ANTONITO — There is an interesting story behind the people who built the mansion, soon to be home to Antonito town government. Fred B. Warshauer will remain a legend in this small town, and records show he joined W.F. McClure in Warshauer-McClure Sheep Co and made it a success. Principals of the company were Warshauer, president, W.F. McClure, secretary-treasurer, and Charles A. Webb.
At age 20, he came to town from Germany, speaking little English and became involved with the Edoldt Merchantile, which was open from 5 a.m. to midnight daily. He slept on the counter when the store was closed and learned to speak English and Spanish. In 1889, he went into business for himself as a real estate and loan agent, rising to prominence socially, politically and economically in the region.
He married Canadian emigrant Ella Denning on April 15, 1890 in Denver and purchased a store building in Conejos the same year, planning to sell general merchandise.
Instead, he established himself in banking, lumbering and raising hogs, but it was sheep raising that eventually brought his greatest prominence. His sheep interests eventually monopolized markets in Conejos and surrounding counties and, in 1912 he commissioned George F. Harvey to design his elegant mansion.
Built on a huge scale, with the distinctly European design and the exquisite attention to detail work, the structure is an outstanding visual landmark.
Two children were born to Fred and Ella, Grace in 1892 and Frederick Benjamin Warshauer III in 1895.
Ella was born in 1870 and died in 1944 at Del Norte. Young Fred died in 1931 and his widow, Ruth, lived to 1982.
There is no record of Grace’s demise. She eventually married Kenneth McGregor, bookkeeper of Warshauer-Mc Clure Sheep Co.
Fred Senior’s death in May 1913 apparently came as a surprise.
The Alamosa Journal reported in its May 23, 1913 edition that Warshauer was well liked and his death rippled throughout the state, but he suffered an illness that made him sad over problems that didn’t exist.
By 1912, he had discovered large profits in the sheep and wool business and newspaper reports at the time said he was “a millionaire,” big money at the time. He commissioned the building of a mansion in Antonito and planned it according to his interests.
The largest room has elegant murals, a fireplace and walls of shelves. Self-educated, Fred loved books and reading.
On the day of his death, he left his home in the mansion to visit some farm and ranch lands in Conejos County and Ella called her aunt to report that he was improving. He had suffered a mental and physical breakdown, which yielded melancholia and temporary despondence.
By evening, a search party found him in a machinery building on his ranch, with a bullet hole in his right temple and a handgun nearby. A later coroner’s investigation determined it was suicide. He left a sizeable fortune to his survivors and several companies.
The sheep business continued and, in 1928, its name was changed to Warshauer Sheep and Wool Co.
While survivors are scattered, Fred Warshauer’s fame will continue in Antonito’s plans for the mansion he built as part of his plans for the area.