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Identifier: WH1195


The papers range from 1824 to 2012. Correspondence, manuscripts of plays, poetry and prose books, diaries, scrapbooks and photographs comprise the collection. The bulk of the papers belonged to Thomas Hornsby Ferril. Papers of other family members are also included.

The series are arranged chronologically by family member. Within each series, arrangement of material varies according to the type of material. For example, financial papers are arranged chronologically and correspondence is arranged alphabetically. Research notebooks containing numerous scattered entries are arranged chronologically while papers relating to speaking engagements are arranged alphabetically by the names of the institutions.


Correspondence, financial ledgers and reports document the Thomas Johnson (T.J.) Ferril's career as a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Two financial ledgers provide evidence of the store that he co-owned with his father-in-law, Brinkley Hornsby, just outside of Lawrence, Kansas before the Civil War. Using some pages of the ledgers as diaries, Ferril wrote of his ministerial life and the impact of the Civil War upon Kansas. Limited correspondence from family and friends give insight into his personal life. His correspondence to his son, William Columbus Ferril, is contained in Series 2.


The series contains articles in published and draft form written by William Ferril during his stint as a newspaperman. Correspondence and birdwatching journals for locations across Colorado document Ferril's years as the first curator of the Colorado Historical Society. The Rocky Mountain Herald papers include newspaper clippings and legal notices. Short stories, novels and articles comprise the bulk of William Ferril's professional correspondence along with research to support his writing. Genealogy constitutes the topic of most personal correspondence along with family tree drafts, notes and writings describing the history of his family.


Correspondence between William C. Ferril and Alice MacHarg Ferril detail their courtship and the first years of marriage. The bulk of the letters consist of those from Alice to William Ferril. She describes life in late nineteenth century Rome, New York for an upper-middle-class family, along with her experiences as a new wife and young mother.


Personal papers comprising this series include correspondence, organizational yearbooks and financial papers. Alice Ferril's address books and diaries constitute a portion of the series as well as her poetry.


The papers in this series detail Thomas Hornsby Ferril's life from his childhood to his death in 1988. Correspondence, newspaper clippings, pamphlets and manuscripts comprise his professional papers. Poetry manuscripts trace his writing from rough first draft to a final, polished poem. Dates show that Ferril returned to his early poetry in later years and continued the rewriting process, always seeking a better word or phrase. Through his poetry and through his work as a columnist for The Rocky Mountain Herald, Ferril became acquainted with the major literary figures of the twentieth century. His professional literary correspondence reveals the breadth of his friendships.

As publicity director for Great Western Sugar Company for over forty years, Ferril produced many company publications, artwork, articles and much correspondence. This series contains correspondence mostly dated after his retirement in 1968 as he tracked happenings at his former company.

Thomas Hornsby Ferril as a speaker is evidenced by the correspondence, programs, speech transcripts and flyers concerning the institutions that requested his services. Correspondence and newspaper clippings indicate that he also attended sessions presented by other speakers and participated in the proceedings.

Ferril kept personal diaries for sixty-six years that contain entries scattered throughout the volumes. Although not every page has an entry, there are considerable writings chronicling his life, providing a picture of life in Denver from the 1920s though the 1980s. Some of the major topics and people described in the diaries are included in the descriptions. Visits from notables like Dorothy Parker, Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost and Thomas Wolfe receive mention and are indexed on note cards prepared by Ferril.


Their correspondence comprises this series. Thomas Hornsby Ferril also relates the life of a police reporter and drama critic in Denver while Helen Ferril describes her life as a student nurse at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago during the 1918-1920 influenza epidemic and afterwards.


This series contains papers relating to Helen Ray Ferril from her Ohio childhood to her death in Denver. It includes correspondence between her family and friends and her and school papers from high school through college and nursing school. Drafts of her Guides to Indoor Bird-Watching illustrated by her daughter, Anne Folsom, comprise a portion of the collection. Helen Ray Ferril owned and edited The Rocky Mountain Herald. Her Rocky Mountain Herald papers are included in her husband's, Thomas Hornsby Ferril's, series to keep the newspaper collection intact.

SERIES 8 LUCY FERRIL ELA 1896-1981 BOX 50-51

School papers, correspondence and scrapbooks primarily from Lucy Ela's early life comprise this series. Correspondence and documents of her husband and children constitute a portion of the series.


Correspondence, financial and legal papers chronicle the marriage and legal problems surrounding Thomas Hornsby Ferril's sister until her death in 1935. Later correspondence depicts the lives of her three children: Patricia, William (Billy) and Frances.


Correspondence between George and Harriet Potter comprises this series. The changes in the relationship may be traced in the letters by tone and frequency.


This series includes drafts of Folsom's unpublished manuscripts as well as personal papers such as correspondence, an East Denver High School scrapbook, diaries, genealogy notes and passports. The research files contain notes on topics of interest to Folsom.


Correspondence between MacGregor and Anne Ferril Folsom form this series. MacGregor Folsom's correspondence during World War II describes his military experience in Asia. Later correspondence between the two provides insight into their family life.


This series contains artwork, correspondence and scrapbooks related to Thomas Hornsby Ferril's daughter, Anne Ferril Folsom. The "family, friends" subseries includes documents related to her daughters, Dana Folsom Milton and Cameron Folsom Olen and their families. Books illustrated by Anne Ferril Folsom are incorporated into the professional subseries of their authors, Thomas Hornsby Ferril and Helen Ray Ferril.

SERIES 14 SCRAPBOOKS 1853-1929 BOX 62-63

Scrapbooks containing works of Thomas Hornsby Ferril and his father, William C. Ferril, comprise this series. The many newspaper clippings included in the scrapbooks reflect the lives of the Ferril family and, also, the history of Denver. Samples of writing for newspapers comprise William C. Ferril's scrapbooks. Thomas Hornsby Ferril saved reviews of theater and movies in Denver from his time as a drama critic. Later, he included photographs, programs and other souvenirs of his life. Similar scrapbooks are enclosed in oversize boxes in Series 16 because of their sizes.

SERIES 15 EPHEMERA CIRCA 1875-1985 BOX 64-66

A black top hat, baby shoes, plaques and graduation hoods constitute the bulk of this series.

SERIES 16 OVERSIZE 1824-2012 OVBOX 1-11, OVFOLIO 1-8, OVFF 1-3

Scrapbooks comprise the bulk of this series. Original scrapbooks of William C. Ferril's early schooling and newspaper articles provide historical details of the West. Thomas Hornsby Ferril's 1919-1921 scrapbooks contain reviews of Denver theater including plays, opera and movies as well as memorabilia of his poetry career.


Audiocassette and reel-to-reel tapes constitute the bulk of this series with 16mm films and videotapes. The audiocassettes created by Ferril primarily during the 1970s contained poetry readings, mandolin playing and daily events in the form of a diary. Poetry readings and the play, Ferril, Etc., comprise the reel-to-reel tapes. One compact disc has various people reading the poems of Thomas Hornsby Ferril. The videotapes are made up of copies of television broadcasts featuring Ferril including the play Ferril, Etc., Thomas Hornsby Ferril, Five-Foot-Ten and ...And Not to Yield, a Manual High School production about old age.

Two 16mm films comprise a portion of the series providing examples of the works written, filmed and produced by Thomas Hornsby Ferril for the Great Western Sugar Company. A 33 1/3 sound recording includes Four Pastorales, music produced by Cecil Effinger for symphony orchestras based upon Thomas Hornsby Ferril poems. One 33 1/3 sound recording is unidentified.

An "intermittent switching" device, likely developed by Thomas Hornsby Ferril himself, is included and was used to make The GW Story, one of 16mm films.


The photographs that comprise this series portray family members ranging from the early 1800s to the 2000s. Because multiple generations are pictured, the images are arranged chronologically. A few photographs represent professional activities of the individuals and are arranged chronologically with the rest. Photographs include cyanotypes, contact sheets, black-and-white and color snapshots and other formats.

Most negatives correspond to the photographs, but many images are different and unique as negatives. The PhotoEnvelopes contain nitrate negatives that are stored in the freezer to prevent deterioration. Access to them requires permission of an archivist and advance notice.


  • 1896-1988

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


Thomas Johnson (T.J.) Ferril was born in 1831 to William (1798-1861) and Elizabeth Clemens (or Clemmens) Ferril (1805-1838) in Independence, Missouri. He was educated at a seminary in western Missouri. In 1854, Ferril owned a store (Hornsby's and Ferril) with his brother-in-law, Columbus Hornsby, and father-in-law, Brinkley Hornsby, near Lawrence, Kansas. In 1856, he served as Representative in the Kansas State Legislature. In 1861, as a Methodist Episcopal minister, he founded a church in Lawrence and rode a circuit for his church preaching and performing baptisms, marriages and funerals throughout Eastern Kansas. During the Civil War, Ferril was Chaplain for the 16th Regiment of the Kansas Volunteers. His church transferred him in 1862 to Mound City then to Baldwin City, Kansas where he co-founded Baker University. In 1867, he was transferred to the Missouri Conference. In 1878, he was transferred to Plattsburg, Missouri. He remained a Methodist Episcopal minister while acting as Chaplain for the Grand Army of the Republic.

Thomas Johnson Ferril was married three times. On February 14, 1854, he married Minerva Hornsby (1832-1861), daughter of Brinkley Hornsby (1801-1877) and Esther Ann Falls (1800-1843) whose son, Columbus Hornsby, partnered with Ferril in the store near Lawrence. The Ferrils had two surviving children while living in Kansas: William Columbus Ferril and Mary Alice (Allie) Ferril (Trice, Coffin, Trice), born about 1857 and died in 1948. Minerva Hornsby died in 1861. Thomas Johnson Ferril married Cleopatra E. Lynch (1837-1877) on November 30, 1863 and Sallie T. Woodson Cleaver (1840-1905) in 1887. He died January 29, 1906 in Kansas City at the home of his daughter, Mary Alice Trice.

William Columbus Ferril was born August 28, 1855 near Lawrence, Kansas. After 1867, he resided in Missouri. He attended Lewis College in Glasgow, Missouri, and North Missouri State Normal, Kirksville, Missouri, graduating in 1876. Obtaining a position as a school principal in Bentonville, Arkansas from 1876-1877, he studied law in his spare time. Admitted to the Missouri Bar, he moved to Kansas City to practice law in 1878. Concerned about his health, he moved to Colorado in 1879. In Silver Cliff, Colorado, he mined and then became a reporter and editor for local newspapers: The Miner, Prospect and Republican. For a time, he was editor and part owner of Silver Cliff Daily Herald. Eugene Field, who wrote for the Denver Tribune, convinced him to move to Denver, Colorado, in 1883. Ferril was city editor and wrote news articles for the Denver Republican, The Denver Times, Colorado Sun, Sun-Times and the Rocky Mountain News. He wrote independently for the Kellogg and Bacheller Syndicates, publishing articles nationally and was a correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Kansas City Journal, the San Francisco Call, the Helena Independent and the Portland Oregonian.

In 1896, the Colorado Historical Society (then called the State Historical and Natural History Society) hired Ferril as their first curator. He held this position until 1910, gathering plant specimens, noting bird observations throughout the state, giving talks to students and acquiring historical collections. He subscribed to many Colorado newspapers, creating a collection of early Colorado publications. Ferril served as secretary of the Colorado Academy of Sciences from 1898 to 1909. In 1911, he edited and published a book, Sketches of Colorado. In 1912, he bought The Rocky Mountain Herald, a local paper that published all required legal advertisements, thus assuring income without having to cater to either advertisers or readers. This allowed Ferril to write about what he most cared about, local history. Ferril remained editor until his death on August 16, 1939. The paper featured regular columns by Ferril and poetry and artwork by his wife, Alice, and son, Thomas Hornsby. During the last two years of his life Ferril worked on an unpublished novel.

A lifelong genealogist, William Ferril collected information about his family history. He took notes from various family Bibles and wrote his relatives to gather stories about ancestors. William Ferril married Alice Lawton MacHarg (1867-1962) of Rome, New York, December 12, 1888. They first lived in Denver at 6 La Veta Place, then at 1550 Lafayette Street, moving to 2123 Downing Street in 1900 to live with Alice's Aunt Joanna MacHarg Palmer, wife of mining engineer, John Palmer. Alice and William had three children; Lucy Brainerd Ferril Ela (1890-1991), Harriet Peckham Ferril Potter (1893-1935) and Thomas Hornsby Ferril (1896-1988).

Born May 27, 1867, Alice MacHarg Ferril was the daughter of fly fishing equipment manufacturer John MacHarg (1823-1899) and Susan Noble MacHarg (1879-1923) of Rome, New York. She first came to Denver in 1886 to visit her aunt Joanna Palmer (1834-1922). After her marriage and permanent move to Denver, Alice Ferril wrote poetry and created artwork, winning the University of Denver Margaret Evans prize in 1889 for charcoal drawing. Many of her illustrations and poems were included in The Rocky Mountain Herald. Alice Ferril had two sisters, Cora (Tenie) MacHarg Jarvis and Susan MacHarg, and a brother, John B. MacHarg, who taught in high schools, at Hamilton College in New York, and at the University of Wisconsin. John B. MacHarg later acted as consultant for Eastman Kodak. He was credited with developing a cardboard frame for slides. Alice Ferril died June 3, 1962 at her home on Downing Street in Denver.

The most prominent member of the family, Thomas Hornsby Ferril, was born in Denver, February 25, 1896. In 1900, he moved with his family to his Great-Aunt Joanna Palmer's house at 2123 Downing Street where he remained for the rest of his life, except during college and World War I military service. Attending school at Whittier Elementary and East High School, Thomas Hornsby Ferril was a good student, though distracted by a desire to write poetry. His first published poem was in a New York newspaper when he was nine years old and he was known to write poetry on scraps of paper. Even while attending Colorado College, he scribbled poetry in the margins of his textbooks. His poems were regularly published in his father's Rocky Mountain Herald. By the beginning of World War I, Ferril was also publishing poems in Literary Digest. He continued his writing of poems during his stint at the U.S. Army Artillery Radio Training School from 1917 to 1919.

Thomas Hornsby Ferril completed training in 1918 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He returned to Denver where, in 1919, he worked as a police reporter for The Denver Times. He became Dramatic Editor in 1920. He submitted weekly poems to the Rocky Mountain News. In 1921, he was hired as a movie and play critic by the independent Bishop-Cass Theatres Company.

Unsure of his future, Thomas Hornsby Ferril searched for employment that would provide enough income to support his family. A Cactus Club friend, William Lippitt, hired him to work for Great Western Sugar Company as publicity director from 1926 to 1968. He wrote, published and edited newsletters and yearbooks as well as filmed, produced and wrote the scripts for numerous motion pictures to promote the company.

In the meantime, Thomas Hornsby Ferril continued to write poetry. His first book, High Passage, was published by Yale University Press in 1926. In 1927, he won The Nation's poetry prize. Ferril published five more poetry books: Westering (1934), Trial by Time (1942), New and Selected Poems (1952), Words for Denver (1966), and Anvil of Roses (1982). He also published two prose books: I Hate Thursday (1946) and The Rocky Mountain Herald Reader (co-authored with Helen Ferril) in1966.

Thomas Hornsby Ferril taught The Writing and Appreciation of Poetry at the University of Denver from 1935 into the 1940s. He wrote a column entitled Western Half-Acre for Harper's in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1973, the Rocky Mountain News hired him to write occasional columns.

When William C. Ferril died in 1939, he left The Rocky Mountain Herald to Helen Ferril, Thomas Hornsby Ferril's wife. She managed the legal advertising and wrote columns and articles for the front page. Thomas Hornsby Ferril wrote a weekly column under the pen name "Childe Herald" and numerous articles for the publication from 1939 until 1972. As the paper's main source of income was legal advertisements, Ferril was free to write about whatever interested him at any given point of time. He called his columns "time capsules" and many became journalistic classics.

Thomas Hornsby Ferril received wide recognition for his poetry and for his columns and articles. His play in verse, ...And Perhaps Happiness, received a $10,000 Denver Post prize in 1957. It was produced (though partially rewritten by others) as a play at the Central City Opera House in 1958. In 1960, he received the first Robert Frost award for poetry from the Poetry Society of America. In 1979, Governor Richard Lamm appointed him Poet Laureate of Colorado. He was sought after as a speaker as well as a poetry teacher. His home at 2123 Downing Street was designated a Denver Landmark in 1973 and a National Historic Landmark in 1978. After Ferril's death, his daughter sold his home to Historic Denver for one dollar. (In 2011, the Ferril House was owned by Colorado Humanities who explored selling the building.)

Thomas Hornsby Ferril married Helen Drury Ray October 5, 1921 in Granville, Ohio. They had one child, a daughter, Anne Milroy Ferril (Folsom), in 1922 in Denver. Thomas Hornsby Ferril died on October 1988 at the age of 92.

Helen Drury Ray Ferril was born October 31, 1897 in Columbus, Ohio to Franklin A. Ray (1862-1938), professor of Mining Engineering at Ohio State University and Pauline Ray (Zaugg) who trained as a nurse. Helen Ray Ferril attended Denison University at Granville, Ohio, majoring in voice (light opera). After graduation, she attended Nursing School at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago, graduating as a Registered Nurse in 1920. After her wedding with Thomas Hornsby Ferril, she resided in Denver, joining many local organizations until she became owner and editor of The Rocky Mountain Herald. In addition to co-authoring The Rocky Mountain Herald Reader in 1966, Helen Ferril published two editions of The Indoor Bird Watcher's Manual illustrated by her daughter, Anne Ferril Folsom. After a series of strokes and many years of ill health, Helen Ferril died February 22, 1978 in Denver.

Lucy Ferril Ela, Thomas Hornsby Ferril's oldest sister, was born in Rome, New York, in 1890. She attended Denver's East High School and Colorado College. Lucy Ferril married Wendell Dennett (Dent) Ela (1890-1959) on June 15, 1914 in Denver. They lived in Grand Junction, Colorado where "Dent" Ela managed a bank and served as Mayor for one term during the 1950s. Their sons were: Dennett Keith Ela (1915-2005); Wendell Phillips Ela (who died while serving during World War II in 1945 on Okinawa, Japan); Thomas F. Ela (1917-2003); William M. Ela (about 1924- ) and Charles S. Ela (about 1929- ) . Wendell (Dent) Ela died in 1959. Lucy Ela died in 1991.

Thomas Hornsby Ferril's other sister, Harriett, was born in Denver in 1893. She attended East High School graduating in 1909 and graduated from Colorado College in 1915. She married George Potter (1891-1979) from Lafayette, Indiana April 9, 1918. George Potter's parents were wealthy, but never trusted their only son to manage money. George and Harriet Potter had three children, Patricia, William and Frances. George Potter's father, William Potter, died in 1929. He appointed George as his executor. Frances Potter, George's mother, entrusted him briefly with her fortune, but George angered her by denying her personal use of her money. When Frances Potter died in 1932, she left her fortune to her daughter-in-law, Harriet, and the children. George sued to break the will. He did not succeed legally, but weakened Harriet's health. She died on February 11, 1935 in Lafayette, Indiana. Afterwards, the three children struggled to continue relationships with their uncle, Thomas Hornsby Ferril.

Anne Milroy Ferril was born August 12, 1922 in Denver to Thomas and Helen. She attended Graland School, Kent Academy and the University of Colorado, graduating in 1942. She married MacGregor Folsom in 1941 while attending the University of Colorado.

MacGregor Folsom was born in Denver March 4, 1919 to Harold Folsom (about 1876-1931) and Priscilla Violet Pilgrim Folsom (1895-1968). The couple moved to Colorado after a scandal of an illegitimate baby and his divorce in New Hampshire where Harold Folsom had been rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Portsmouth. Harold Folsom became a teacher at West Denver High School. MacGregor Folsom had three brothers, Robert Brayman, Thomas Folsom and Morrill (Junie) Folsom.

MacGregor Folsom attended East High School, graduating in 1936. He worked for a year and attended the University of Colorado, graduating in 1942. During World War II, he served in India, Burma and China as a Medical Administrative Captain in the Army Air Corps. After the war, he worked for The Rocky Mountain Herald. In 1946, he moved to New York City where he worked on the editorial staff of the Publishers' Weekly and the American Publishing Council from 1946 to 1950. He also received a Master's Degree and studied for a Ph.D. in American History at Columbia University. In 1951, he moved to California. In Berkeley, Folsom worked for the Industrial Insurance Company. He retired at age 55 as a vice-president. He wrote five unpublished books; Strike Through the Mask; Ishmael's Journey, semi-autobiographical fiction; The Historical Imagination; High Road to Chittagong; and An Almanac of Endings.

Anne Ferril Folsom illustrated her father's I Hate Thursday in 1946. She collaborated on the two editions of Indoor Guide to Bird-Watching, published The Care and Training of Husbands in 1950 and, in 1976, published The American Bestiary. She also had numerous exhibitions of her artwork and jewelry and frequently sold illustrations and articles to journals.

Anne and MacGregor Folsom had two daughters, Cameron Folsom (Olen) and Dana Folsom (Milton). They divorced in 1982. Afterwards, Anne Folsom lived with Garth Hite. MacGregor Folsom returned to Denver in 1981. He married Else Willett on March 12, 1983. They lived in Evergreen, Colorado, moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1998. MacGregor Folsom died October 31, 2007 in Santa Fe. Anne Ferril Folsom died June 18, 2008 in Berkeley, California.


66 Boxes

11 OVBoxes

3 AVBoxes

10 PhotoBoxes

5 reels ilm (Mflm 206)

8 OVFolios


1 AVEnvelope

5 Photo OVBoxes

2 PhotoOVFF

35 PhotoEnvelopes

Language of Materials



Thomas Hornsby Ferril donated eight volumes of William C. Ferril's scrapbooks in 1974. Anne Ferril Folsom donated materials from 1989 to 1994. Cameron Olen donated materials in 1997, 2000 and 2010. Maggie Coval donated materials in 2012.


The Western History/Genealogy Department has additional collections with material related to the Thomas Hornsby Ferril and Family Papers, including:

Oral History by Anne Ferril Folsom OH193

Thomas Hornsby Ferril by Trusky, Tom, dissertation 811 F416ztru

Index to Thomas Hornsby Ferril's Childe Herald column in the Rocky Mountain Herald, 1939-1972 C071.88 F416ch INDEX

Thomas Hornsby Ferril, One Mile Five Foot Ten (videotape) C811 F416ztho VIDEO CASSETTE

The Poetry of Thomas Hornsby Ferril. by Richards, Robert Fulton. Thesis, Columbia University C811 F416zri 1960

Alien Myth and Natural Myth in the Poetry of Thomas Hornsby Ferril by Saucerman, James R., Western Literature Association paper C811 F416zsau 1978

Four Pastorales by Effinger, Cecil, 1914-1990, sound recording C CLASSIC E27fo SOUND RECORD

An exact copy of the gift presented to Pope John Paul II by the City of Denver, August, 1993 by Ashley, David L. (Hand lettered copy of poem Two Rivers, by Thomas Hornsby Ferril, with first edition copy of his New and Selected Poems C978 A826ex

The Challenge of the Pioneer Spirit by Ferril, Thomas Hornsby, speech on the occasion of the dedication of the new Denver Public Library C027.4 D433fe

Marilyn Griggs Riley papers, 1972-2008 WH2101

Symphony for Chorus and Orchestra by Effinger, Cecil C785.1154 E27sy SCORE

Silverheels by Kreutz, Robert E. C782.5 K887si SCORE


Ann Brown, 2012. Becky Geller, March 2015


Ellen Zazzarino Abby Hoverstock

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States