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Sarah "Sadie" Felch parents were Marshall Parker Felch and Amanda Matilda Felch, two civil war veterans who were living in Montezuma which was a young silver mining camp in the summer of 1868.  Amanda was running a small boarding hotel and Marshall was working as a freighter running a wagon and bringing supplies.  Amanda was pregnant and with child birth looming the decision was made to get to a lower elevation. There was a very high rate of infant death at high elevations and Montezuma was at 10,200 feet. It appears probable that Marshall transported Amanda in a wagon pulled by donkeys from Montezuma over Argentine Pass some 13,200 feet in elevation.  They would have made their way to Denver in the area where Cherry Creek meets the Platte River, an area today known as LODO  or lower downtown. Marshall and Amanda had lived here off and on since they first arrived in 1866 and had friends so they would have been able to locate a cabin.  The cabin that was found was located in the area as what would become Union Station in a few years. Sarah was born on July 29, 1868, the first of four children Marshall and Amanda would have.    
Sarah grew up with her family, a pioneer family in Colorado living in more than one location including Denver, Montezuma(Summit County), Saguache, before finally settling in the Garden Park Valley a few miles north of Cañon City Colorado.   Sarah was the oldest of the children keeping watch over Ned and Emerson Webster her two younger brothers. They lived in a cabin, well organized and run by her mother Amanda.  She would grow up living the life of a young pioneer girl, bringing in water from the spring and doing all the chores you would expect.  She was bright and interested in fossils and the valley surrounded on all sides by mountains.  In 1875 when she was seven she most likely attended a one room school house in Garden Park.  This school had been recently built and she could make it there easily on foot being only a mile or so up the river.   It must have been exciting for Marshall and Amanda when discussions began to swirl about a military academy being planned in Cañon City.   They were extremely proud Union veterans and the idea must have been exhilarating, especially with two young boys growing up. This was not just going to be a military academy but a place founded on the principals that veterans like Amanda and Marshall fought for, something to provide a lasting legacy to the cause.    It would not be Ned or Emerson who would attend but instead it would be Sarah!

The building shown here was built in 1880-81 with funds supplied largely by Cañon City residents with some outside help. Civil War Union Army veterans and members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) where the driving forces behind the drive to establish the military academy.  The academy had 66 students in 1881-82 school year that included both boys and girls. Students came from a number of states as well as some local and regional students.
From Fremont County Record August 26,1882 Perhaps few of our citizens are aware of the completeness, convenience, and finish of new military college building. It is a just source of pride and congratulation that the energy and benevolence of some of Cañon’s best citizens have worked such results, a substantial monument to their faith in the good that educational privileges ensure to the town in which they live and have built their homes. The military college is rapidly being pushed to completion. Its location is excellent, sightly and pleasant. In the basement you enter a hall from which opens on one side a large room filled up as an armory with a turning or gymnastic bard in the center, it is large enough to drill and exercise in. From the hall you enter a bathroom with hot and cold water faucets, a servant's room an ample dining room, a kitchen with range, reservoir, sink and pantry… The first floor is furnished for the President (Colonel E.H. Sawyer) and his family on one side, the main hall and two school rooms on the other other, comprising a study for the young ladies and a primary or preparatory room. Broad stairs, broken by a landing halfway up, lead to the second floor.  Here a hall-way leads on one side to a general school room occupying the entire width of the building, the center room is in the tower and is the President’s office and study.  The other side is divided into three apartments to be used as music, art, and library room. Still following the winding stairway, we reach the upper rooms which consist of the dormitories and an Adjutants room, stationary basins in this hall are supplied with hydrant water. ....We hope that the 2nd of September will prove a fete day indeed, in which every subscription shall be met...scholarships shall be tendered...benevolent souls shall be plentiful...pocket books fat, and in fact the fourth of September shall see this young college free from every indebtedness, opening its doors to all who may come.

Ceremony celebrating the first cornerstone laid for the academy.
In early 1884 there was a rededication ceremony that was preceded by a processional column with band, cadet corps, carriages with distinguished guests, Greenwood Post no. 10 of the Grand Army of the Republic, and other parade entries.
The Grand Army Collegiate Military Institute  The lengthy oration establishes the purpose of the academy which was founded on firm principles pertaining to what the Civil War was fought for and what they needed to do to preserve this heritage.  It was recognized that the union veterans who had fought in the Civil War were aging and that now was the time to put into place the establishment of an institution worthy of their sacrifices.   They felt that the Grand Army of the Republic had enabled the American People to sing our national anthem without the blush of shame.  Their sacrifice allowed America to move forward and that included the pioneers that had settled and developed the state of Colorado.  They felt it was time for Colorado “‘the child of silver voice and golden hair” to step forward and support this academy in that goal, something that would endure for a very long time. At the board meeting the academy was formally transferred to the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1883 the staff included six faculty plus military staff.  Room and board for a 40 week session was $300 with additional costs of purchasing military uniforms, etc.  Courses included Greek, Latin, calculus, orthography, surveying, mining engineering, chemistry, English literature, French elocution, and literary essays.   Being that the institute was a military academy military drills were also a part of the curriculum. The Grand Army Collegiate and Military Institute Annual Commencement May 12, 1884 included several pieces of music including a solo of Pilgrim Fathers and several thesis delivered by scholars from across the country. Topics ranged from Socrates and Power of Thought to Rock Structure of the Earth’s Crust.    

Class included Sarah "Sadie" Felch
From a W.T. (Doc) Little report dated November 14, 1979 in the Cañon City Daily Record.  The article is entitled "Civil War Times Saw Women in Institute".  

You think that admission of young women to the nation’s military academies in the last three of four years is something new?  Wrong. Girls were part of the military school life as far back as 1881 - at least they were at Cañon City’s Colorado Collegiate and Military Institute.  

The building shown here was the institute [earlier photograph with cadets standing in front of the building].  It was built in 1880-81 with funds supplied largely by Cañon City residents with some outside help. Civil War Union Army veterans and members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) where the driving forces behind the drive to establish the military academy.

The administration realized that the region was too small to support an all-male cadet corps and voted to accept girls as well.  The company of 18 or so students in this phote are all men, but some of the girls can be seen at the windows…

A school catalogue for the school year 1881-82 lists a student body of 66 of whom 18 were girls.  One was from London, another from Abergele, North Wales, and some students from Kentucky, Michigan, Kansas, and Pennsylvania.

Co. E. H. Sawyer, a Union Army veteran, was commandant; Gov. Frederick W. Pitkin was listed as chancellor….One of the early instructors was Frederick G. Bonfils who moved on later to Denver where he and H.H. Tamman purchased the struggling Denver Post and transformed it into a great newspaper.

The Order of the day in the 1881-82 catalogue shows that reveille was at 6 a.m.  An hour of study was followed by breakfast at 7:30, surgeon’s call at 8 a.m, then guard mounting, daily chapel, study and recitation.  Dinner was at 12:15 p.m. and then more study, followed by drill and dress parade at 3:45.  The evening schedule was supper at 5:30, then study, tattoo and taps at 9:20 p.m.

Tuition, which included meals was $300 per year for boarding cadets.  Day students paid $40 for the year.  Dress uniforms were $25 and they were patterned after female dress uniforms from West Point at the time of the Civil War. If you wanted to use the piano it was $10 more for the year.  The school offered college courses and degrees including AM and BS.


Sarah "Sadie" Felch
Sarah "Sadie" Felch attended the military academy for two and possibly three full years.  Because Amanda and Marshall were not wealthy she would have attended as a local student, going home at night and returning in the morning.
The Colorado collegiate and Military institute lasted until the late 1880’s then closed for lack of funds.  Sisters of the Benedictine Order, were building a school in Breckenridge bought the property in 1890, made some improvements and opened it as a girls boarding school in June of that year, giving it the name of St Scholastica Academy. In 1893, the building was badly damaged by blasting on the Skyline Drive for the Kansas-Colorado irrigation ditch, a project that was meant to bring Arkansas River water to a point east of Cañon City for farms and orchards.  The Academy sisters managed to get funds from the state for a new building to replace the damaged one.  Classes resumed in 1897.  

The discovery of this story was made by Loretta Bailey, a local historian and volunteer with the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.  Loretta and I had talked about wanting to find some information about Ned, Emerson, and Sarah as there was little I could find.  Loretta had for years walked past a picture hanging on the wall down at the history center showing a picture of young women attending a military academy.  I was aware of a military academy but never made a connection. After we talked, Loretta was able to make the connection.  She shared it with me, a very special moment. Amanda and Marshall had little financial resources and sending any of their children to a military academy seemed out of reach.  It never crossed my mind that young women would have been admitted during that time frame, much less Sarah.  The military academy sadly had a relatively short life, its purpose and foundation were strong. Sadie Felch and the entire Felch family were a part of this academy helping carry forward their strong beliefs in what had been fought for in the Civil War.   Loretta discovered the story, I got to write it.  Loretta provided everything I needed to make it possible.   Special thanks goes to the staff of the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center including Lisa Studts, Nancy Masimer, Sue Cochran, and Natalie Bard who are supported by some outstanding local volunteers.  Special thanks also goes to Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, Joan Alexander, Tony O'Conner and the entire Northeast Kingdom Civil War Round Table in Vermont who today continue the tradition of historic awareness and understanding.  I gave a talk to this wonderful group in Newport Vermont back in 2010 about Marshall and Amanda with a focus on Marshall and the amazing dinosaur excavations that would take place.  Now I know that they took place at the time Sadie was attending the academy.