F.I. Davis was Berthoud’s first mayor

By Mark French

The Surveyor

On Sept. 28, 2019, an event was held in Fickel Park to honor former Berthoud Mayor Dick Strachan. No Berthoud mayor came close to holding the office as long as Strachan, who served 20 years during a period from 1976 to 2000. Berthoud realtor Elmer Stepp was second in longevity with 11 years of service from 1925 to 1936. Banker John Bunyan held the office for 10 years from 1904 to 1914.

Photo courtesy of Berthoud Historical Society –
In 1888 Franklin Irving “F.I.” Davis was elected Berthoud’s first mayor. Davis, a member of Berthoud’s Masonic lodge, was also partner in a hardware store located at the northwest corner of Third Street and Massachusetts Avenue (no longer standing).

Berthoud’s first mayor was Franklin Irving “F.I.” Davis. Along with business partner Fred Hartford, Davis operated a general hardware store at the northwest corner of Third Street and Massachusetts Avenue.

On July 17, 1888, 30 of 31 eligible voters approved the incorporation of the Town of Berthoud. In September Davis was elected first Berthoud mayor along with trustees John Munson, Andy Fairbairn, Frank Crane, Peter Turner, Matt Rowan and L.H. Kelly. In the election Berthoud’s voters also voted to prohibit the sale of alcohol within the town limits by a margin of 23 to 15 votes. 

Days after Davis’ election the Davis & Hartford hardware store burned to the ground in the town’s first major conflagration. The general store was quickly rebuilt and the Town of Berthoud authorized the purchase of a hose carriage and fire hose as one of its first expenditures. In 1889 a hose house for storing firefighting equipment was constructed on the east side of the 500 block of present-day Fourth Street. An upstairs room in the frame building was used as Berthoud’s first town hall.

Frank Crane, Arthur F. Brown, Dan Mahan, William Clark, Dr. D.W. McCarty and blacksmith Alfred G. Bimson followed F.I. Davis as mayor in the 1890s. A dry goods merchant named Duncan May was elected to the office in April 1900. 

Dr. Joseph B. Clymer followed May and preceded banker John Bunyan as Berthoud’s mayor. Bunyan was elected in April 1904 and held the office until 1910 when he departed town politics to prepare for the presidency of the Berthoud National Bank, a position to which he ascended in 1912. Bunyan paid close attention to Berthoud’s municipal water supply, a system he considered unsuitable. Prior to his death in 1965 Bunyan made gifts of Bethlehem Steel Corporation stock to the Town of Berthoud that was earmarked for the rebuilding of the town’s water and sewage disposal systems.  

John Shull, H.D. Williams, Mike Johnson and Morley Fairbairn held the mayoral office until April 1925 when Elmer Stepp of the Berthoud Realty Company was elected mayor. Before moving into the town Stepp had been engaged in farming and livestock feeding near Berthoud. Stepp served 11 years as mayor in addition to sitting on the local school board for 24 years. In 1920 Stepp built the house at the southwest corner of Seventh Street and Massachusetts Avenue that currently serves as the residence of former Mayor Strachan.

Subsequent mayors included Ovid Ludlow, Linn McKanna. Albert Sampson, Vern Cady, L.K. Fudge, O.D. Mayo, Tom Bein, H.E. Waring and Dr. R.B. Fickel. Strachan, the honoree in September, was elected in April 1976 and then again in 1988. Thomas Fellows held the office between Strachan’s terms.

Since April 2000 Berthoud’s mayoral office has been held by Milan Karspeck, Tom Patterson, David Gregg, Steve Mulvihill and Will Karspeck. While several women have served as town trustees, none have been elected to the mayor’s office.

While every mayor leaves fingerprints on the town, those who serve longest generally have the most impact. That was the case with Davis, Bunyan, Stepp and Strachan, who guided Berthoud for more than a decade each.

Thanks to former mayor Milan Karspeck for information and dates on Berthoud mayoral terms.

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