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Dossier: Dewey W. Strong, North Brighton Founder

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Sleuthing Brighton Colorado, with a full Investigative Report by the Brighton History Detective®(aka Robin Kring)

Case Number: 00002, Identify Mural Subject

Mural Location: “Historic Brighton at Founders Plaza” by Hans Joseph Geist

Subject Identified Dewey W. Strong, Founder of North Brighton Suburb

DEWEY W. STRONG (1848-1923 ) is often called the founder of North Brighton for his filing of some of the earliest plats north of Bridge St. on Nov. 10, 1882, just 21 months after Carmichael’s filing of the first Brighton subdivision (located south of Bridge St.). Strong, a Fort Lupton farmer, is considered Brighton’s first permanent merchant after moving, on June 6, 1882, a small house from his Weld County farm to a location fronting the railroad, for operating as a general store.

A Brighton Register editor described Strong as one who “took a lively interest in public matters and did all in his power to promote the welfare of the community.” Strong was influential in Brighton’s industrial and general development early in her history (at a time when the population count was 175 people), first serving as a commissioner overseeing the town’s incorporation election. After Brighton was incorporated as a town on July 26, 1887, he served on the first Board of Trustees. Strong would serve as Postmaster (1884 to 1886) and was also elected as Brighton’s eighth mayor in 1889. (Dewey’s older brother Emory Strong was Brighton’s first mayor.)

Dewey Strong was a Master Mason and charter member of Brighton Lodge No. 78, A.F. & A.M., established in 1890. He was the first person initiated into the Order of the Eastern Star. He was also connected with the Odd Fellows and active in the Colorado Fair Association. He served as an officer of the First National Bank and owned shares in the Brighton Creamery Co. As a supporter of the silver standard in 1896, he ran as a candidate of silver republicans for legislature.

Brighton’s First Permanent Merchant

In 1883, within a year after Strong started his general store (which some sources say also operated as a saloon and Brighton’s first drug store), Strong built a larger building on the northwest corner of Division St. (later known as Main St.) and Strong St., where he and his family would also live on the second floor. His business flourished into a prominent and profitable dry-goods trade and in 1884 Strong and his former dairy-business partner, J.C. Twombly, built a larger building at the site of present-day 45 N. Main St., forming the Strong-Twombly Mercantile Co. The mercantile would serve as a grocery, hardware store, meat market, and Post Office. After some various and interim ownership interest assignments, by 1904 the business was operating as the Strong Mercantile Co. Strong served as president and active manager of the Strong stores from 1882 until his death in 1923.

The Strong Mercantile building (b. 1884) is still standing today at the site of today’s 101 N. Main St., having seen new owners and transformations into a Ben Franklin Store and the Old Town Shops (incl. today’s La Estralita Mexican Restaurant). Strong’s second building (b. 1883) has also survived, having first found new life as the millinery store (later the Ladies Toggery) by the Dolton sisters, Maude and Mabel. It was later moved to the site of today’s 301 N. Main St., currently the Imagen Salon. (Portions of the original building, now covered with a new front façade, can be seen from the backside of the building.)

The Prospering of the North Subdivision

Strong platted his subdivision north of Bridge St., naming it North Brighton. The plat consisted of four blocks with Division St. (later named Main St. and N. Main St.) in the center stretching north from Bridge to the (westward curvature) of the railroad tracks on the north. An alley bordered on the west (now N. 1st Ave.) and the railroad tracks bordered on the east (along what is now N. Cabbage Ave.). A street crossing Division St., west to east, was named “Strong” in honor of the North Subdivision founder.

The North Brighton subdivision would house a variety of shops, factories, and residential houses. There were the typical and ever-changing main street shops selling goods and services, including one or more: mercantiles, barbers, saloons, jewelers, groceries, hardware, bakeries, and more. Factories and residential houses were also interspersed between the various shops, such as the Brighton Creamery, Colorado Marvel Mills, S.M. Stouffer Lumber Yard, and a residence Strong later built for his family. The Brighton Armory is also located in this subdivision. Late 1800s Division St. would grow with additional and changing resources, while its face metamorphosed from dirt roads and boardwalks, dotted with hitching posts, to Brighton’s Main Street (1920s era) of the new motor-car age, bustling with progress wrapped in small-town charm.

The street-layout planning strategies of the Strong and Carmichael subdivisions differed slightly. Whereas Carmichael’s streets were laid out on compass points, Strong’s followed the landscape and existing man-made features, such as the railroad. Despite local lore hinting that the differences were concerted efforts planned as competitive interferences, it wasn’t that unusual during this timeframe for community planning to differ or evolve over time. The original plat filings of Denver, Auraria, and Highlands followed the Platte River and later plats and subdivisions followed the compass points. Strong’s North Subdivision, together with Carmichael’s Brighton Subdivision, were together placed on Brighton’s Local Register as a historic district on Dec. 19, 1917.

A Main St. House and its Family

After building a larger mercantile building in 1884, Strong built his family a house on the corner of Division St. and Bridge St. It was in this Strong home that First Presbyterian Church members initially met to make plans for building the congregation’s first permanent building in 1886 at 147 South 1st Ave. The church building is still standing today, on land donated by Daniel Carmichael. Mr. Strong served as an elder and trustee of the church for 26 years and was the superintendent of the Sunday school. A window installed in the church, contains a dedication to him and his service. Mrs. Strong was a Sunday school teacher and the president of the Ladies Aid Society, an organization working for the purpose of the beautification and improvement of the church building and grounds.

Dewey and Nancy had two children. Son Arthur J. was born in 1881, after the couple moved to Colorado. The couple would later expand their family by adopting a sixteen-year-old daughter, Myrtal Mae, when Arthur was six. Dewey and Nancy enjoyed a long marriage, celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1922.

Strong moved his family’s house west to 105 Bridge St., around 1916, to make room for the First National Bank building. The moved house was later occupied by Dr. U.K. Kiefer and his family from 1946 to 1954, where he also ran his veterinary business. The house was torn down in the 1960s to build the Brighton Professional Building.

From Boy to Teacher to Mercantile Proprietor

Strong’s life accomplishments would follow a similar path as his family before him. His father, Clark R. Strong, also ran a mercantile and his grandfather, John Strong, platted and named the town of Strongsville, Ohio. Dewey W. Strong was born in his namesake town on July 28, 1848. Dewey’s father died when he was 5 yrs. old and he went to live with older brother Emory Strong in Hillsdale, Michigan. Dewey attended the preparatory department of Oberlin college for two years, taking business courses, after which he went to Indiana where he taught school for two years. He spent the next two years as an insurance agent in Ohio and then went to Illinois where in 1872, while working in a general store, he met and married his wife, Nancy Roseborough.

The Healing of Mountain Air and Farming

Strong came to Colorado in May, 1873 from Ohio with his wife, Nancy, to heal his failing health. After a year in Denver and the mountains, he regained his health and credited his recovery to the outdoor exercise of farming. He had located a homestead in Weld County, where he farmed 160 acres, stocked with cattle. He also started a profitable dairy business with his partner, J.D. Twombly, and it was here he also took an interest in the Fulton Ditch Irrigating Co. in nearby Brighton.

Saying Good-bye to “A Man of Sterling Worth and Character”

Brighton lost a good friend and founder when Dewey W. Strong died on Feb. 18, 1923 in Arizona, while Dewey and Nancy were on the start of a trip to Arizona and Southern California. Although observed previously to have been in good health, it was reported that he had suffered a severe attack of pneumonia two years previously. His son Arthur and his wife Daisy traveled to Arizona after receiving a telegram of his “serious illness.” The family returned to Brighton after his Dewey’s death and his funeral was held at 2:30 o’clock on Feb. 21, 1923 at the Presbyterian Church. Pall bearers included G.B. Kinsey, S.F. Eaton, T.J. Chancellor, W.J. Gilbert, A.M. Moir, and of course his business partner Mr. J.C. Twombly. His Brighton Blade obituary credited Strong with “taking a lively interest in public matters and did all in his power to promote the welfare of the community.”

©2019-2023 Robin Kring, including excerpts from A Stroll through Elmwood

Discover More About the Artist and the Detective

Learn more about the Artist, Hans Joseph Geist, behind the Historic Brighton at Founders Plaza mural, in the Brighton History Detective® dossier: The Case of the New Mural and its Artist (Hans Joseph Geist). See more of Hans art at: Art by Hans Geist on Facebook.

Find more Investigative Case Reports, by Brighton History Detective®, each revealing the identity of one of the 20 intriguing Brighton characters and places, painted on the mural. Investigate the sleuthing and writing stories of yesteryear, mystery, and intrigue on the Clear Creek Publishing Authors Blog site, including: New Fiction, Victoriana, Event Planning Extraordinaire, Colorado History, and Cemetery Chats.

The Historic Brighton at Founders Plaza mural is located on the southwest corner of Main St. and Bridge St., in Brighton, Colorado. The mural is a project of the Brighton Cultural Arts Commission, whose mission is to increase arts and culture awareness and promote cultural and scientific opportunities in our community. It has been made possible with funding from the SCFD and Brighton Lodging Tax Grants.

®Brighton History Detective is a registered trademark of Clear Creek Publishing.

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