The club began as a social club for women trying to escape isolation in the remote farming and ranching community of Douglas County, but a century later, it’s become “more like a sister group than a social group.”
And the mission doesn’t end with helping women find connection. The group also preserves a piece of Douglas County history — the 123-year-oldHilltop Schoolhouse, between Parker and Elizabeth.
The Hilltop Social Club celebrated 100 years as an organization with an open house at the school in September. The society was founded with five members in March 1921 and has slowly but steadily gained in membership since, reaching 35 people in 2020.
“It shows that people really do still need that connection with each other,” member Eileen Enterline said. “Even though we’re getting more populated.”
Originally, members came together to share recipes, homemaking advice and tips for living on the farm. In the late 1950s the group began caring for the schoolhouse, which was built in 1898 and is still owned by the Douglas County School District.
A district spokesman provided a statement thanking the society for its efforts to maintain and preserve the historic site and congratulting the group on 100 years serving the community.
“The building is a monument to the efforts of educators in this part of Colorado from before the alignmeent of the DCSD RE-1 in 1958,” the statement said.
The small roadside school is the only surviving public structure from the defunct town, Hill Top. Hill Top began as a lone rail stop in 1881 and grew into a ranching community in the mid-1930s. The schoolhouse served children in Hill Top and Elbert County until 1954.
“The whole thing is full of memories,” club member Fran Petrie said.
Caring for the schoolhouse is a point of pride for Beatrice ‘Be’ Dent, who joined the club in 1980. She wishes more people knew about the building’s significance.
“People have driven by time after time and they don’t know what this little place is,” Dent said. “They think it’s a house. In fact, we’ve had people come up and ask if they could rent it.”
Dent raised seven children, devoting her life to caring for them and her grandchildren. The social club offered her an activity outside the home.
Beyond polishing up the schoolhouse, Dent has served up hamburgers at auctions, sold cookbooks written by the group, held yard sales and raised money for local teachers through the social club’s volunteerism.
At 93, Dent aims to support her community with her membership, she said. She has no plans to slow down, saying there is “too much to learn and do.”
“I’m not quitting. Nope,” she said.
Susy Cushman, 79, joined the Hilltop Social Club in 1965 at the invitation of “the lady up the road.” That was a simpler time, she said, where people “built on friendships and helped.”
Members said she’s a force in the group. She drives an RV full of women to field trips, such as a visit to The Black Forest, and has hauled her tractor up to the schoolhouse to help mow the grounds.
Retired from farm life, Cushman said she joined the group for the same reasons it was founded — to find fellowship in what was then a sparsely populated area.
Nearby towns like Castle Rock have “changed so much,” she said, reflecting on Douglas County’s rapid population growth. But that might mean more people interested in joining, she said, and more generations to care for the schoolhouse.
“I think it’s amazing that we stayed together,” Cushman said.
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