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The History of "Council Tree" Avenue

Drivers heading towards the newest Poudre River Public Library District library may not realize that the unique name of Council Tree Avenue was given in honor of an actual tree that once stood in Fort Collins. Council Tree has an exciting history involving Native Americans, settlers and fire in the Wild West that makes it indispensable to Northern Colorado. The cottonwood tree lived to be at least 120 years old, even though the average cottonwood's lifespan is only about 30 years. Although the actual Council Tree hasn't stood for 70 years, it continues to hold an important place in our community.

This gnarled and twisted tree once stood in southeast Fort Collins, near the Cache la Poudre River, off of East Horsetooth Road. The tree was located on the original property of George Robert Strauss, who settled on the Poudre River in 1860. Strauss continued to live on this property until 1904, when he passed away. According to settlers, the Council Tree was one of the few large trees growing near the river at that time.

Council Tree received its name due to the fact that Arapahoe Chief Friday would often hold councils under its branches. Chief Friday was accustomed to white settlers in the area, and was familiar with their customs and the English language. He was largely responsible for the friendly relations between the Native American tribes and the settlers in the area. Chief Friday would meet with other tribes, as well as with his minor chiefs at this spot. Furthermore, Native Americans often met with white settlers under the tree to negotiate barters. In History of Larimer County, written in 1911, Ansel Watrous wrote that the Ute tribe used the tree to hold councils, as well.

In later attempts to preserve the aging tree, the Colorado Mountain Club built a large fence around the tree to keep cattle from damaging it. The Cache la Poudre chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution marked the tree with a plaque given by their conservation committee. However, in 1938, the Council Tree was accidentally damaged extensively by the farmer who owned the land it was on, as he was attempting to burn weeds around its trunk. Despite the damage, there are records of the tree still standing through the 1940s and into the 1950s. Unfortunately, the tree was so badly damaged it later had to be removed. There is a story, however, that a group of teenagers built a bonfire near the tree, which spread, burning down what was left from the first fire.

After the tree was destroyed, 300 pounds of lead bullet shells were found lodged in its trunk, and an arrowhead and an arrow were found in the surrounding area. In honor of the original Council Tree, the Fort Collins Historical Society planted a new cottonwood near its original site on May 22, 1976. The Council Tree stands as a testament to the exciting history of the Wild West period that occurred more than 100 years ago in the place that would become Fort Collins.

Bayer Properties chose this historic name for the street in the new Front Range Village shops, where the newest Poudre River Public Library District library is located.

Hand-Tinted Lantern Slide
of the Council Tree
The Old Indian Council Tree

Council Tree Library
Poudre River Public Library District
2733 Council Tree Ave. #200
Fort Collins, Colorado 80525

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