Dude Ranches

Starting in the late 1870s, ranchers took in guests to supplement their income during hard times.

Dude Ranches Articles

Devil's Thumb Ranch
Devil's Thumb Ranch

According to local lore, Native Americans named Devil's Thumb, a rocky outcropping that towers high above the Ranch. As legend goes, after the warring Ute and Arapahoe tribes settled their differences in the Ranch Creek Valley, they buried the devil, but left his thumb exposed to remind them of the evils of war.

Before the Trans-Continental Railroad opened up the area in 1904, a stagecoach route from Idlewild (now
Winter Park) joined the Rollins Pass route. A state station was situated east of what is now our Ranch. The road extended transversely over the Ranch where it followed the course of the existing County Road 83. The land was rich agriculturally, and was used for cattle grazing in the early 1900s.

After the railroad was introduced, settlers began moving west in search of wealth and opportunity. Many ended their journeys in the
Rocky Mountains. During this time, there were more people living in the Fraser Valley than there are today. One favorite hangout of the railroad workers was a dance hall on Black Ranch, located immediately north of Devil's Thumb Ranch.

In the 1930s, Margaret Radcliff built the original Ranch homestead and operated it as a dairy. However, it was brothers Dan, Louis, and George Yager who started Devil's Thumb Ranch as a vacation property in 1946. The Yagers incorporated the Radcliff homestead in to the Ranch facilities and the original building exists today as the Ranch House Saloon.

The Yagers operated Devil's Thumb Ranch as both a working ranch and dude ranch until 1972. They introduced cross-country skiing in the winter of 1975-1976. Dick Taylor, a 1964 Olympic cross-country team member, designed 35 kilometers of the area's Nordic trails.

The Ranch was well known as a Nordic destination, but one without many amenities or niceties. The current owners purchased it in 2001, saving it from a group of developers who planned to fill the valley with residences and a golf course. They immediately began making improvements to the facilities, all the while impacting the land as little as possible.

Dude Ranches
Dude Ranches

Starting in the late 1870s, ranchers took in guests to supplement their income during hard times. Early adventure-seekers from the East made the long rail journey to the wilds of Middle Park in search of big game and unspoiled mountain scenery. With few accommodations available, travelers looked to frontier families for room and board. Ranchers soon discovered guests, or “dudes” as they came to be known, would pay to fix fences, ride horses, work cattle and sleep in tents....sometimes for an entire summer! Entertainment was eventually incorporated into the guest experience.

Located on the stage stop between Georgetown and Hot Sulphur Springs, William Z. Cozens was the first rancher in Grand County to provide room and board to travelers starting as early as 1874. The Lehman and Sheriff families also ran well-known turn of the century dude ranches. The years following World War I were the height of the dude ranch era. By the late 1950s, Granby had as many as ten guest ranches between Granby and Grand Lake with others scattered throughout the county. Today Grand County is still home to six dude ranches, which attract visitors from all over the world for their western charm, high-quality accommodations, horseback riding programs and superb fly fishing.

Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Western White House
Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Western White House

Dwight D. Eisenhower met and married Mamie Geneva Doud of Denver on July 1, 1916. Carl Norgren, a Doud family friend, had started spending time in the Fraser area and was enchanted by the beauty of the area and especially the Byers Peak Ranch for Boys.

By the late 1930s, Norgren partnered with Aksel Nielsen to purchase the Byers Peak Ranch.  During Eisenhower's presidency, the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, the Byers Peak Ranch, and Lowry AFB were all known as "Western White Houses" or "Summer White Houses." There is a well known photo published in Life Magazine of Eisenhower fishing in the Fraser River with his grandson, David.

Eisenhower used his time at the Byers Peak Ranch to rest and recompose himself in the face of difficult political times. As President, Eisenhower dealt with the threats of the Cold War, a truce in Korea, the desegregation of public schools (Little Rock, AK), and the development of the "Eisenhower Doctrine" to bolster the Middle East against the threat of communism. On the domestic front, he was faced with the difficulties of dealing with the Republican Old Guard, including Senator Joseph McCarthy, who headed a subcommittee charged with the finding of communists within the government.  

Eisenhower enjoyed cooking for guests at the Ranch, fishing St. Louis Creek and having "brookies" (brook trout) for breakfast, painting, and playing golf.  On September 24, 1955 while at the Ranch, Eisenhower suffered a coronary thrombosis (heart attack) and was hospitalized at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver until November 11, 1955.  His hospital suite has now been restored and is open for limited tours.

The bulk of information about Eisenhower and the Byers Peak Ranch comes from the personal papers of Carl Norgren, which are housed at the Eisenhower Museum and Library in Abilene, KS.  The collection of correspondence from 1948-1964 covered a broad variety of topics: fishing, recreation, taxes, health matters, food, communism, reorganization of the Department of Defense, federal spending, etc. The Norgren collection valued for the details it provides concerning the hobbies and recreational pursuits of the President during his visits to Grand County between 1952 and 1957.

Squeaky Bob's Hotel de Hardscrabble
Squeaky Bob's Hotel de Hardscrabble

Robert L. "Squeaky Bob" Wheeler homesteaded the northern end of the Kawuneeche Valley in 1907, setting up his tent camp at the base of Shipler Mountain.  He called his accommodations Squeaky Bob's Hotel de Hardscrabble.  He was one of many guest lodge operators who catered to the leisure traveler seeking relaxation through recreation.  These vacations were quite rustic, especially by today's standards. At least two guests at a time were asked to share lumpy beds. The sheets were said to be "refreshed" with talcum powder rather than changed and laundered.  The outhouses were stocked with mail order catalogs rather than toilet paper.

Despite these conditions, Squeaky Bob was very successful and his hotel hosted famous travelers from all over, including President Theodore Roosevelt. Squeaky Bob was known for entertaining his visitors with amazing tales and witty yarns.

Articles to Browse

Topic: Biographies

John Wesley Powell

John Wesley Powell was a Civil War veteran who had lost part of one arm as a result of combat.  He was a professor of natural history at Illinois Wesleyan Collage, who took field trips with his students to the Rockies.

He came to the Grand County region looking for a vantage point to conduct an exploration of the Colorado (the Grand) River. With six local men he made the first recorded ascent of Long's Peak, the 14,255 foot landmark of the Front Range, on August 23, 1868.  From that summit he could view much of the headwaters area of the river.

Descending back into Middle Park, he ventured to Gore Canyon where he decided the turbulent rapids were too dangerous for his boats.  He decided to take an exploratory  party of students to the Green River in Wyoming, a tributary of the Colorado.  Losing one boat in that expedition, the party made the first known trip through the Grand Canyon in 1869.

He later became leader of the first U.S. Geological Survey, and because of his study of Indian tribes, the first head of the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology.

Topic: Mountains

Rollins or Corona - What shall it be called?

Travel across various passes of the Continental Divide occurred long before white men showed up. Indeed, as anthropologist James Benedict wrote c. 1975, some 10,000 years ago, prehistoric Indians camped, hunted, and built hunting walls on the upper reaches of Rollins Pass, as well as moving in and out of Middle Park for the warm summer months. Historic Indians followed the same paths. In the earliest days of non-Indian access, a particular pass at the head of Boulder Creek was dubbed Boulder Pass.

Capt. Jacob Bonesteel, including wagons, made the first recorded crossing by a white man at this point in April 1862. Three years later, a group of Mormons brought wagons over this route and a year later, promoters of new roads into Middle Park brought in many wagons and livestock. In fact, tourists were starting to enter the park by a number of routes, and one of them, Samuel Bowles, who wrote a fascinating account of his trip, including his return to Denver via Boulder Pass.

Interest was growing rapidly for a road over the Divide, into Hot Sulphur Springs, and on into Utah. One promoter, John Quincy Adams Rollins, from New Hampshire, teamed up with William N. Byers and Porter M. Smart to carry this project through. Rollins was interested in crossing the Divide; Byers was promoting the Springs; Porter wanted to develop the valley of the Middle Yampa. All three were pushing to have Middle Park officially named as Grand County, a challenge finally accomplished in 1874.

So Rollins and associates started his road, reaching the top in 1873. That next winter, they publicized this access and in June, Jimmy Crawford brought his family and wagons to Rollinsville and thence to Yankee Doodle Lake, ready to cross the pass now named Rollins Pass by the developer. But the road ended, and they found Rollins' men still hacking the road out of the granite! Jimmy and his crew found it necessary to leave their wagons and help.

Finally, on June 10th, the family was able to head for the top. Jimmy borrowed two yokes of oxen, hitching them to mules, and then to his horse. The road was so rough that the procession could proceed but a few feet before having to rest. The family itself climbed on foot. At the summit, they discovered only a rough swath cut down through the trees on the western side. The "road" dropped down between the lakes and followed Ranch Creek to its junction with the Fraser River. Rollins quickly realized that Berthoud Pass, which also opened in 1874, was superior to his own pass for wheeled vehicles, so he determined to hedge his bets. He initiated the first mail service into the county in 1873. He also built a commodious hotel where his road joined the Berthoud Pass road at the confluence of Crooked Creek and the Fraser. He called it the Junction House. Next, he proposed to the builders of Berthoud Pass that they form a joint ownership of the two roads between Junction Ranch and the Springs. Tickets would be issued for both routes and revenues would be shared. The two companies would build a bridge over the Grand at Hot Sulphur Springs. He even buttered up his rivals by complementing their work.

All this was accomplished, although the mail route soon moved to Berthoud Pass, because of the severe winters on Rollins Pass. The bridge was started in November 1874. From the beginning, Rollins' road was preferred for trailing livestock, because there were fewer problems with heavy timber and bogs. For years, the Church brothers, George and John, who introduced the Hereford breed into the county, trailed their cattle for summering in what became known as Church Park. However, tourists such as Irving Hale still drove wagons over Rollins Pass in 1878.

About 1880, interest burgeoned for bringing a railroad up South Boulder Canyon and through a tunnel near Rollins Pass. Numerous surveys were completed all along the area. David Moffat settled on Rollins Pass for the tunnel site but decided first to put a temporary line over the top. Thus, in the summer of 1903, a formal contract was let for work up and over the Pass itself. By 1904, the workers reached Arrowhead and they also built a work station on top, called Corona Station, or "crown of the mountain." This railroad construction town of Corona, located at over 11,600 feet at the top of Rollins Pass (first called Boulder Pass) along the Continental Divide was the highest railroad station in the world.

It became obvious by 1905 that the Corona area would require snowsheds if trains were to travel, even irregularly, during the winter. Still, word got out of the spectacular splendor of Rollins Pass and tourists flocked in on summer train excursions, sometimes stopping on top, sometimes going as far as Arrow. In 1913, a fine hotel was built next to the rail facilities. Because Rollins Pass was right in the middle of severe weather patterns, a weather station was built on top, as well as one down at Sunnyside. In 1915, Rollins Pass was actually proposed to be the south boundary of a proposed "Estes National Park."

Later, on the National Historic Register, the district was listed in 1997 as the Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway Historic District--Rollinsville & Middle Park Wagon Road. It was also identified as the Rollinsville and Middle Park Wagon Road; Boulder Wagon Road, Rollins Pass, and Rollinsville area. In 1956, Governor Steve McNichols had presided at the official re-opening of the four percent grade to vehicle traffic over Corona Pass, expressing the hope that the route would someday be paved. The Colorado Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service made additional improvements, and the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests put out a 24-page booklet titled "The Moffat Road: A Self-Guiding Auto Tour." The road crossed two of the original railroad trestles near Corona but those trestles, even if reached by 4-wheel vehicles, were crumbling and could no longer even be crossed safely on foot. The current self-guided auto tour refers to Rollins Pass, as well as the Moffat Road and the Boulder Wagon Road. Corona Station and Hotel are discussed. In 1979, a portion of the auto road over Corona Pass was permanently closed because of a cave-in of the "Needle's Eye," a tunnel located before the trestles heading west from the Moffat Tunnel's East Portal.

The tunnel reopened on July 3, 1988, thanks to efforts of the Rollins Pass Restoration Association on both sides of the Divide, with the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado History Society, and Boulder, Grand, and Gilpin Counties. It then closed once more when another rockfall hit the tunnel on July 15, 1990. The RPRA is continuing its efforts for re-opening. The noted photographer, Charles McClure, took many outstanding photos of the Rollins Pass road. One, titled"Group on Rollins Pass, shows well-dressed men and women stand on a snowfield making snowballs on Rollins Pass, Moffat Road, Boulder or Grand County, Colorado; probably on Denver, Northwestern and Pacific excursion train. Date: between 1904 and 1913 near Corona Station." Another photo shows a "30 ft. snowcut on Rollins Pass, Moffat Road photo. Denver and Salt Lake Arrow passenger car is parked east of Corona snowshed by the thirty foot snowbank cut, Rollins Pass, Colorado; it shows men, women and railroad employees posed behind train, on the roof and on the snowbank and a standard gauge track. Date: between 1904 and 1915."

A sign at the highway turn onto the Moffat roadbed says: The Moffat Road "Hill Route" Also called "Corona Pass Road", this road over the Continental Divide was the original "Hill Route" of the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway built by David H. Moffat in 1903. It crosses Rollins Pass at 11,666 feet elevation. On top of Rollins Pass, a sign says: Elevation 11, 660 feet, John Quincy Adams Rollins established a toll wagon road through this pass in the mid 1870's. David H. Moffat's Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway crossed the Continental Divide at this point in 1903. First known as Boulder Pass, then Rollins Pass, the railroad workers dubbed it "Corona", the crown of the "Top of the world." A railroad station, hotel, restaurant and workers' quarters existed here until 1928 when the railroad was abandoned due to the building of the Moffat Tunnel. Identifications in various trail and geographical guides say: Rollins Pass (el. 11,680 ft) is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains of north-central Colorado in the United States. The pass is located on the continental divide at the crest of the Front Range southwest of Boulder, at the boundary of Grand County,Colorado and Boulder County, Colorado. Rollins Pass (a.k.a. Corona Pass) sits approximately 5 miles east and above the popular ski areas around Winter Park, between Winter Park and Rollinsville. The pass is traversed by an unpaved road, mostly the former roadbed of the Denver and Salt Lake Railway which abandoned the route in 1928 when the Moffat Tunnel opened to replace it. Railroad advertising called this the "Top O' the World" and it referred to the Moffat Route over the continental divide and the Rocky Mountains.

Rollins Pass was the primary travel route west from Denver until an easier road over Berthoud Pass was constructed. The Denver, Northwestern and Pacific railroad laid its tracks across the pass in 1903-1904 and established a Depot at Corona on the crest. It can be noted that in R.C. Black's Island in the Rockies, the term "Corona Pass" was mentioned one time, on p. 351; the terms "Corona Station" or "Corona Snowsheds were used. In Dismantling the Rails That Climbed, Rollins Pass was used, the Corona hotel, and just once, Corona Pass; 1936. In Maggie By My Side, it was Boulder Pass and Rollins Pass. In Rails that Climbed, Rollins Pass, the Corona shed, weather at Corona, Rollins Pass Snow Shed, other references to Corona as a site. In Guide to the Colorado Mountains (Orme) , they speak of the Corona Trail to Rollins Pass. High Country Names (Ward) used Rollins Pass entirely. Only Hiking Grand County, Colorado, published 2002 by Carr speaks of Corona Pass, with reference to Rollins Pass (near the town of Corona), Moffat Road. The term "town" might be questionable; there was only a small restaurant, workers quarters, railroad offices, and in 1913, the hotel. Current maps, USFS and the Grand County Trail Map, show Rollins Pass, with Corona at the side as being a site.

The use of "Corona Pass' seems to be a rather recent innovation that has come into being with tourism efforts in the upper Fraser Valley. Rollins Pass From Island in the Rockies p. 45 Rollins Pass was originally known as Boulder Pass, first recorded being crossed by whites, by Capt. Jacob Bonesteel in April 1862. Their supplies were carried in wagons. A second organized party went over the same pass in 1865. In 1866, promoters of access into Grand County brought many wagons and livestock over Boulder Pass.In 1867, Samuel Bowles and a group returned home to Denver via Boulder Pass. In 1873-74, two roads were proposed into the county, one of Berthouds pass and one over Boulder Pass. This was the same time that the county was named "Grand". J..A Rollins and his associates started the road and reached the top of the pass in 1873, at which time they envisaged a road from HSS into Utah. The first wagons went over in June 1874. The western descent was so bad that it never was much patronized by wheeled vehicles, instead becoming primarily used for trailing of cattle. At this time the name Boulder Pass disappeared from maps and Rollins Pass became the official name. p. 85. p. 80 Lots of schemes to build roads into GC, but of all the schemes for transport, only one, the Rollinsville and Middle Park Wagon Road showed any promise. That was designed by John Quincy Adams Rollins, from NH, a gifted promoter, a son of a clergyman, second of 19 children. He was a farmer, miner, freighter, road bulder, and platter of towns. He was perhaps the most accomplished billiard player west of the Mississippi. He was a Colorado resident at least by 1866. His finances were up and down, but he was tremendously strong. In December 1884, when he was 68, he thought nothing of a 3-day snow-clogged crossing of the Continental Divide. p. 85 Rollins was interested in MP as an investor and he was interested in extending his road into Utah.

At the same time, a Porter M. Smart was likewise excited about speculating in frontier projects and was working at developing the valley of the Middle Yampa. William N. Byers was busy planning for HSS. These three men launched at least two petitions, with more than 80 "residents" for creating GC. Grand County was created that year, 1874. p. 89 With the creation of GC, people began to consider the area more seriously. p. 92 There was no official mail into the county until 1873 when Rollins brought in the first US pouch over his pass. In May 1874, he built a commodious hotel at the confluence of Crooked Creek and the Fraser, known as the Junction House. p. 94 Rollins knew that the road over Berthoud Pass was superior to Rollins Pass; his main advantage was the railhead at Blackhawk. So Rollins proposed a joint ownership and operation of the two roads for the line between Junction Ranch and HSS. Tickets would be issued for both routes and revenues would be shared. The two companies would build a bridge across the Grand at HSS. Rollins even complimented the Berthoud work. This merger was completed soon. p. 104 This bridge was started in November 1874. p. 108

A mail contract was made in July 1875 for once a week delivery over Rollins Pass, but conditions were so severe that the route was changed to Berthoud Pass. p. 110 From the beginning, Rollins Pass was used in preference to Berthoud Pass for trailing livestock, because there were fewer problems with timber and bogs. However, late spring snowdrifts were a problem, so 20-30 horses were often brought along to break trail. The Church brothers, George and John, summered their cattle in what became known as Church Park and dug the Church Ditch. They also introduced the celebrated Hereford breed into GC. p. 170-171 As interest in bringing a railroad into and through GC developed, about 1880, various stockholders proposed to build up South Boulder Canyon to Yankee Doodle Lake and start a tunnel near Rollins Pass. Nothing came of the first attempts but by the end of July 1881, numerous surveys had been made for that tunnel. p. 238 Cattle was still being trailed out via Rollins Pass up to the turn of the century. p. 258

David Moffat and Horace Sumner, his chief engineer, in the fall of 1903, were planning the tunnel for future excavation; but in the meantime a temporary line was planned for crissing Rollins Pass, at 11,640 feet. p. 264 A formal contract was let for the work over Rollins Pass in August 1903. The loftiest sections were started first, and the first cuts at the top were nearly finished by the 26th of October and tunneling started at Riflesight Notch. As snow came, work slowed to a standstill. p. 265 Work in 1904 was extremely slow until the end of August. An encampment was built at Arrowhead and a station at the crest of the Divide was named Corona Station, where long snow sheds were built almost immediately. p. 267 Arrowhead was soon shortened to Arrow, when a post office was opened there in 1905. Travel on the grades, at 4-5% grades up over Rollins Pass was exceedingly difficult. p. 270 In 1908, word of the scenic splendor of Rollins Pass was becoming known world wide.

Also, Rollins Pass and its "Corona station" were attracting the attention fo the US Weather Bureau, for the pass lay squarely in the center of the region of heaviest snowfall on the entire Colorado Continental Divide p. 344 A terrible winter in 1909 made people think that Rollins Pass was never going to be practical for the long term. Time and again freight and passengers were stuck on top at the Corona facility. In 1913, a $10,000 hotel was built at Corona next to the rail facilities. From Dismantling the Rails That Climbed p. 6 The railroad went from Denver to the top of Rollins Pass. p. 8 Snowsheds were built over the tracks at Corona and other strategic places in 1905. p. 12 The top was referred to as "Corona Pass" 1936. p. 16 Crews who were to removed tails and ties reached Corona at the top of Rollins Pass 1936. p. 20 Reference to the Corona hotel From Maggie By My Side p. 1 Jimmy Crawford heard that a man named John Quincy Adams Rollins was building a road over the range at a place called Boulder Pass. 1873 p. 9-14 June 1874

The Crawford family traveled to Rollinsville and then to Yankee Doodle Lake, where the road ended. Rollins' men were still hacking the road out of the granite. Jimmy and his crew helped. On the morning of June 10, the family started out to go over the rocks and up the mountain. Then he borrowed two yokes of oxen to his wagon, then mules, then his horse. The animals had to rest every few feet; the family climbed on foot. There was no shelter at the top. Rollins' men had done no work yet on the west side of the pass except to cut a rough swath down through the trees. The road dropped down along Ranch Creek. From Rails That Climb published 1950 p. 43 Leyden Junction to Tolland to Rollins Pass. P. 63-64 Many references to Tunnels as identifiers of location. p. 76-77, 78 reference to the old Rollins Pass toll road; first mention of the place called Corona- crown of the mountain. Most references are to Rollins Pass. The Corona shed is mentioned, p. 82. p. 83 Sunnyside water stop, Loop Trestle and Tunnel, Ranch Creek Trestle and water stop, Arrow. p. 95, 100- 101 It is eleven miles from Arrowhead to Rollins Pass. Rollins Pass-Boulder wagon road; other references p. 107 - 112 reference to Corona shed. Reference to pipe line to Corona; a number of comments to Rollins Pass p. 119 weather at Corona p. 120-121 Rollins Pass p. 151 Rollins Pass p. 182 photo of "Rollins Pass Snow Shed" "This Corona station burned one night." p. 188 photo of June at Rollins Pass p. 192-194 photos of Corona shed and other buildings; Rollins Pass p. 252 walking on top of snow shed at Corona p. 271- 272. 1910 Snowshed at Corona p. 312-314 Rollins Pass; Rollins Pass snowshed; Corona; Corona siding p. 324 Corona; Sunnyside weather report station p. 326 Corona sheds p. 333-335 Corona shed; references to "Corona" as a place From Guide to the Colorado Mountains published 1974 p. 54-55 Corona Trail, going from East Portal to Rollins Pass From High Country Names published 1972 p. 105 Irving Hale in 1878 drove his wagon over Rollins Pass, now nearly abandoned as a wagon road. p. 131

David Moffat decides to build a temporary line over Rollins Pass. p. 165 In 1915, Rollins Pass was proposed to be the south boundary of a proposed "Estes National Park". From Hiking Grand County, Colorado published 2002 p. 52 Trailhead on the "Moffat Road to Corona Pass". In same paragraph, it becomes Rollins Pass (near the town of Corona). On p. 54, reference to the Corona Road. On p. 57, map shows Rollins Pass with Corona marked as a "site." p. 56, reference to the old railroad bed used crossing the Divide at Rollins Pass, near the town of Corona. Sometimes called Corona Pass. p. 60-61 Rollins Pass Wagon Road historical notes on JQA Rollins and how to find his wagon road over Rollins Pass, following Ranch Creek to Tabernash. p. 66 Rollins Pass (Corona) to Devil's Thumb From GCHA Journal The Journey p. 6 Rollins Pass used by Indians; comment in 1981 From GCHA Journal Middle Park Indians to 1881 p. 8 Archaic hunters camped in the Rollins Pass area; written mid-1970's The current maps, USFS and Grand County Trail Map, show Rollins Pass with Corona at the side as being a site. The Rollins Pass Restoration Association for many years, and currently, has been trying to open the road and Needles Eye Tunnel. The self-guided auto tour refers to Rollins Pass, as well as the Moffat Road and the Boulder Wagon Road. Corona Station and Hotel are discussed. On the National Historic Register Denver, Northwestern and Pacific Railway Historic District--Rollinsville & Middle Park Wagon Road (Boundary Increase) ** (added 1997 - District - #97001114)

Also known as Rollinsville and Middle Park Wagon Road;Boulder Wagon Road;R Rollins Pass, Rollinsville Corona Station and Hotel The railroad construction town of Corona, Colorado, located at over 11,600 feet at the top Corona Pass (first called Boulder Pass) along the Continental Divide was the highest railroad station in the world. It was situated on an old Native American trail, the same trail it is believed the Mormons traveled on their way to Utah. The road was improved by the U.S. Army, then further improved in 1866 by General John Q. Rollins, for whom the pass and the town of Rollinsville were officially named. Because of the high drifts of snow, the pass was only open from around July to the first big snowstorm two or three months later. In 1956, Governor Steve McNichols presided at the official re-opening of the four percent grade to vehicle traffic over Corona Pass, expressing the hope that the route would someday be paved. The Colorado Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service made additional improvements, and the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests put out a 24-page booklet titled "The Moffat Road: A Self-Guiding Auto Tour."

The road crossed two of the original railroad trestles near Corona but those trestles, even if reached by 4-wheel vehicles, are crumbling and can no longer even be crossed safely on foot. In 1979, a portion of the auto road over Corona Pass was permanently closed because of a cave-in of the "Needle's Eye," a tunnel that came before the trestles on a westward drive from the Moffat Tunnel's East Portal area. The tunnel reopened on July 3, 1988, thanks to the efforts of the Rollins Pass Restoration Association with the cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado History Society, and Boulder, Grand, and Gilpin Counties. It was then closed once more when another rockfall hit the tunnel on July 15, 1990. John K. Aldrich is a geologist, lecturer, and author whose "Ghosts of . . . " books and accompanying topo maps are a boon to hobbyists, explorers, and those interested in Colorado mining history. Date: 02/04/08 05:13 Rollins Pass Milepost 16 Corona Station. Picture 6 below, is DPL photo X-7388. "Title: Corona, Colorado, interior of snowshed. Summary: Passengers stand next to the covered train depot at Rollins Pass, in Corona (Grand County), Colorado. The tracks of the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway are in the foreground. The depot is constructed of logs, and the roof of the snowshed is upheld by timbers. Sunlight streams through the opening at the end of the snowshed. Date: (between 1904 and 1913). Source: E. T. Bollinger from W. I. Hoklas." Picture 7 below, is DPL photo MCC-454A. "Title: Group on Rollins Pass. Summary: Well dressed men and women stand on a snowfield making snowballs, Rollins Pass, Moffat Road, Boulder or Grand County, Colorado; probably on Denver, Northwestern and Pacific excursion train. Date: (between 1904 and 1913). Creator: Louis Charles McClure 1867-1957. Picture 8 below, is DPL photo MCC-624. "Title: 30 ft. snowcut, Rollins Pass, Moffat Road photo. Summary: Denver and Salt Lake Arrow Turn (passenger car) parked east of Corona snowshed by thirty foot snowbank cut, Rollins Pass, Colorado; shows men, women and railroad employees posed behind train, on roof and on snowbank and standard gauge track. Date: (between 1904 and 1915 The highway sign says The Moffat Road "Hill Route" Also called "Corona Pass Road", this road over the Continental Divide was the original "Hill Route" of the Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway built by David H. Moffat in 1903. It crosses Rollins Pass at 11,666 feet elevation. On top of Rollins Pass, a sign says: Rollins Pass Elevation 11, 660 feet John Quincy Adams Rollins established a toll wagon road through this pass in the mid 1860-s. David H. Moffat's Denver, Northwestern & Pacific Railway crossed the Continental Divide at this point in 1903. First known as Boulder Pass, then Rollins Pass, the railroad workers dubbed it "Corona", the crown of the "Top of the world." A railroad station, hotel, restaurant and workers' quarters existed here until 1928 when the railroad was abandoned due to the building of the Moffat Tunnel. Rollins Pass Elevation 11,680 ft (3,560.1 m) Traversed by Unpaved road Location Boulder_County,_Colorado / Grand,Colorado Rollins Pass (el. 11,680 ft) is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains of north-central Colorado in the United States. The pass is located on the continental divide at the crest of the Front Range southwest of Boulder at the boundary of Grand_County,_Colorado and Boulder County. Sign that sits on top of Rollins Pass Rollins Pass (a.k.a. Corona Pass) sits approximately 5 miles east and above the popular ski areas around Winter Park, between Winter Park and Rollinsville. The pass is traversed by an unpaved road, mostly the former roadbed of the Denver and Salt Lake RailwayDenver_and_Salt_Lake_Railway which abandoned the route in 1928 when the Moffat Tunnel opened to replace it. Rollins Pass Railroad advertising called this the "Top 'O the World" and it referred to the Moffat Route over the continental divide and the Rocky Mountains.

Rollins Pass was the primary travel route west from Denver until an easier road over Berthoud Pass was constructed. The Denver, Northwestern and Pacific railroad laid its tracks across the pass in 1903-1904 and established a Depot at Corona on the crest. David Moffat planned to replace the "Hill Line" with a tunnel through James Peak within a few years of the railroad construction. However, he never could obtain financing for the tunnel due to the inability of the railroad to make a profit and opposition from competing railroads such as the Denver and Rio Grande. The D&RG saw the line as a threat. But, in the far future the construction of Moffat Tunnel would turn out to be the D&RG's saving grace. The trip up Rollins Pass was a favorite of summer tourists looking to enjoy the mountain scenery. It was heavily promoted by the railroad with picnic and wildflower picking excursions. Sights along the line were made famous by postcards containing the photos of L. C. McClure. At last the route surmounts the crest of the Continental Divide and takes quick refuge on the top at Corona. At elevation 11, 660 this is truly the famous Top O' the World and one of the highest railroad passes in the world. Due to the great height and nature of the Rocky Mountains, the entire railroad complex was completely enclosed in giant covered snow sheds.

Topic: Towns

Granby

Granby was settled in 1904 and incorporated the next year. The town was created along the railroad line being built by Denver, Northwestern & Pacific, and was a connection with the stage route to Grand Lake. The Granby site was also chosen because of the dry ground and and good view of the surrounding mountains.

The town was named in appreciation of the services of Denver attorney Granby Hillyer, who worked to lay out the town site. Its central location makes it a natural trade center for east Grand County. Specialty truck farming, principally lettuce, became a major crop for Granby. At the peak of the market, the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City proudly advertised Granby Head Lettuce on its menus. Later, after WW II, Granby was called the “Dude Ranch Capital of the World.” Today the town offers a mix of recreational amenities and residential charm.

Stafford Family

James "Jimmy" M. Stafford was born in 1849 in Wexford Ireland. Jimmy immigrated to Leadville in the 1870's to work in the booming silver mines. In Leadville, he met and married  Deborah Helen Acey (born 1846 in Trenton New Jersey) in 1880.  In the 1880's the couple moved to Dillon and then homesteaded the Stafford Ranch on the Blue River at Spring Creek Road. Jimmy built their home by hand carrying logs from Green Mountain.  They had one son, Frank Elmer Stafford, born in 1886. Jimmy and Deborah also operated the stage stop, boarding house and saloon called the "Halfway House" between Kremmling and Dillon on Highway 9.  It remained in operation until the stage lines ceased in the early 1900's and the buildings were dismantled in the 1940's.  

Frank went on to marry Alice Smith in 1909 and they had six children, including their first, a son, James Elmer, who died at age 8 in the worldwide flu epidemic of 1918. Frank and Alice built the Stafford General Store, directly across from the "Halfway House".  Frank was instrumental in installing the first telephone lines in the area and served as Grand County Commissioner from 1928 to 1936 and as County Commissioner from 1948 until his death from injuries in a car wreck in 1950.  Alice was called the "Blue River Belle" and kept the general store until 1960.  Alice lived in Kremmling until her death in 1969.  

 

Topic: Biographies

Elenor and George Smith

"You have tuberculosis." Frightening words to be sure, especially in times when the life expectancy rate for such a disease was slim. Tuberculosis, or consumption as it was commonly called, is a disease that primarily affects the lungs. Something as simple as the common cold quickly develops until the patient is suffering from severe chest pain. Soon they are coughing up blood. For most diagnosed, the result was eventual death. As a last hope, many people fled westward, desperately seeking the arid climate that would dry up the fluid in their lungs. Little did they know that while the west would cure them, it would by no means make their lives easier.

Elenor Smith, a woman in her early thirties living in Wisconsin, was one of the many so diagnosed. The doctor who examined her did not have much hope for her survival. He ominously predicted she would live no more that a few years longer and she would be unable to bear any more children. With this devastating prognosis ringing in her ears, Elenor, along with her husband George and their five children, packed up and headed west. Their long journey brought them to Fraser, Colorado, where they ended up settling in 1910.

The Smiths soon became an important part of the community. They built a log cabin in what is now "Olde Town Fraser' and, like everyone else, allowed their cattle to roam freely. George, affectionately called "Whispering George" by those who knew him well, owned the only livery stable in town. He could regularly be found escorting "Doc Susie" to her patients, be they man or beast.

 

The climate seemed to have been the perfect cure for Elenor. She lived a hardy and wholesome life, and went on to have four more children. Being the hard worker she was, she would often cook for the men working in the nearby logging camps. When she wasn't cooking, she was washing laundry. She was known by many and loved by all.

 

However, things were rough all over and all too soon the Smith family learned how harsh life could be. In 1921, their second eldest son, Oliver, at the age of twenty, was killed while working at Virgil Linnegar's sawmill. Then in 1944, things again took a turn for the worst. Her youngest daughter's (Georgene) two children contracted polio, a contagious disease that causes muscle paralysis and stunted limb growth, while their father was away in World War II.

 

As the story goes, the eldest of the two children, Sherry, showed signs of polio first, so she was rushed to the hospital in Denver. Not thinking George, the youngest at the time, had also contracted it, his mother left him with his Grandma Elenor, so that she could be with her ailing daughter. However, one day Elenor found him hiding under the table crying. Knowing immediately the two-year-old wasn't just throwing a fit, she scooped him up in her arms and rushed to get help.

 

Polio had been going around for a few years now, leaving a swath of deaths in its wake. People were doing everything they could to prevent bringing the disease upon themselves and their families, which was why the woman working in the telephone office locked the door when she saw them coming. Not knowing what else to do, Elenor searched frantically for someone, anyone, to help her. She even began knocking on house doors. Finally one brave man offered to help. He took her and little George to Denver in his car. Luckily, both children survived, though they would carry the repercussions of the disease for the rest of their lives.

 

Having conquered tuberculosis, polio, and everyday hardships, Elenor Smith died in 1974 at the ripe age of 93.

Topic: Libraries

Libraries

In 1938, Grand County decided to establish a library to act as a central reservoir of knowledge for its citizens. The community realized that few people can purchase all of the books and other materials which they may need, and so they agreed to pool their money in the library to build its central collection. At the same time they wanted to be sure that their interests would always be represented in the operations of the library, and so they formed a board of trustees from among themselves.

At about the same time, the federated women's clubs in Granby and Grand Lake, for the same reasons, set up lending libraries in those two communities. Run by the clubs for many years, both were eventually incorporated into the County Library. In 1994, the Committee to Protect the Library was established to petition the Board of Commissioners to increase funding for the library to set aside a completely separate library fund, which would be administered as a Library District. The voters approved the move on November 8, 1994, and Grand County Library District was formed on January 1, 1995. Today, the library still serves that same basic function for the community as well as new roles acquired in the intervening years.

Maggie and Jimmy Crawford

Maggie and Jimmy Crawford came to Middle Park in the summer of 1874 with their three children. They were given a piece of property and built a one room sod roofed cabin in Hot Sulphur Springs. They were probably the first family to stay the winter in Middle Park.

As they settled in for a long hard winter, Jimmy continued exploring lands to the west.  He found prime land near a spring that made a unique chugging noise.  That sound reminded him of the steamboats on the Missouri River back home.

After that winter, Maggie returned to Missouri with her family, while Jimmy built a cabin on the new filing, which would later become known as Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

By 1876, Maggie and the children were back in Colorado, and the family became founding members of that new community.
 

Topic: Regions

The Blue

Because gold had been found at the headwaters of the Blue River at Breckenridge, hopes were high among prospectors who worked the downstream tributaries in Grand County.  However, this lower section of the Blue contained no mineral wealth. 

The Denver and Rio Grand Railroad planned to run a route through the valley and began constructing grades, but the tracks were never laid because Moffatt's railroad crossed the county first.

An enterprising Canadian, 25 year old Willis Charles Call, had been employed as a cook for the grading company in 1881.  When the railroad abandoned the project, Call became a registrar of voters, and in 1886, the county assessor.  By 1890, he had a choice ranch near Kremmling.  His Austrian wife, Mary Rohrocher, was a very popular hostess.  It is believed that they owned the first automobile in the county.

The conflicts between the white settles and Ute Indians came to a climax in 1878 when the Ute leader Tabernash was killed by a posse and the very next day, Abraham Elliott a homesteader on the Blue, was killed in retaliation.  The remains of his ranch can be seen on Highway 9 at mile marker 135. 

Across the river was the ranch of Henry Yust, who settled there in 1885.  Another early ranching family was that of Thomas Pharo, An Englishman from Franham in Surry, near London.  Settling there in 1880, he developed a major cattle and horse ranch. 

The Blue River area was connected with a route west in 1913, when the co-called Trough Road was constructed, beside the Gore Canyon to State Bridge.

Topic: Towns

Hot Sulphur Springs

Hot Sulphur Springs was founded as the first town in Grand County around 1870.  By 1903 it gained incorporation. The hot springs in the area were considered a healing and sacred place by the Ute Indians long before the white man discovered them.

The town site was once owned by William N. Byers, founder of the Denver newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News. Planning to build a town to take advantage of the springs, he first had to construct an enclosure around the main pool to keep the Indian ponies out and the steam in. The white settlers and travellers were drawn to the  springs for their therapeutic value.

During the Christmas season of 1911, Hot Sulphur Springs hosted the first Winter Carnival west of the Mississippi.

Except for a brief period in the early 1880’s, the town has been the county seat.  The Grand County Historical Museum there draws many visitors to its unique displays.

 

Murphy Family

October 2009

As late as this summer, John Murphy, 94, mowed ditches on his ranch land and built a new fence. "You got to keep busy doing something," he said. His longevity, he said smiling at wife Carolyn across the table, is owed to "having a good wife to keep you healthy."

And then he added, "and being stubborn and contrary, I guess." But, Carolyn believes John's secret to healthy aging is due to "hard physical labor from an early age," plus the privilege of being raised where there is good air, little junk food, fresh vegetables, fresh milk daily and ranch-harvested meat. Dancing and regular rodeo jaunts also don't hurt.

This week, the Murphys are pausing to acknowledge a 100-year milestone, when John's parents first bought the ranch in greater Granby. John Murphy was born in the family's white two-story ranch house, which still stands on the property, six years after his parents Anna (Rohracher) and James Murphy bought 160 acres from Leopold Mueller in 1909. He had purchased the land from the widow of Edward Weber, who was one of the Grand County commissioners shot in the Grand Lake shoot-out of 1883. Weber's grave is still surrounded by a white-picket fence, located just northwest from the Murphys' newer home.

Mother Anna had crossed the ocean from Austria in 1882 with her family, then in the spring of 1884, they walked over Rollins Pass from Ward to homestead at Eight-Mile Creek south of Granby. The town of Granby didn't sprout until the railroad came through in the early 1900s, so twice a year, the family would travel over Berthoud to Georgetown to buy groceries - a testament to the fortitude people had back then. "How often do you go for groceries now?" John asked. "Twice a day?"

Anna and James married in March of 1907 and had three children: Margaret, James and John. When John was just two years old, his father died and his mother was left to care for the ranch and the three young children. She later married Joseph Reinhardt who had the ranch above theirs.

Upon her death in 1952 at the age of 75, "The Middle Park Times" saluted Anna for having been "a hardy pioneer woman" who prided herself for her ability to horseback ride and milk cows, and called the latter a "fine art rather than a chore."

"It was a pleasure for her to sit down and milk cows," John said. "That's when she could rest. She would milk half of the cows while me and my step-dad milked the other half."

The ranch had about 35 cows, and the cream and milk they produced was shipped to Denver where it was sold. When the lettuce colonies came to the Granby area around the early 1920s, the Murphy ranch prospered selling milk and butter to local settlers.  "Where the airport is now, there was a shack or tent on every 10 acres over there," he said, "and five packing warehouses along the railroad." Even a section of Murphy land was leased to grow lettuce and spinach.

When young boys, John and his brother would sometimes find entertainment riding on the backs of calves in the barn - always out of sight from their mother who would have disapproved, he said. And the younger John would horseback to the Granby schoolhouse located across from the present day Granby Community Center.

Back then, Granby was barely a settlement, and the Murphys' closest neighbor was farther than a mile away. Granby, especially, has grown in the past 20 years, threatening the lifestyle he has known all his life. In the past, ranching families made up the community, and neighbors looked out for one another, he said. "There was kind of a togetherness," he said. "Now we don't have that."

Nodding to the golf courses and newer homes surrounding Granby proper, "We're losing it, losing all the ranchers," he said. "Like any piece of property, I hate to see it change hands, but progress happens and there's nothing you can do about it."

John Murphy began running the ranch in 1934 and his older brother James ran another ranch near Fraser, land the brothers originally had purchased together.
John's first wife Edith died during childbirth, and John became a single dad to a daughter and son who were 2 and 4 years old at the time, running the ranch and raising his children like his own mother did when he was a toddler.

At its height, John Murphy's commercial cattle operation had about 2,000 acres and about 120 pair of cows and calves, with the calves selling at the top of the market in Omaha. John said from working his land for hay through the years, he has found buffalo horns. "There must have been quite a few buffalo here in the 1800s," he said. The land has since been leased, split, and some shared with John's family, including daughter Jennifer Baker and son Steve Murphy.

Although the winters are no longer as harsh as he remembers them - "It would get 30 to 40 below for the whole month," he said - he and wife Carolyn now winter in Arizona. John met Carolyn in the 1970s, and the couple would dance at haunts such as the Circle H and Hazel Mosle's (now Johnson's Landing). "I just held the girls, and they did the dancing," John said. "She complained I held her too tight," he said, of Carolyn. "And she's been suffering every since."

Dude Ranches