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Sunday, August 5, 2018

REMEMBERING THE LADIES: Elizabeth McAllister #PrairieRosePublications #Women'sHistory

"Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors." Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March - 5 April 1776.

In a similar vein, the Uppity Women Series by Vicki Leon, Remembers the Ladies. For those who haven't read any of her work, she digs up women from history, giving us a glimpse of  who they were and the world they lived in.

Abigail Adams and Vicki Leon both encourage us to Remember the Ladies. Over the next few posts, I hope to remember the ladies who helped settle the Pikes Peak Region. Some are known, such as Helen (Hunt) Jackson and Queen Palmer. Others, such as Ann (Annie) France, Cara Bell and Mother Maggard have not had much press. With luck, that will be remedied. In this post, I will focus on Elizabeth McAllister.

Who was Elizabeth McAllister? Elizabeth was the wife of Major Henry McAllister. Major McAllister had served in the Civil War with and was a friend of the named founder of Colorado Springs, General William Jackson Palmer. Major McAllister and Elizabeth were also Quakers, like Palmer. Henry brought Elizabeth and their young son to the area in the spring of 1873 when the town was barely two years old.

Image result for images of Elizabeth McAllister
McAllister House Museum Mrs. Elizabeth McAllister approx. age 60

According to the McAllister Family Bible, Elizabeth was born January 23, 1836 in Haverford, PA. to Townsend and Mary Cooper. She married Henry in 1866. Their ceremony was performed by the mayor of Philadelphia in his office.

A son Henry was born in Pennsylvania, but died early. Another son followed who was also named Henry (whom they called Harry). After arriving in Colorado there were two more children, Mary and Matilda, the last born in 1876 when Elizabeth was around forty years of age. One reference stated her stature was so tiny a modern ten year old would barely be able to button the silk basque she wore. (A basque, for those who wonder, is a close fitting bodice or jacket that extended past the waist to or over the hips.)

The family rented rooms in the Colorado Springs Hotel, moving to one of the nearby portable houses that had been shipped in from Chicago, until their home on Cascade Ave. was built.Because of the winds in Colorado Springs, which can topple narrow gage trains, McAllister had his walls built about twenty inches thick and attached the roof  to the masonry with numerous two inch rods. He wanted his wife and family to be safe if he were not there.  It was purchase in the 1960s by the Society of Colonial Dames in order to preserve its history. It is now considered the first house of substance that was built in Colorado Springs and is on the National Register of Historic Places one hundred years after is was built.

McAllister House today, Photo (c) by Doris McCraw
What is written about Elizabeth is her kindness. She often gifted bread to the covered wagon pioneers traveling through the city. She also did the same for the passing Indians. Remember that the settlers and Indians were not always on good terms during the early days of the city.

One incident that Major McAllister wrote of concerned the Indians and Governor of the Colorado Territory, A. C. Hunt in 1874. McAllister had invited the Governor into his home, and while there approximately  thirty Indians, who were camped north of town, surrounded the house. They peered through the windows at the people inside. While it made the inhabitants uncomfortable, they merely wished to meet and speak with the Governor. He went out, spoke with them, and they returned to their camp.

While not much is written in the newspapers, we do know in March of 1881, Elizabeth transferred property with an estate value of $2,000 to a Q.A. Gillmore. This was not as uncommon as most might believe. There are numerous reports of property transfers that involved women in the city.

Elizabeth McAllister- Evergreen Cemetery, Photo (c) by Doris McCraw
Elizabeth passed away in May of 1912, at the age of 76.

As you wander through the pages of history, Remember the Ladies, for without them history would be incomplete.

Bibliography: Henry McAllister, Colorado Pioneer by Polly King Ruhtenberg & Dorothy E. Smith
                       Colorado Springs Gazette
                       History of McAllister House

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Member of National League of American Pen Women,
Women Writing the West,
Pikes Peak Posse of the Westerners

Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here


  1. Yes, let's remember the women! They probably toiled even more than their male counterparts. I'm doing some research now and reading many books and finding even some of the books written recently tend to mention the women only in their association to the man they were involved with--unless you read a book specifically about the women. Look forward to the rest of the series.

    1. Thank you Patti. I will admit, digging their stories is not for the feint of heart. Like you say, it usually talks about the husband/brother/son instead of what the women did. I just feel they need their time in the spotlight. Doris

  2. Doris,
    What a wonderful post. I always love learning about women of the time. I love that they could own and transfer property. Great info.

    1. What I didn't include was her husband was also a big supporter of women's suffrage. In many ways Colorado was ahead of some others when it came to women's rights. It just struck me, these women needed to have their stories told. I just hope I can do them justice.

      Thank you Kristy, I am glad you enjoyed the post. Doris

  3. Doris,

    I so enjoy your articles about Colorado women. The McAllister house is beautiful. I love old houses. They hold so much history.

    1. Kaye, thank you. I truly do enjoy researching and telling the stories if these women. The McAllister house is really beautiful. They did a great job restoring it, and the docents love to tell its story. I am very blessed to have so much beauty and history surrounding me. Doris PS Gaby kept trying to get me to pet her when I was typing this. Gotta love em.

  4. I thoroughly enjoy learning about the lives and times of women in the west. Thank you for sharing this. It does give some insight to the city and its culture as well as the life of an interesting lady.

    1. She was. The interesting part was finding her when they mainly talk about her husband and son. I really enjoyed trying to find Elizabeth's story. I'm glad you like the post. Doris

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    1. I loved this post. It speaks of a strong women who never saw kindness and gentleness as a weakness. I'd have loved to have met her. Thanks for this glimpse of her life.

    2. Thank you. Elizabeth is one of the women that doesn't get much attention, but, like you, I find so intriguing. I think part of her beauty comes from her upbringing as a Quaker. From what I understand, she followed their beliefs faithfully. I wanted the world to know more about her, so...

      I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I love that I can share the stories of these women. Doris

  6. I so liked this post, Doris. I see we have had feminists influencing society from a way back in the beginning. I did not know about these outstanding women until you brought them out in your article.

    Quakers have such a different way of worshiping than many other Christian religions. I remember visiting the Quaker meeting house preserved by the townspeople in Catawissa, Pennsylvania near where my dad was raised.

    All the best to you, Doris.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Sarah. Quakers were in the forefront of equality for all. When I was researching, it did not surprise me the men in the McAllister family were supporters of suffrage.

      I guess I just wanted to 'balance the scales' in telling the story of the regions beginnings. It warms me to know others appreciate the stories of these women.

      I would have loved to have seen the meeting house. How fascinating that must have been. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your memory. Doris

  7. Doris, as always I thoroughly enjoyed another one of your delightful posts. Oh, how I would love to someday see that terrific house he built for them. What a time in history for women, especially having the Quaker men support the women's suffrage movement. Thank you once again so letting us meet Elizabeth and her family.

    1. You are so welcome and thank you Beverly. It was an exciting time in history. I've always said it takes extraordinary people to head out to the unknown and build something that is lasting.

      The house is pretty cool. I've been there a few times and always learn something new each time. Doris