Located in the heart of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Hornbek Homestead is nestled amid a rich, prehistoric archeological park built 35 million years ago over successive volcanic eruptions that trapped plant and animal remains in shale layers of what was then a large lake and redwood forest. Today, things have changed substantially. The park is dominated by more sparse grassy valleys—the kind that are ideal for ranches and homesteading.
The Hornbek Homestead is the legacy of Adeline Hornbek (née Warfield), an exceedingly resourceful woman who claimed land under the Homestead Act and moved to the valley south of Florissant in the 1870s with her four children. Born in 1833 in Massachusetts, Hornbek married wealthy businessman Simon A. Harker at 25 and moved in 1861 to the Colorado territory along the South Platte River, known then for possessing a healthful climate, in part to address her husband’s chronic illness. When Harker died in 1864, Adeline faced a hard life alone as a single mother on the frontier. She thrived, selling crops and livestock to burgeoning Denver; by 1870, she had purchased 80 acres and married a second time to Elliott Hornbek.
Five years later, Elliott Hornbek disappeared for reasons that are unknown even today. Adeline left her homestead along the South Platte and didn’t surface again until 1878, when she began to build a ranch in the Florissant Valley at the present-day site in Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Build she did: her homestead consisted of a two-story, four-bedroom log house with glass windows that was decorated with Victorian furnishings, the only of its kind in Florissant Valley at the time. The homestead complex included a milk house, a chicken house, and stables. She found employment at a general store, Florissant Mercantile, served on the school board, and became a prominent member of the Florissant community. At 66, she remarried a second time to Frederick Sticksel, perhaps one of her employees. She died on June 27, 1905.
In addition to her strong legacy, Hornbek leaves behind her historic ranch. On occasion, depending on the staffing levels at Florissant Fossil Beds, ranger-guided tours of the homestead are available. Visitors are free to explore the ranch and its relics on their own at any time.