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America’s oldest homes are not in Pennsylvania

Letter by Jeanne Englert

History – September 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

America’s oldest homes are not in Pennsylvania


In reading Ed Quillen’s excellent essay, “George Washington Never Slept Here” in the August edition of Colorado Central, I was surprised at his oversight in omitting daughter Columbine’s experience at Salida High School.

Nothing I can think of could be more illustrative of Quillen’s thesis about the Eastern seaboard mentality of history than what happened to his daughter. The assignment was to do a research project about colonial America. Columbine wrote about Santa Fé women, back when Santa Fé was a colony of Spain.

Columbine included some wonderful juicy details about fandangos and their penchant to strut their stuff, including exposing their breasts.

The teacher gave Columbine an “F.” The teacher said Columbine had misdefined the assignment, which the teacher assumed was to write about colonial America, i.e. Boston pilgrims.

Ed had to go to Columbine’s defense by meeting with the teacher. Anything wrong with the kid’s research? he asks. The teacher said no, that Columbine had documented the statements in her report. Was the resulting product well-written? Dad Quillen asks. Well, yeah. So what’s the problem?

Columbine didn’t do the assignment, which was to write about colonial America. So Quillen had to explain that it wasn’t just the Brits who colonized our country. Columbine thus got a revised grade of “A.”

I’d like to add a couple examples of my own. One is that I grew up in Aspen, which was originally called Ute City, but I didn’t know that we still have Utes in Colorado until I read a book about them by Hal Borland, When the Legends Die, in college.

The other example, which I should be embarrassed about, but am perversely proud of, is my spontaneous outburst when my dam-fighting Durango colleague and I went to Pennsylvania to visit her Pennsylvania relatives after one of our many forays to Washington, DC, to stop that boondoggle reclamation water project in Southwestern Colorado.

Among the places we visited — Valley Forge, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the original U.S. Supreme Court building — was this little lane in Philadelphia with a bunch of row houses. There, one of these volunteer ladies, wearing their quaint pilgrim costumes, said that these row houses are the oldest, continuously occupied houses in America.

“Oh no,” I blurted out, to the embarrassment of my colleague’s mother. “You are wrong. It’s Ácoma, New Mexico.”

Jeanne W. Englert Lafayette, Colo.