Jean Baptiste Francolon...
The founder of the Castle.
A Catholic priest born in France, in 1854, Father Francolon was the son of a wealthy, aristocratic family. His father was a diplomat and at one time was the French consul in what is now called Moscow.
He came to the United States in 1878 when he was 24 years old as secretary to Bishop Lamy, in Santa Fe, and after ordination was in charge of several missions in the parrish of Santa Cruz to the indigenous peoples. There was much unrest between the old Spanish Catholic Church and the incoming French Catholic Church, and Fr. Francolon was extremely unpopular, even to being poisoned in the chalice.
In 1892, he came as a missionary priest to Manitou, already famous for its healing waters and clean air, in hopes of restoring his failing health. His mother arrived in Manitou from New Mexico in July 1893, bringing four French-speaking servants, because, it is said, she did not speak English.
Newspaper descriptions of the furnishings, tapestries, oils, statuary, antique vestments and laces, and native artifacts, which were displayed in the gallery on the third level, indicate that the family had indeed been wealthy, although recently-translated letters of Father’s allude to financial losses prior to coming to Colorado. This could explain why the Gillis brothers had to sue him for payment for their work, and why Fr. Francolon took out a loan on the property to obtain the funds.
Fr. Francolon had a reputation for being a loner and unpopoular with the local residents, although he did have two fundraising balls in 1897, one for a library and one for the poor.
The Francolons left for France unexpectedly in 1900, taking valuable artwork with them but leaving their furniture, and Madam Francolon died within a few months. Fr. Francolon spent his last ten years in New York, died December 4, 1922, and is buried in the Archdiocese Cemetery. He never returned to Colorado.