The Black American West Museum
The historic Dr. Justina L. Ford House
Located in the Five Points Historic District ~ Denver
Photo taken by HauntedColorado.net- April 12, 2008
Photo of Dr. Ford from: www.durangoherald.com/arts_entertainment/images/ae060919_2c.jpg
Hauntings of the museum:
Although Justina died in this home in 1952 at the age of 81; it is strongly believed that her spirit still resides here.
There are many ghost stories of the museum. La Wanna Larson, the Executive Director of the museum, has many true ghost stories to
One that is quite fascinating occurred during a recent scavenger hunt at the museum. La Wanna's 6-year old daughter, Elizabeth, was
upstairs trying to find items for her scavenger list. La Wanna heard her daughter talking to someone.
"Will you help me find this?" La Wanna heard her daughter say.
When La Wanna came upstairs and found her daughter, there was no one else upstairs. Her daughter was alone.
Her daughter told her that she was talking to the nice lady, pronouncing her name "Tustina."
Evidently, Justina had actually taken Elizabeth by the hand and helped her on her scavenger hunt.
While my boyfriend, my friend Donna and I were visiting the museum in April, Donna was up on the top floor by herself.
She was looking at some of the cowboy exhibits when she distinctly heard a noise as if someone was in the next room.
Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a shadow passing by in that room. And that was before Donna knew anything about the
museum being haunted!
Take a tour of the museum yourself and see if you spot the spirit of Justina!
La Wanna and her husband are so wonderful and gracious. Possibly two of the nicest people that I have ever met. They will show you
around the museum, and answer any questions that you may have. You can not only learn about the fascinating history of African
Americans, their great contributions, and the West; but you can also hear true ghost stories of the museum!
Visitors report ghostly encounters at local museum
October 18th, 2009
written by: Jeffrey Wolf and Bazi Kanani
DENVER - Is history all in the past, or is it still here with us? The answer to that question has changed for some people at the Black
American West Museum in Denver.
"Every single person who has volunteered here at the museum has experienced something," Museum Executive Director La Wanna
Larson believes the museum is haunted and says for at least one of those volunteers, an experience with a ghost was just too weird.
"He said, 'I have to go home now and rethink everything I used to think about these things.' He was clearly shaken up," Larson said.
Earlier this month a team of paranormal investigators asked if they could look for signs of any ghosts at the museum. The president of
Spirit Paranormal Investigations in Littleton, Kevin Sampron, brought children on this investigation to see if they could stir up the spirit
of Dr. Justina Ford.
"The doctor seems to get agitated when kids seem to get out of hand a bit, and typically she will do something, make a noise, knock a
picture off a wall or something," Sampron explained.
He and his crew placed voice recorders and cameras in rooms around the house. As the children ran through the home they, they
monitored the cameras from a location outside the house, hoping to record any evidence of paranormal activity.
Besides pictures falling from the walls, visitors have also reported other evidence that Ford is lurking.
"They say, 'Well, I thought I saw a woman walk across the room and then when I went there, she was gone,'" Larson said.
Ford was the first African American female doctor west of the Mississippi. The museum's building was her home in the early 1900s. It's
also where she treated patients who couldn't get care elsewhere because of discrimination or poverty.
"Everyone she took care of referred to her as their best friend," Larson said.
Ford is described as a kind and generous woman, but apparently she doesn't like people touching her belongings. The ghost hunters
reported an odd occurrence after they held Ford's eyeglasses.
"The same two women who were mishandling her glasses said they felt this huge wave of nausea, and then when they left the room
they felt better," Larson said.
The official results of the investigation are still pending. Even if they can't convince the skeptics, they won't dissuade the believers.
"Yes, I believe because I've experienced it. It's that simple," Larson said.
The Black American West Museum is offering haunted house tours on Friday and Saturday nights during the month of October. To find
out more and sign up, contact the museum at 303-482-2242. You can also visit www.blackamericanwestmuseum.com.
The paranormal investigators also have a number of events during the Halloween season. To find out more, visit www.spiritpi.com.
From Knoxville, a small town a few miles east of Galesburg, Illinois Justina Laurena Ford nee Warren grew up in Galesburg. Her
interest in the practice of medicine was apparently cultivated at a young age. She graduated from Herring Medical College in Chicago
in 1899. She first practiced in Normal, Alabama, but soon moved to Denver, Colorado. Throughout her career, Dr. Ford faced the
obstacles of being both African American and a woman in a profession that much of society felt belonged to white males. She was the
first Black woman physician licensed to practice medicine in Colorado.
As a doctor breaking down barriers for Blacks and women, Ford also worked as a humanitarian: her expertise in gynecology,
obstetrics, and pediatrics was often provided to low-income and indigent people of all races. She delivered over 7000 babies during
her distinguished practice of more than 50 years; she became affectionately known as the “Lady Doctor.” Ford received numerous
awards; her legacy lives through the Black America West Museum and Heritage Center, the Dr. Justina Ford Medical Society, and the
The Colorado Medical Society, which denied Ford membership until 1950, passed a resolution in 1989 honoring her posthumously “as
an outstanding figure in the development and furtherance of health care in Colorado.” Justina Laurena Carter Ford died in 1952.
Reference: Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia - Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York - ISBN 0-926019-61-9
(b. Illinois 1871-d. 1952; b. Fairmount Cemetery)
Justina Laurena Warren was born in 1871 in Knoxville, a small town a few miles east of Galesburg, Illinois. She grew up in Galesburg.
Her interest in the practice of medicine was inspired by her mother, who was a nurse.
She graduated from Hering Medical College in Chicago in 1899. She first practiced in Normal, Alabama, but soon moved to Denver,
Colorado. Throughout her career, Dr. Ford faced the obstacles of being both African American and a woman in a profession that much
of society felt belonged to white males. "The Lady Doctor" persevered and served a needy segment of society — the disadvantaged
and underprivileged of all races. Dr. Ford estimated that she had delivered more than 7,000 babies.
Eventually, Dr. Ford was allowed to practice at Denver General Hospital and admitted to the Denver and the Colorado Medical
Societies. However, by 1950, she was still the only physician in Colorado to be both African American and female.
Her husband, Rev. John L. Ford, was a minister at Denver's Zion Baptist Church.
Denver’s Ford-Warren Branch Library was named in her honor. Ford's former Denver home is now the Black American West Museum
and Heritage Center, located at 3901 California Street at the end of RTD's downtown light rail line.
About the museum:
Howdy! Welcome to the Black American West Museum! Founded in 1971 by Paul W. Stewart, the Museum is dedicated to collecting,
preserving and disseminating the contributions of Blacks in the Old West.
While famous for telling the story of Black cowboys, we are broader than this with interests in the stories of all those early Blacks who
came west and performed as miners, soldiers, homesteaders, ranchers, blacksmiths, schoolteachers, lawmen, and every other
profession needed to build up the West. In fact, the Museum itself is in the home of Dr. Justina Ford, Colorado's first Black woman
Our Museum is broken into many diverse exhibits such as our homestead exhibit. This exhibit is primarily dedicated to the town of
Dearfield, Colorado. Dearfield was a Black pioneer town founded by O.T. Jackson in 1910 just east of Greeley, Colorado. It was a
bustling town of approximately 500 residents founded on the principles of Booker T. Washington. It was successful until the 1930s
when depression, drought and dust storms forced most of the residents back to the cities. In the early 1940s, the town dwindled to
about a dozen full time residents and finally ended shortly thereafter. The town is now a ghost town and the Museum owns
approximately 23 of the city lots.
In the Cowboy exhibit, there are many items and photographs from famous and not-so-famous Black cowboys. See saddles, spurs,
hats, chaps, boots and other cowboy necessities from many of these cowboys. Learn how each of these daily tools of the Black cowboy
were used and valued. Did you know that 1 in 3 cowboys were Black?
In the military exhibits, you will see the story of the Buffalo Soldiers. These were the Black military units, both cavalry and infantry, and
their stories which were very important to settling of West and beyond. Also, learn about the Tuskegee airmen and their heroics during
World War II in their support of our winning war effort. In addition to many photographs and timelines, we have uniforms, saddles,
weapons and additional tools of the soldier of the West.
When you have finished with the exhibits of the Museum, visit our hall of education and catch an old Western movie starring Herbert
Jeffries, a singing Black cowboy from the 1930s. Or perhaps, you would like to learn more about Dearfield, Colorado? We have the
answer in a short (30 minute) video which is both entertaining and educational. We also have many other documentaries on the Black
Finally, come on back upstairs to our bookstore and browse the many titles that we have on hand about the Old West and the many
Blacks that helped build it. If we are not too busy, our docents can talk with you at length about any questions you might have, sign you
up for a membership, or just listen to anything that might be on your mind. You see we still believe in Western hospitality!
Black American West Museum
3091 California Street, Denver
Executive Director: La Wanna Larson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the museum and help preserve Justina's legacy!
You'll benefit from membership in the Black American West Museum! As a member, you'll enjoy:
Free admission to the musuem!
Invitations to Member's previews and other special events!
10% discount at the Museum Gift Shop!
Reduced fees for Museum programs!
Membership fees are 100% tax-deductible!
Types of Memberships:
Patron $1,000.00 (call for additional benefits)
Corporate $5,000.00 (call for additional benefits)
You can also charge your membership online!
If you would rather mail or phone in your membership!
Please mail your check to BAWM, 3091 California Street, Denver, Colorado 80205. And include type of membership, your name,
address, date, and phone.
If you would like to charge your membership, please call us at 303-292-2566.
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