Henry Hargraves Curtis

Type Value
Name Henry Hargraves Curtis
Born 1852-03-21 Bathurst, N.S.W., Australia
Gender M
Died 1936-05-06 Littleton, Colorado
Buried Bear Canon Cemetery, Sedalia, Douglas County, Colorado
Type Value
Father Henry Harper Curtis b. (1830-08-15, Laugharne, Neath, Glamorgan, Wales) d. (1911-03-13, Douglas County, Colorado)
Mother Julia Francis Paddison b. (1827-01-13, Trenache Farm, Neath, Glamorgan, Wales) d. (1913-06-11, Douglas County, Colorado)
Married 1849-12-04, Mt. Pleasant Chapel, Swansea Parish, Glamorgan, Wales
Type Value
Family Rachel Lutz


Henry Hargraves Curtis, second child and oldest son of Henry Harper and Julia Curtis, was born in Australia March 21, 1852. (Houstoun Waring, writing about the Curtis family in 1971, said he was born at Bathurst. Henry Hargraves Curtis’s son, Leo Curtis, in a biography of his father, said it was at Sydney.) Henry Hargraves Curtis would have been about age three when his father took the family back to Wales.

Henry Hargraves Curtis, (“Henry H., Jr.”), was apprenticed as a watchmaker and jeweler at a young age, (probably around age twelve.) It may have been his father who trained him. Besides a watchmaker and jeweler, he became an expert in the judgement of precious stones and an excellent engraver and penman. As noted above, he came to Colorado with his family in 1871 when he would have been eighteen. He went into the watchmaking business in Denver for a short time. His son, Leo, said that the competition there was keen, and his father did not last long. He went to work on the farm that his father had bought in Douglas County.

Henry, “Jr.,” met and married Rachel Lutz who was the stepdaughter of Jesse Estlack. Estlack at that time was farming the land south of Littleton that became Wolhurst. Rachel Lutz had earlier come from Utah with her mother by wagon train under soldier escort during a period of Indian hostilities. The marriage date of Henry Hargraves Curtis and Rachel Lutz is given variously as 1872 by their son, Leo, and as April 7, 1873 in lists of Arapahoe County Territorial Colorado marriages compiled by the Colorado State Archives.

In 1882 Henry, Jr. and Rachel decided to farm for themselves. They came to Littleton and rented the farm of Richard Little, located between the railroad tracks and the Platte River. They lived in a brick house, known as “the old Bair property”and owned by Jesse Estlack, at 610 South Rapp Avenue. In the fall of 1883 grade school classes were held in the front room of this home while a new wing for the Rapp Street School building was being constructed.

It was while farming Richard Little’s land that Henry, Jr., bought the first McCormack twine binder in this part of the country. His son, Leo, said that in 1884 his father broke the sod on Richard Little’s land, bounded on the north by Little’s gulch and on the south by Ridge Road, on the east by Windermere Avenue and on the west by South Prince Street. It was a tract of over 120 acres, and Henry Curtis turned the furrows with a walking plow. He raised wheat and reaped it with his new twine binder.

During this time Henry and Rachel Curtis bought approximately eighty acres south of Ridge Road and west of Windermere. A transcript of the deed to this property at the Littleton Historical Museum shows that the transaction took place October 21, 1882 from Anthony Wyman to Henry H. Curtis, Jr., (Henry Hargraves Curtis). Henry H., Jr., built a house there and the family moved to it from 610 South Rapp. A photograph of this house at the Museum indicates it was built in 1891. The grain that Henry H., Jr., raised on Richard Little’s farm was threshed there. In 2004 the house still stands at 6797 South Windermere.

Prices at sixty-five cents per bushel for wheat and four dollars per ton for alfalfa in the 1880s were discouraging, however, and Henry, Jr. decided to return to his first trade as jeweler and watchmaker. He opened a shop in Hurst’s furniture store on Main Street, according to his son, Leo. That was in 1891. He moved his shop a number of times up and down Main Street. His son said that he wound up in the Culp block (southwest corner of Main and Prince).

At some point he sold the farm south of Ridge Road and built a home much closer in–about a block south of Littleton Boulevard on Windermere. The address became 190 South Windermere. From there Henry H., Jr., walked back and forth to work on Main Street until he retired in 1928. He continued watch repair for old customers from his home. Rachel Lutz Curtis had died July 10, 1926.

“Henery, as he was familiarly known,” said his son, “was a naturally friendly person. Kids and dogs followed him for a kindly pat. Dozens of times a day some one would drop in at his shop to pass the time of day, tell a yarn (he loved a funny story) or just watch him with his magnifying glass screwed in his eye, examining the intricacies of a watch or engraving letters so fine you could hardly see them with the naked eye.” He died May 6, 1936 at age eighty-four.

Leo F. Curtis, the biographer quoted above, was one of the six children of Henry H., Jr., and Rachel. He was born on the ranch on Perry Park Road south of Sedalia May 7, 1877, and was about five years old when his parents moved to Rapp Avenue in Littleton. Leo’s schooling began in 1883 in his own living room on Rapp, as described above. His teacher was Maggie Lilley, daughter of John G. Lilley. He and Ernest Mitchell were the only members of the first graduating class of the high school. The two of them left their mark, however, because it was they who chose the school colors of old gold and purple that are still the Littleton High School colors.

Leo began teaching in the grade school soon after graduating and became grade school principal a few years later. By 1911 he was principal of the entire Rapp Street School. After teaching for seventeen years in Littleton, he served as superintendent in Aurora. He next went to the Yuma, Colorado schools. It was there that he met Mrs. Kathleen Purdue, a nurse. They were married in Littleton August 4, 1922.

After marriage the couple spent two years in LaVeta, followed by two years in Rifle, Colorado. Leo Curtis was school superintendent in both communities. When the Depression came, and after teaching for thirty-three years, he went to work in 1930 for his boyhood friend, Elzie Montgomery, who was district engineer of the Colorado Highway Department. Leo retired in 1947 when he was seventy years old.

He wrote a series of articles for the Littleton Independent from about 1951 to 1953 about early Littleton and some of its pioneers. Leo F. Curtis died December 23, 1960, survived by his wife, Kathleen, and two sisters, Kate Curtis Alexander and Mabel Curtis Dunn, both of Littleton.

In July 1971 the Curtis family held a family reunion to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival in Douglas County of Henry Harper Curtis from Wales in 1871. It included a two-day celebration at Oaklands Ranch and a memorial service at St. Phillip in the Field Episcopal Church.

There has been, and continues to be, confusion over the spelling of Curtice Street in downtown Littleton, so named by Richard Little on his 1872 plat of the town. The Curtis family of this article has always spelled its name “Curtis.” Who was “Curtice?” Various theories abound, and more investigation needs to be done.