Putting up ice on the F.T. Caley Ranch on Platte Canyon Road, c.1905.
Caley Avenue in Littleton used to be called Poplar. In 1961, when several streets were renamed for the town's early settlers, the Caley family was one of those honored.
In Littleton history, the name of Caley is associated with their famous cheese factory. That business, however, was only one of their contributions to the community. Franklin T. Caley came to Littleton about 1882, already having had careers in mining and freighting. He was born in Racine, Wisconsin, May 13, 1844, the son of Robert and Catherine (Gallon) Caley. The family origins appear to have been in Ireland, and possibly also the Isle of Man. According to Chapman's 1898 Portrait and Biographical Record of Denver and Vicinity, Robert Caley was born in Port Erin, Ireland, but Robert's father had been a banker on the Isle of Man. Franklin T.'s mother, Catherine Gallon, was also born in Port Erin, said Chapman. When she died in Littleton in 1907, however, her obituary in the local newspaper gave her birth as December 12, 1818 on the Isle of Man.
Catherine Gallon came with her parents to Cleveland, Ohio about 1825. Robert Caley immigrated to America and was engaged in the hat business in Ohio before going to Racine, Wisconsin. It is possible the two met in Ohio. In Racine, Robert had a shoe store. In 1866 Robert and Catherine moved to Reedville, Missouri where he followed the shoemaker's trade for several years. Their son, Franklin T. Caley, apparently grew up in Racine.
Before marrying, Franklin T. was in the Civil War from Wisconsin, and after the war hired out as a teamster with a caravan headed for Virginia City, Montana. They were halted at Fort Laramie, where their wagonmaster was sworn in as a captain in the U. S. Army. From there they fought Indian skirmishes the rest of the way to Virginia City. Following that adventure, he went to Silver City, Idaho where he mined successfully for three years.
Littleton children ride on a donkey at Gallup Lake, c.1910-11. Left to right: Charlie Bowles, unidentified Bowles boy, Dorothy Gallup, unidentified, Perry Gallup, Lucy Gallup, Charlotte Gallup, Bill Caley (?), Rosalyn Caley.
He returned via the Isthmus of Panama to Rochester, Racine County, Wisconsin. It was there that he married Grace Ormiston January 19, 1868. Franklin T. and Grace had six children: Franklin R., William H., Alma G., Minnie, Darrel and Edwin or Elwin.
After moving from Wisconsin to Sullivan, Missouri and farming for a few years, Franklin T. was a carpenter in the iron works in neighboring Crawford County and also did ore hauling and contracting. Mining was in his blood, and he came to Denver about 1873. Soon he was mining and keeping a hotel in Alma, Colorado where his family joined him. (His parents, Robert and Catherine Caley, also came to Colorado from Missouri, about 1875. Robert died in Arizona in 1884. Catherine died at her home on Prince Street in Littleton February 18, 1907.)
Franklin T. continued his mining operations at Alma and also hauled coke, lead and silver bullion over Weston Pass. He established a freighting outfit that operated from Weston and Buena Vista to Leadville. Meanwhile he engaged extensively in the butcher business and packed frozen beef. He also was successful in a cattle business that he began in Rock Creek, Wyoming.
Franklin T. Caley is standing in the back row with the number "5" over his head. c.1908-10.
Finally settling near Littleton, Franklin T. Caley bought a 1600-acre ranch about three miles southwest of town on the Platte Canyon road near Peter Magnes. His ranch was called the Pride of the Valley. In 1897 a cheese factory was built on the Caley ranch and was leased by George J. Renner. (Renner was already a well-known cheesemaker; he was associated with John Welte's Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch southeast of Littleton that was well established in the 1890s. Philip Renner married a Welte daughter and bought the Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch from his father-in-law in 1910.)
Franklin T. and Grace's son, Franklin R. Caley, had been born near Sullivan, Missouri on August 31, 1869 and had come to Colorado with his family when he was very young, as described above. He was educated at the Agricultural College at Fort Collins (now Colorado State University). On September 12, 1895 he married Edna Stradley, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Stradley of Littleton. They had a daughter, Alma Earle and a son, Frank.
About 1898 Franklin T. Caley and his son, Franklin R., purchased the cheese factory that was on the Pride of the Valley Ranch. In 1899 they moved the factory from the ranch to the Spotswood building at the southeast corner of Main and Curtis streets in Littleton (now 2590 West Main Street). Shortly thereafter they moved it into the former Merry Canning and Pickle building on Nevada Street, where "new and modern machinery for making cheese and butter was put in." Caley and son made a specialty of full cream cheese. It was still known as Renner full cream cheese. In addition to supplying jobbers and retail grocery customers in Denver, Franklin R. made trips to towns along the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, contracting for hundreds of pounds of the famous product to jobbers and dealers who before had handled principally eastern made cheese. They could hardly keep up with demand.
By autumn 1901, son Franklin R. Caley owned and operated the plant. The newspaper reported the benefits to the farmers of the community of what was then called the Littleton Brick Cheese Company. It paid out an average of $50.00 per day "or the magnificent sum of $18,000 per year" for milk raised in the Littleton vicinity. They bought over 4,500 pounds of milk daily in the winter and 6,000 daily during the summer. The cheese was made into five-pound bricks, thus doing away with the old style of fifty-pound cheeses that dried out before they were entirely used. The process was so efficient that the cheese was curdled, cut up and in the presses by one o'clock on the day the milk was received. "First class grocers and delicatessen stores in this state, Wyoming and New Mexico are among the numerous customers," the paper said.
Franklin T., the father, by that time was devoting most of his time to his mining interests in the Cripple Creek District. Earlier he had leased the Black Diamond claim, and W. S. Stratton had bought an interest in it. With this and his interests in the associated Portland and Bobtail mines, Franklin T. Caley prospered. He continued operating his Pride of the Valley ranch. Son Franklin R. had a ranch of 160 acres adjoining his father's property.
Franklin R. Caley became a representative to the Colorado legislature from Littleton in 1901. He presented the bill calling for a new county to be called South Arapahoe. The bill became known as the Rush Bill, and Caley helped push it through, thus leading to the creation of Denver as a separate city and county and to Littleton eventually becoming the seat of the new Arapahoe county. In 1905 he lived at 425 Malinda (now 2566-2576 Alamo) Avenue in Littleton. The house is a double house and in 2015 is still standing.
Littleton town council in session, c.1909. Left to right: Frank Lewis — councilman; Fred A. Bemis—councilman; Hugh Shellabarger — councilman; William S. Jull — clerk and recorder; Dr. W. C. Crysler — mayor; Robert Nelson; John Harris — councilman; Charles W. Downing — councilman; William H. Caley — town attorney; Ernest C. Shindorf — councilman.
Another son of Franklin T. and Grace Caley was William H. Caley who was born in 1872. He attended law school at the University of Michigan and practiced law in Aspen, Colorado in 1892. By 1905 he had a grocery store at 305 West Main Street in Littleton and lived at 34 South Rapp Street. In 1908 and 1909 he served as city attorney for Littleton. He was also Arapahoe County attorney at one time. He and Florian Ashbaugh were listed in the Littleton City Directory as partner attorneys in 1912. Judge Ashbaugh bought his law practice and library in 1917.
William H. Caley also had mining interests. Tragically, he died at age forty-five in an accident at his mine near Santa Fe, New Mexico on January 15, 1918 while showing his wife, Emaline, through the property.
The other sons of Franklin T. and Grace Caley, Darrel and Edwin, (some sources say his name was Elwin or Alvin), both attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. Daughter Alma G. died at age twelve in 1888, and daughter Minnie married John L. Binner.
Franklin T. Caley died September 6, 1929 at the home of his nephew, Gene Hallock, in Denver. His obituary in the Littleton newspaper mistakenly called him Franklin E. Caley. It said that several years earlier his family had moved to California, "but Mr. Caley could never be content to make his home anywhere but in Colorado. He lived with his two sisters, Mrs. Catherine Hallock and Mrs. Luke Bowman in Denver, and made frequent visits to California. He is survived by his widow, Grace E. Caley, three sons, Frank, Alvin and Darrell, and one daughter, Mrs. Minnie Binner, all of whom live in Los Angeles." It said that he had never ceased his mining activities in various parts of Colorado and in old Mexico. His funeral services were conducted by the Weston Masonic Lodge of Littleton. Burial was in the Littleton Cemetery.
Portrait and Biographical Record of Denver and Vicinity. Chicago: Chapman, 1898.
Littleton City Directories. 1905, 1912.
Littleton (Colo.) Independent. The Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888-
Littleton Museum. Vertical File. Biography: Caley.
____, Card File: Caley; Photographic Archives.
McQuarie, Robert J. and C. W. Buchholtz. Littleton, Colorado, Settlement to Centennial. Littleton, Colorado: Littleton Historical Museum and Friends of the Littleton Library and Museum, 1990.
Mount Rosa Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Littleton Cemetery, Littleton, Colorado. Littleton, Colorado: Mount Rosa Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1983.
Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum unless otherwise noted. To order copies, contact the museum at 303-795-3950.
Compiled by Doris Farmer Hulse
Updated March 2021