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, Arkansas), 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: Mountains

Berthoud Pass

Berthoud Pass was named for Captain Edward L. Berthoud, who completed the first survey of  this saddle in the main Divide in the spring of 1861.

Berthoud’s expedition of eight people, including Jim Bridger, crossed the Continental Divide at the 11,315 foot summit and established a relatively easy way to get into Middle Park from the east. Berthoud also served as chief engineer on the Colorado Central Railroad.

It is surprising that this famous pass had played no previous role in the history of the region. Even Jim Bridger, who knew the country well, did not learn of its existence until the survey. For reasons of their own, Indians had chosen to go over the divide at higher levels further to the north. One explanation may be that the pass is not evident from most locations on either side of the Continental Divide.

Topic: Granby

100 Years of Location, Location, Location

Real Estate and land ownership have always been important to the Granby area. With the passage of the 1862 Homestead Act by Congress, the West, including the area around the current town of Granby, began to be settled with hardy, ranching pioneers. The opportunity to own land was often made possible by homesteading.   This lured many settlers to the area.

As Congress adjusted the homesteading rules over the years to allow for larger acreages which would support ranching in the Middle Park, towns began to grow. Ranching, mining and especially the railroad fueled the growth. In 1902, railroad visionary, David Moffat, set events into motion in Denver to build a steam railroad from Denver to Salt Lake City which would be built over Rollins Pass.   This was a monumental task which led to the founding of the town of Granby.

Mary Lyons Cairns observed in her book, “Grand Lake in the Olden Days,” “Granby came into being with the Moffat Railroad, which reached that point in September, 1905. The town site was laid out on a piece of land which was part of a homestead and part of a pre-emption taken up by James Snyder from the government. Mr. Snyder sold this land to David Moffat who had the town site surveyed and platted in 1904, and a man named Hunter auctioned off the lots.”  

The lots on the town plat were 12 blocks and a Block “A.” Each block, except Block 12 and “A,” would have 32 lots. Each lot would be 25 feet by 125 feet. Block 12 only had 20 lots. Block “A” only had four smaller lots. David Moffat and the railroad in the form of the Frontier Land and Investment Company designed the town streets so that the southern boundary of the town was Agate Avenue, the western was First Street, and the northern boundary was Garnet Avenue. A variation in terrain in between Block 12 and Block “A” created Opal Avenue that would lead down Fifth Street which would be the eastern boundary of the new town of Granby.    

The new town streets were named Agate, Jasper, Topaz, Garnet and Opal, all precious gems which might reflect the mining heritage. But, in the King James version of the Bible in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 21, Verse 19, heaven is described as, “And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper…” Other streets and foundations are described as being made of precious gems such as topaz and chalcedony. Agate is described in the dictionary as a variegated variety of quartz or chalcedony.   Maybe the founders thought Granby was “heaven on earth.” Or, at least the real estate marketers wanted buyers to think that.

The real estate advertising in the December 16, 1905, Grand County Advocate showed V.S. Wilson as the local real estate agent for Granby. He also was the newspaper editor and became Granby’s first mayor on December 11, 1905. With that background, hyperbole and adjectives must have been in his blood.   “Now is the time to buy property at Granby-The newest and best town on the ‘Moffat Road.’…It would be a Happy Christmas investment. Do it now,” was part of the ad copy.  Mr. Wilson became one of the first land owners in Granby buying lots 18 and 19, Block 7 on Topaz from Frontier Land & Investment in November, 1905.  

When the railroad’s real estate company founded Granby in 1905, local historian, Betty Jo Woods, said the new town location was chosen because it had great connections with the stage route to Grand Lake, was mostly dry ground, and had pleasant views. As they say in real estate, the three keys to successful land investing are “Location, location, location!”   The locations of many of the historic buildings were on the north side of Agate Avenue. According to photographs and written explanations by the late Vera Snider, in 1920, on “main” street, one of the only buildings on the south side of the street was the firehouse which protected the fire pumper and hoses. The post office was also on the south side.   Vera Snider later arranged for the preservation of this historic structure built in 1910 by moving the first post office building in the 1960s from 458 East Agate where it had stood for over 50 years to its present location at 170 2nd Street.

According to the current owner of this historic structure, Deb Brynoff, “When Ron, my husband, was remodeling he found old letters in the wall from when it was the post office building.” It was not unusual during the early years of construction for letters and newspapers to be “stuffed” into the walls to help increase what little “R-factor insulation” existed.    Other early buildings which still exist in Granby are a home at 127 4th Street which was built in 1909. The current Re/Max Granby office at 247 Agate was a home originally built in 1909. Other early Agate Avenue buildings still thriving are Crafter’s Corner at 295 East Agate built in 1913 for the Granby Mercantile. Local lore says the basement was used as a temporary morgue during the 1918 flu pandemic. However, no historic research has yet been found to document this information.  

Research on High Country Motors at 277 East Agate reveal it was originally Middle Park Auto which grew up with the town of Granby. The tax rolls indicate 1913 for the birth of this building. The business was “born” in 1915 when Jack Schliz founded Middle Park Auto. During Granby’s early years this was a hub for locals. It even included a small medical-first aid station inside it before Granby had any local medical services. In 1938, the business was sold to Glenn Pharo and Morris Long. Later, Jack Shield was associated with the business. The authorized Ford dealership was later purchased by Fred Garrett, who later sold it to Mike and Kimberly Garrett.   The only constant on Agate Avenue is change. Many of the buildings have a colorful past. For example, the current location of Brown & Company at 315 East Agate was a Texaco Service Station built in the 1930s.

The Long Branch at 185 East Agate is in a building that was Granby’s first strip mall. That accounts for the many doors fronting on to Agate. Built around 1938 for the Craig’s Café, it has housed Olson’s Café, a Laundromat, a barber shop, The Carpet Wagon rug store and Maureen’s Clothing Store to name a few.   The Silver Spur Saloon & Steakhouse at 15 East Agate used to be the Grand Bar and Café run by Dick and Beulah Samuelson from 1944 to 1964. The original business at this location was the lettuce shed where the famous Granby Iceberg Lettuce was delivered by local growers for shipping to the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. Some of the original lettuce shed has been incorporated into this building.  

The Dick Samuelson family also has a history with the Granby Mart at 62 East Agate. This building at one time was the home of Bud and Ken Chalmers’ Auto Repair Shop. In the early 1940s, it had a dirt floor when Sonny Samuelson and his Dad bought it. Clyde Redburn had a bowling alley on one side. The Samuelsons later put in more bowling lanes. Upstairs they had a club called “3.2.” At the time, those 18 and older could sip the 3.2 beer served there and dance. At one time Wayne Snyder’s Saddlery shared half of the store.   Sharing a location was the thinking behind the former Minnie Mall located at 480 East Age. Named by local businessman, Jack Applebee, for his mother, Minnie, in the 1980s, many businesses enjoyed the convenient location, The Furniture Store, Hobby Shop, Montgomery Wards, Honey Bear Children’s Clothing, Fabric Nook, Greg Henry’s Get-N-Pack, Radio Shack, Julie Sneddon’s Cards and Gifts, Patti Applebee’s Nimble Needle, Ben’s Aspen Leaf Café and the Shaft Shop which specialized in darts and dart supplies. Today, Granby Medical Center-Centura Health is at this historic downtown location.  

Granby’s historic story from 1905 to 2005 is one of building dreams, homes and businesses to create a community. Chinese Proverb says, “One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade.” How true.
2005

     

Topic: Dude Ranches

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.

Topic:

Community Life

What was it like to live in Grand County in the 1800's or the early 1900's?  Click on the drop down menus and find out about community life in the “olden days.“

Topic: Mining

Lulu City

A popular hiking trail in Rocky Mountain National Park leads to the site of the historic mining town of Lulu City.  When precious metals were discovered there in 1879, as many as 500 prospectors showed up.  When the mines played out four years later, they departed in haste for other promising boom towns.

Lulu City was named for the daughter of Benjamin Franklin Burnett, one of the town founders. At its height, the town had a hotel, post office, and a justice of the peace.  It was served three times a week by a state coach from Fort Collins, on the other side of the Continental Divide.

There were probably ten saloons which drew customers from various mines in the area, such as the Rustic, Friday Nite, Tiger, Carbonate and Southern Cross.  These yielded low grade gold, silver and lead but the remote location of the Lulu made the cost to process the metals so high that efforts were soon abandoned.  The closest smelters were probably well over 100 wagon miles away.

One of the more remarkable characters of Lulu was "Squeaky Bob" Wheeler.  His high pitched voice was unique.  He was subject to drinking bouts, but was usually a likeable, well-behaved citizen.

After working in the mines, Squeaky Bob saved enough money to purchase a ranch south of Lulu. There he established a guest house and became famous for his cooking skills and colorful hospitality.  The current Lulu City trail runs through the site of his property, which was named the Phantom Valley Ranch.  He sold the ranch in 1926, but it continued to be a popular tourist stop until it was included in the National Park boundaries. 

Topic: Biographies

R.W. "Dick" McQueary

R.W. (Dick) McQueary was born May 9, 1868, in the San Luis Valley near what is now Del Norte. Dick moved to Grand County in 1876. In 1892, Dick, newly married, began freighting between Hot Sulphur Springs and George Town's railroad terminal.

He moved boxes of merchandise for the general store, barrels of whiskey for saloons and machinery for sawmills. On one of these trips he decided to build cabins closer to Berthoud Pass. His crew built several log buildings 6 miles from the top of the pass and named it "Spruce Lodge".

In the spring of 1893, Dick contracted to open snowbound Berthoud Pass by middle June. He moved his wife Jessie and three-months old son to Spruce Lodge. Snow was shoveled from the roofs and trails to the buildings. Heat from stoves thawed the frozen dirt roofs and water entered the cabins. Pans were placed under the leaks to catch snow water. Work was completed 2 weeks later. On June 14, snow began to fall and canvas was placed over stove pipes to keep water from putting out the fires. Four feet of snow fell and the only dry place in the cabins was the pallet with the baby on it under the table.

1895 saw Dick Mcqueary homestead 320 acres between Pole and Crooked Creeks The ranch was named "Four-Bar-Four" after Dick's cattle brand. It became a well-known travel stop and is a point of interest to this day. By 1909 R.W. was freighting the Grand Lake area and became involved with building a road between the foot of Milner Pass to Pouder Lake at the summit. Dick bid $49,000 to build the road. Three years later, completion of a rough outline of the entire road through Rocky Mtn.National Park. M cqueary completed the west side and Jacobson the east side. Dick prepared festival grounds west of Grand Lake and a large crowd enjoyed the road opening celebration.

Topic: Skiing

Winter Carnivals

Carl Howelsen, a ski jumping champion in his native Norway, came to Denver to pursue a career as a stonemason in the early years of the 20th Century.  He amused himself and others by demonstrating ski-jumping in the foothills of Denver. 

In 1911, Howelson went to Hot Sulphur Springs, where he taught locals such as Horace Button the art of jumping.  Under Howelson's leadership, the first winter carnival west of the Mississippi Rover was held there on February 10-12.  According to the Middle Park Times, "Never before in the history of the Territory and State of Colorado has such an event even been contemplated, much less held!".

Norwegian immigrants Howelson, Angell Schmidt of Denver and Gunnar Dahles of Williams Fork (Grand County) all staged jumping competitions during the carnival.  There were also skating and tobogganing events and a Grand Ball.  Hot Sulphur Springs continued holding Winter Carnivals annually until World War II, when they were discontinued until the 100th anniversary celebration, called the Grand Winter Sports Carnival scheduled for December 30, 2011-February 11, 2012.

Topic: Towns

Parshall

The town-site of Parshall was part of the ranch homesteaded by Fred Dean in the 1880s. Before 1900 the ranch belonged to William Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News and town of Hot Sulphur Springs. In 1902 Frank Byers, son of William Byers, sold the ranch of 480 acres to Cordelia and Simon Parshall.   

Cordelia Parshall died on March 30, 1904, leaving the ranch to her son Clyde. In 1907 Clyde sold 60.6 acres of the northeast corner of the ranch to Alonzo F. Polhamus, a civil engineer. Polhamus dedicated the town plat to Grand County on July 26, 1907 and named it for his friend and the Parshall homestead. The original primitive store operated by Walter Dow was the drawing card for visitors. Parshall was the headquarters of the “Williams Fork Telephone Company,” a highly informal operation that is said to have transmitted its subscribers’ voices along barbed wire fences.

The town was never incorporated and today still has a bar and restaurant, a post office and a chapel, plus the Grand County Road and Bridge Dept. District 3 maintenance shops. Population varies seasonally between 75 and 90 people.

Edits and corrections to original posting by Don Dailey, 10-2021.

 

 

 

Topic: Towns

Grand Lake

Grand Lake was established in 1879 and incorporated in 1944. It is named for the largest natural body of water in Colorado.

In 1867, when only a few people resided near the lake, Major John Wesley Powell (the man whose group first rafted the Grand Canyon) came to explore the possibility of floating down the Grand (now Colorado) River. That summer, Powell, local resident Jack Sumner, and William Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News, made the first recorded ascent of Longs Peak from Grand Lake.

In the early 1900’s a Yacht Club was formed by enthusiasts who were attracted by the demands of attentive seamanship the lake demanded. In 1912, Sir Thomas Lipton contributed an impressive cup to be presented annually to the winner of the annual August Regatta. This event still draws skilled sailors to the challenging competition. 

The town was founded during a very brief mining boom, but because of it's natural beauty, tourism has long been the sustaining feature of it's economy.

Topic:

Dude Ranches

Article contributed by Gretchen Bergen

 

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.

Sources:
A Dude Ranch Is... 1874-1986.
Grand County Historical Association Journal, Volume VI, Number 1. June 1986. Grand County Historical Association

Dude Ranches