Priscilla Mangnall
Grand Junction Free Press History Columnist

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March 7, 2012
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PRISCILLA'S COLUMN: Honoring the Three Sisters

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - We've always had the Three Sisters, another one of the Grand Valley's remarkable geographical landmarks that's been part of our lives and our growing up. Story goes, Larry's Meens' grandmother, Ona Jane Meens, named the Three Sisters way back in the early '20s when her husband, A.W. Meens, built "the castle" to the east of the iconic hills that were in her backyard. As any good Baptist woman might do, she christened them Faith, Hope and Charity.

I think most of us have come up with our own names. I know that as a child, daddy would be driving some out-of-town guests up to the Colorado National Monument for a sightseeing picnic and we would point them out and call them Becky, Priscilla and depending which Kansas cousin was in the car, Cindy, Zona, Jill, Jeannie or Debbie. It just depended. Mother Ruby used to point them out and would call them by her sister's names, Dana, Donna and Edith. It's tradition.

But they became Faith, Hope and Charity over 90 years ago and they have endured the tests of time. Always a source or wonder and recreation, young and old have sought them out for picnics and pleasures of all sorts whether it was sledding, biking, horseback riding or hiking. They are ours and will be forever, thanks to the Mesa Land Trust. Destined for a housing development, the community has stepped up and preserved this historic stomping ground.

Under the guidance of Mesa Land Trust, the City of Grand Junction, private citizens and other organizations like the Grand Junction Lions Club are pitching in to purchase the land to give back to the city for a recreation area, just as it's always been.

Once this process started, the memories started coming back. Diann (Diemer) Admire who loves her history in Grand Junction gave us this story which she calls "Remembering a Special Day on Three Sisters."

In late May of 1944, just a few days before school let out for a glorious summer vacation, my sixth grade teacher and principal, John Collier, at Lincoln Park Elementary School, planned and put together a Scavenger Hunt at the Three Sisters on the Redlands. It was an all-day outing of fun, food and hiking.

Our class was divided into teams and we had a great time trying to find all the items on our lists that Mr. Collier has either marked (rock formations) or items he had planted previously on the Sisters.

This outing was a perfect ending to our final year at Lincoln Park Elementary School and the sixth grade, enjoying the beautiful warm day in a beautiful area of our valley. Needless to say, Mr. Collier was an extra-special teacher and principal.

I'm glad the Mesa Land Trust is purchasing the Three Sisters property so that the residents and visitors to our valley will enjoy it as much as we did that May day many years ago.


My mother, Aida Collins, was born in Grand Junction in June 1936 in a little house on 28 Road. When I was a kid she used to take my brother, sister and I to visit areas around the Monument. She passed away when I was 15, but I have wonderful memories of things she'd shared with me about her life here in the Grand Valley.

Once when I was about 11 years old, I was heading to Devil's Kitchen with my family for a barbecue. On the way, my mother pulled the car over and pointed toward the rolling hills of the Three Sisters. She told me that when she was about my age, that she, her best friend, Judy Roberts, and her little brother, Richard, loved to ride their bikes there to play (sometime between the years 1947 and 1951... 60+ years ago). She went on to say that they rode there from their homes somewhere near 12th Street, and that the three of them would make it an all-day trip. They usually didn't get back home until late at sunset. I remember thinking it was quite a long trip to take on a bike and I tried to imagine what that was like on an early summer day. As she spoke, however, her facial expression lit up, and you could tell it was a magical place for her when she was young, and that specific location helped to create cherished childhood memories she treasured.

I remember the part of her story that struck me the most - that they would go up to spend the day riding and hiking over Three Sisters and then have their own picnic there. She told me they usually only had a package of hot dogs and of all things, a large Kerr Jar filled with water! I couldn't imagine having to tote a glass jar all the way there on my bike, but she said that's what they had, so that's what they used. Apparently, it was the only checklist of supplies they really needed... their bikes, a package of hotdogs, a glass container of water, Three Sisters and each other.

To this day, every time I pass by that area, I remember my mother's story and I picture the three of them, happy to be playing and picnicking together at one of their favorite spots. Now that I'm 50 and serving on City Council; helping in the effort to secure the Three Sisters for others to enjoy and create their own wonderful memories, it's particularly meaningful to me. I know she'd love it!


Pat and Sondra grew up together as next-door neighbors with the Three Sisters as their backyard and "playground." Lunching together after not seeing each other for 12 years, brought smiles laughter as they told of their adventures.

We lived right next to Three Sisters and use to play there all the time. My dad owned the property in 1944. We had horses, guns and all. We also camped out there in caves. We didn't have all the fancy camping equipment available now. When we camped and wanted to cook, we took a tuna fish can and a wide piece of corrugated cardboard. We rolled the cardboard into a cylinder and stuck it is the tuna can. Next we melted paraffin and poured it into the tuna can and cardboard. A five-gallon coffee can was used to cook our eggs over our "camp stove."


Life and home next to the Three Sisters was pretty basic in 1944. We had horses, our own guns, and creativity. The wide-open spaces of the Three Sisters were our playground. Overnight camping meant heading toward the "red rock" and "the cave" where we just threw our sleeping bags on the ground and spent the night. Camp cooking was over a campfire, or with cans, paraffin, and cardboard. Transportation meant hopping on our horses and riding the ditch. We didn't have to worry about even one road on the rides. One horseback incident involved Brant Powell (Pat's brother) and Pat trying to boost me up on the back of a large, white "work horse." The two boosted me so strongly that I ended up on the other side of the horse in the ditch. Another time, I, as the youngest, rode between two trees (even though I was advised not to) that squeezed me so tight it broke my leg. Also, sitting on top of a horse provided us with enough height to pick the best fruit from the orchard trees.

Snakes and other vermin on the Three Sisters did not bother us, but the bronze-headed lizard really scared us. Those lizards were aggressive! They would rear up on their hind legs and rush at you. (The bronze headed lizards are what we now know as the Collared Lizard.)

Fourth of July meant fireworks, which were legal in those days. We found the perfect staging area for our fireworks, the "middle sister." One year we had some pretty big fireworks. One was so big that it ended up starting a fire in the orchard. Pat's mother, who always wore a dress, ended up dashing across the street to put out the fire.

Pat raised goats and harvested goat milk. Jimmy ambled over one day to show off his new hat and ended up with a stream of warm goat milk in the brim of his new western hat. Pat was an entrepreneur; she sold the goat milk for 90 cents a bottle to a lady a few houses down the street that provided care for seniors - pretty good money in the 1940s.

Next week I'll continue with some wonderful stories from Larry Meens. His grandfather built "The Castle" on Redlands Road and spent a lot of time at the Tri-Mountain Place and in the Three Sisters area. He's been a great help to the Mesa Land Trust who still needs to raise $60,000 by May 1, and with your help and a little "Faith, Hope and Charity" they will do it.

If anyone is interested in donating... go to or mail a check to Mesa Land Trust, 1006 Main St., Grand Junction, CO 81501, or contact Libby at 970-623-1900.


Got a memory or picture to share? Call me at 970-260-5226, or email

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The Post Independent Updated Mar 7, 2012 09:38PM Published Mar 7, 2012 09:34PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.