The second homesteader to receive a land patent in the Federal Heights area was Joseph Esslinger.  Esslinger was born in 1852 in Boersch, a commune in eastern France.  He came to America in the early 1870s and worked as a bar keeper in Lake View, Illinois.  Joseph moved west and on September 17, 1883, the 31-year-old Esslinger married 17 year-old German immigrant Marie Louise Guethner in Denver. 

In Colorado, the Esslingers first lived north of Argo, located near Globeville, north of Denver.  The family then settled on the land in current-day Federal Heights, building a house and fence and moving in on November 15, 1883.  Esslinger, a naturalized citizen, filed Homestead Entry #6019 for 160 acres (E1/2 NE1/4 and E1/2 SE1/4 S20 T2S R68W) at the Denver Land Office in 1885.  In order to meet the residency and cultivation requirements of the Homestead Act, Esslinger had to wait five years to complete his homestead entry and then have two “credible witnesses” attest to him having fulfilled the requirements.

In Esslinger’s “Testimony of Claimant” dated December 1, 1888, he said he had two children three horses, four cows, two yearlings, two calves and 75 chickens.   He reported the description of his property which included a second home he had built that was 14’ x 16’ with five-inch brick walls, a dugout in the side of a hill, two greenhouses, a shed, two hen houses, a couple of stables for six horses each, and three miles of wire fence.  He said he had a lake on his property that covered one acre and was 18’ deep and two wells that were 10’ deep.  Lastly, he reported that he had 8,000 fruit and forest trees.  He said that during the years he lived on the property he had grown gardens and alfalfa and barley.  He valued his homestead at $3,605. 

Esslinger received his land patent on June 5, 1890.  His strip of land stretched from current day 88th Avenue on the south to 96th Avenue on the north and from Zuni Street on the east, 1,320 feet to the west.

The Esslingers had five children – Mary, Eugenia, Joseph Jr., Florence and Albertina.  Mary, the oldest, recalled that native Americans would visit the family to trade for supplies during the winter months.  She remembered that her father operated a greenhouse supplying the Brown Palace Hotel with fresh vegetables until 1912.

By the 1900 census, Joseph and Maria and their five children were living at 1734 W. 48th Avenue (approximately 48th Avenue and Pecos Street).

Stories about the family’s colorful lives were widely reported in local newspapers – bar fights, elopement, arrests, annulment, poisonings, cruelty, spankings, orphanages, divorce, convents, custody battles and a beer-drinking horse.

On June 29, 1903, 15-year-old Eugenia left home and eloped with a 29-year-old neighbor man, David Camenisch in Colorado Springs.  Almost exactly four years earlier, on June 28, 1899, Camenisch’s pregnant wife Barbara had committed suicide.  Once the newly-married couple was found, Eugenia and David were both jailed – Eugenia for incorrigibility and David for seduction.  David was released first so he could look after his dairy which would be ruined without his attention.  Eugenia’s mother formally charged Camenisch with perjury in swearing that Eugenia was 18 years old and could marry, and then she took Eugenia back to her Esslinger home.  Eugenia’s father filed suit in district court to annul the marriage of his daughter because she was a minor under his guardianship and could not marry without consent.  Friends of David and Eugenia had reported the Esslinger parents to the Humane Society saying that the two oldest Esslinger daughters, Mary and Eugenia, were doing the work of bartenders in their father’s saloon, the Locust Grove Saloon and Beer Garden at 18th Street and W. 48th Avenue, and needed to be saved from the probable results of working in such a place.  The Humane Society was unable to compel the parents to keep the girls away from the “dangerous environment.”  By August 1903, the Esslinger parents had consented to their minor daughter’s marriage.  David Camenisch was required to give a $2,000 bond to ensure he would always support and care for his young wife, Eugenia.

In July 1904, after nearly 21 years of marriage, Maria had filed for divorce from Joe, a “wealthy saloon keeper.”  In the filing, she claimed cruelty, citing an incident where Mr. Esslinger once fractured her skull during an assault with furniture.  She also claimed that Joseph had attacked her with a bucket of hot lard, had drawn a gun on her and that he had also attacked her and their children with a knife and meat fork, catching two of the children and keeping them on the kitchen table in mortal terror all through one night.  She asked for an absolute divorce and $10,000 alimony, stating that Esslinger was worth $25,000.  She placed her two youngest daughters, Florence, age 11, and Albertina, age 9, in a convent for their safety.  They were later placed in an orphanage.  One year later, in August 1905, the couple reconciled and agreed to live together again rather than face the humiliation of a public divorce.  Terms of the reconciliation agreement were that Mrs. Esslinger be given $10,000 and that Mr. Esslinger was not to interfere with his wife or children and that Mrs. Esslinger was to forgive the past.

An April 3, 1906 story in The Denver Post said that the Esslingers were involved in a neighborhood disagreement in Argo that had ended in the strychnine poisoning and deaths of neighborhood animals – a horse, dogs, and chickens.  A small child had also been poisoned with strychnine, but survived.  An April 6 newspaper story reported another neighborhood dispute involving the Esslinger’s where one of Mr. Esslinger’s friends was knocked down and spanked by one of Mrs. Esslinger’s friends.  On September 4, 1906, the Esslinger’s divorce was final. 

A custody battle for the two youngest Esslinger children began in January 1907 after they had been placed in charge of the Humane officers.  Mrs. Esslinger had originally been given custody of Florence and Albertina in 1906 when the divorce was finalized, but Joseph was alleging that Maria was unfit to have them in her keeping and had introduced them into improper circles.  In February, a judge awarded custody of the two youngest Esslingers to their married sisters, Mary Wick and Eugenia Camenisch.

After the divorce, Joseph and his son Joseph Jr. lived together.  In 1919, they were both struck with the Spanish flu and barely survived.  Joseph Esslinger died on August 3, 1926.  He was 74 years old.

Maria remarried in 1909 and lived in Weld County, Colorado for the rest of her life.  She died on April 30, 1952 at the age of 86.

The oldest daughter, Mary Esslinger, had four children with her first husband, John Wick, and after his death, married again.  Mary died in 1964 in Loveland, Colorado.  She was 78 years old.

Eugenia and her husband David were married for 29 years until David passed away in 1932.  They had three children.  Eugenia passed away on March 8, 1981 at the age of 93.

After his father died, Joe Junior was married in 1936 when he was 45 years old.  He and his wife had no children.  Joe died on September 8, 1980.  He was 89 years old.

The fourth Esslinger child, Florence, lived with her father at the time of his death in 1927.  When he passed, she moved to the Convent of the Good Shepherd in Denver and later spent several decades at the Colorado State Hospital in Pueblo.  She’d never been to school and, according to the 1930 U.S. census, couldn’t read or write.  Florence died in 1973 at the age of 79.

Like her siblings, Albertina lived in Colorado her whole life.  She was married twice and had no children.  She died on March 30, 1973 at the age of 71.