Sanford Family

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Byron Sanford and wife, Mollie Dorsey; son-in-law, Arthur Williams, his son, Albert, Sanford's daughters, Dora Belle and Clara 1910
Left to right: Byron N. Sanford and his wife, Mollie Dorsey Sanford; their son-in-law, Arthur H. Williams; his son, Albert N. Williams, Sanford's daughter, Dora Belle (Mrs. Arthur Williams, Albert's mother), and Clara (Mrs. Albert Williams). Occasion was the Sanfords' 50th wedding anniversary in February, 1910.

Byron Sanford was born in 1826 in Albion, New York, a descendant of the original Winthrop family who came to America in 1632 from England. Trained as a blacksmith and wagon maker, he found work in Terra Haute, Indiana. In 1857, the plant where he worked burned down, and he moved to Nebraska City, Nebraska. There he met Mollie Dorsey, daughter of William Dorsey. They married in 1860 and shortly afterward, began the tireless, eight-week trip by ox team for Colorado Territory. Mollie kept a journal of the trip to Colorado, as well as an earlier trip which she made with her family from Indianapolis, Indiana to Nebraska City. This journal, which covered the period of 1857-1866 in Mollie's life, has become an important document of Western American history and is recognized as one of the best and most readable journals of the period.

Sanford - Bryon & Grandson, Edward
Byron North Sanford, holding grandson (Edward) Wayne Sanford. Mollie (Mary Euddra) Sanford, left. Building on right was Crawford's Saloon on ground floor, corner of Main Street and Nevada, c.1901 or 1902.

The Sanfords reached the Colorado Territory in June, 1860, where they camped along the banks of the Cherry Creek River in Denver. Byron found a job in Boulder, Colorado, at one of the state's first stamp mills. In the summer of 1861, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant of Company H, First Colorado Volunteers, by Territorial Governor Gilpin. He recruited a company of men at Central City and marched to Camp Weld in Denver. In 1862, Byron participated with Colonel Chivington in two battles, Apache Canon and Pigeon's Ranch, in New Mexico. Sanford received an honorable mention for bravery as a result of his participation in this campaign.

In 1864, Byron and Mollie found land to homestead along the Platte River in the Littleton area. Sanford had been looking for hay for the army horses when he stopped at the homestead of two Georgia brothers who were suffering from the cold. Sanford asked what they would take for the homestead and they responded that the land would cost $1,100. Sanford said that all he had was $800 in gold dust. As he was leaving, a cold blast of air blew open the cabin door. That was all the convincing the Georgia brothers needed; they took the gold dust and headed south. Sanford had purchased a homestead of 160 acres located near the present location of West Belleview Avenue and the Platte River.

Mollie Dorsey Sanford, left, and her sister Nan 1857
Mollie Dorsey Sanford, left, and her sister Nan, c.1857.

Byron and Mollie Sanford leased the homestead. Byron worked at the Denver Mint, where he remained for forty years, and Mollie was a homemaker, raising the couple's two children, Albert and Dora. Byron was a member of the commission which selected the site for the University of Colorado in Boulder and he served as a trustee of the University.

The Sanford's son, Albert B. Sanford built a stone house one block from Littleton's Main Street. The lot for the Sanford home was large and Albert added an iron fence around two sides of the property. Many trees were located on the land and a number of large Fourth of July parties were held there. Albert would shoot off rockets for the entertainment of the neighborhood children.

Sanford Home late 1800s
A.B. Sanford home on Northwest corner of Alamo and Nevada Streets, facing Alamo. The house is built of stone from the famous "Castle Rock Stone." Date unknown.

Albert, grew up to study mining engineering at the University of Denver. After graduation, he opened an assay office in Denver, and for twenty years was an assayer and mine examiner. In later years, he served as assistant curator for the Colorado State Historical Society. Dora married a major in the Colorado National Guard and it was to her son that Mollie Sanford willed her diary; he later saw to its publication. Virginia grew up to become a founder of the Littleton Historical Museum. After completing high school, she attended the University of Wyoming and later taught in Riverton, Wyoming for six years. She and her husband, George Smyth, settled in Littleton in 1940, eventually moving to the Sanford ranch.

On January 4, 1915, Mollie Sanford, aged 76, passed away, a few months after the death of her husband Byron on November 26, 1914.


Littleton (Colo. ) Independent. The Littleton Independent Publishers, 1888-

Littleton Museum. Vertical File: Sanford.

Rocky Mountain News. Denver: Rocky Mountain News.

Sanford, Mollie. Mollie: The Journal of Mollie Dorsey Sanford in Nebraska & Colorado Territories, 1857-1866. University of Nebraska Press, 1959.

Photographs courtesy of the Littleton Museum unless otherwise noted. To order copies, contact the museum at 303-795-3950.


Compiled by Rebecca Dorward and Phyllis Larison

Updated April 2021 by Phyllis Larison