The little antique melodeon that sits in Judy Jackson’s historic Flowers House residence in Bellvue is more than 150 years old but it is yet to find a permanent home. It’s not because Jackson, a local history buff, hasn’t tried to find a spot for it in the area.
Because of its fascinating history which stretches back to 1867 when it arrived in Fort Collins, most likely by covered wagon, Jackson assumed that it would not be too difficult to find a spot where locals could see and admire it on a permanent basis. But it has not been easy.
The Auntie Stone Cabin, now located on the grounds of Library Park, was its home for many years. People gathered at the historic building, Fort Collins’ first hotel on the southwest corner of Mason and Oak Streets, to party and dance to the music of diminutive piano/organ. In the 1950s, when the cabin was moved to its present location, the melodeon was sold to help finance the move. A member of the Pioneer Women of Cache la Poudre, Peggy Mefford Hess, bought it and later sold it to Mildred Payson Beatty. She left it to her daughter, Josephine Clements, and at her death it went to her daughter, the current owner, who lives in Golden, Colorado.
The melodeon is not a Colorado native. It came to Larimer County among the possessions of Lt. John H. Mandeville and his wife, Clara who came from New York in 1867 and settled on land between Fort Collins and LaPorte on the north side of the Poudre River between N. Shields and N. Overland Trail where Mandeville farmed for a year.
Mandeville, who was born in Brookton New York in 1839, was a member of Company L of the New York Volunteer Cavalry. After seeing considerable action in the Civil War in Virginia, he arrived in Fort Collins for the first time in 1865. In the fall of that year, he went to Fort Morgan with a detachment of troopers to protect emigrant and freight parties from roving bands of “savages” that infested the South Platte Valley.
When his military service ended in 1866, Mandeville returned to New York and the following year he and his wife Clara, came West and spent a year farming in LaPorte. Then they moved to Cheyenne where Mandeville worked as a builder until they returned to live in Fort Collins around 1890. In Fort Collins Mandeville served as a justice of the peace and district court bailiff.
Several years ago, the melodeon returned to Fort Collins in hopes of finding a permanent home where it had such a long history. Caretaker Judy Jackson has approached Colorado State University, the Museum of Discovery and the Avery House in search of a home for the melodeon. There is considerable interest but some places have no room and others don’t have a place where it will be properly protected.
“It needs a permanent home where people can see and admire it,” Jackson says. She hopes that one day soon she’ll find the perfect spot for it.