Editor’s Note: This story was provided by Captain Bevo. Frank Miller was the person driving the stagecoach on a recent Where in Fort Collins Picture.
Frank Miller with Buffalo Bill Cody's show
Buffalo Bill at the Trails End Ranch
Fair Store in the MIller Building
Frank Miller Artwork of Fort Collins
Franks Tame Elk named 7up
Frank, a Danish immigrant, came to Fort Collins from the mining town of Black Hawk in 1882. In 1888 he started building what is called the Miller Building-later known as the area called the Miller block in old town, which was finished by 1894. It was designed to house Miller’s Liquor Business and a dry goods store called The Fair Store, which served the community for 52 years. Miller’s Liquor Business disappeared in 1896 when the town went dry.
Frank was a part of Buffalo Bills Wild West Show as a trick shooter during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He traveled the country with the show and he and Bill became very good friends. Buffalo Bill sold the stagecoach to Frank Miller which is housed in the museum. The stagecoach was used in the WILD WEST show. Frank used the stage in parades and other Fort Collins events. The stage was later given to the city of Fort Collins.
In 1920 Frank Miller came back home to Larimer County and purchased the Trail’s End Ranch. The ranch is located at the end of Trail Creek, part of the North Fork of the Cache La Poudre River, and is overlooked by local landmark, Turkey Roost mountain. Frank spent $100,000 developing the ranch into a guest ranch that had a wild animal zoo and a wild west show.
The ranch had over 1,400 different kinds of animals. There were both domestic and exotic animals, many that were tame and could be handled and even considered pets: buffalo, mountain lions, raccoons, deer, skunks, bears. It was considered the largest private zoo in the world, and the only wild west zoo in America.
Most of the animals had names. Frank could call from a quarter of a mile away and his pets would come running. The animals were spoiled. Frank would feed them sugar when they did a trick, particularly the bears. Frank’s favorite pet bear went with him everywhere. Frank would take him for a ride in his car, cruisin’ College Avenue. Frank taught the bear many tricks to entertain his guests at the ranch, even to drink beer out of a bottle.
Frank Miller’s ranch was known all over the country, and people would not only come from Ft. Collins, and Estes Park, and Denver, but from all across the nation. Frank was a very popular host and was great at entertaining. In 1925 more than 10,000 people visited Frank’s ranch, including people from 25 foreign countries. Many famous people, like Will Rogers, and actors and actresses, were guests of “Frank’s”.
Frank was also an artist and did many old west scenes. A sample is the picture of old fort collins posted here.
Frank died in 1953 in Fort Collins at the age of 87. Portions of the ranch, including the main buildings, were purchased by Wayne and Phyllis Schrader (of Schrader Oil) in 1981.
Frank and his Bear Pepper
Trails End Guest House mid 80's
Trails End Rock Wall and Fence mid 80's
Trails End Main House mid 80's