adventures. He adopted America as his land immediately, loved it for is beauty and institutions, and chose it for the home of his family and his children’s children … Liberal, public-spirited, a man whose word was as good as his bond, energetic, possessed of the speculative, adventurous nature which makes a good mining man, endowed with a sound business instinct, he became a citizen of the first rank in each of the communities in which he lived … his untimely death is a distinct loss to both state and district.”Herald Democrat (Leadville)Dec. 25, 1918

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Willing to take a risk, Albert and his brothers found a lucrative vein of ore at the Little Jonny mine that became famous throughout the state as the "Hahnewald Chute." Albert used his share of the profits to improve the mining operations, and invest in productive mining properties not only in Leadville, but also in Gunnison, Utah, New Mexico and Mexico.

Typical of the multitasking pioneers of the era, the hard-working Hahnewald brothers also owned the Colorado Bakery in Leadville, selling groceries and baked goods to the miners. Additionally, Albert owned and operated a saloon and served two terms as a town alderman.

Sometime around 1908, Albert and Frances relocated to the Eagle River Valley, acquiring 160 acres of land that had originally been homesteaded in the 1890s by Avon pioneer John Metcalf. The $9,000 property is now much of the heart of Avon, including Nottingham Park. The Hahnewalds built a log home and large barn. The Hahnewald Land & Livestock Co. raised prize-winning Hereford cattle and grew crops of grain and hay. Albert acquired an additional 900 acres of land near Edwards — The log cabin that stands on the southeast shore of Nottingham Lake today was associated with the Hahnewald farmstead.

In November 1915, Albert sold the Avon property to another German immigrant, Paul Kroelling, for $15,000. The Hahnewalds then headquartered on their Edwards land, and where they raised horses and hogs and ran 1,000 head of cattle in the country between Gore Creek and Red Canyon (east of the Wolcott Springs Golf Course). They also built a lovely home in the Park Hill area of Denver. Frances and Albert started spending more time in Denver. Their oldest son managed the ranch, but left to serve in the United States Army during World War I. Albert was a strong supporter of the "Liberty Bonds" that financed the war.

Albert was on a cattle-selling trip to Kansas City in December 1918, when the Spanish Influenza epidemic caught up with him. Very sick when he returned to Denver, he died before the new year at the age of 51. He is buried in the historic Fairmount Cemetery in Denver. His son died a few years later, and the Eagle County ranch eventually sold.

Albert Hahnewald's obituary praised him as a model for any young American.

Kathy Heicher is president of the Eagle County Historical Society and the author of several local history books. She can be reached at kheicher@gmail.com.