Cowboys and horses

Routt County Ranch Histories

Homesteaders & Ranchers

Northwest Colorado saw many open-range cattle operations, but Steamboat Springs attracted a different crowd of hopefuls: homesteaders. Only the promise of free land could convince settlers to endure this area’s deep snows and hard winters. It was a hard life, and some gave up and sold their parcels to their neighbors. The ones who stuck it out started a family ranching tradition that continues to this day. 

A number of Routt County Ranches have been awarded Centennial Farm & Ranch status. The Centennial Farms & Ranches program, operated by the Colorado State Historic Preservation Office, recognizes four categories of honorees associated with the agricultural history of the State of Colorado. For move visit: Centennial Farms & Ranches | History Colorado

Blake Ranch

The Blake Ranch was a dairy farm from 1906 to 1971, and the crop then as now is Timothy Hay and Alfalfa Hay.  The farm includes approximately one mile of Yampa River frontage and the small original house built in 1895 is still in use. The fifth generation is currently residing property, managing the ranch while raising the sixth generation.

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee


The Brenner Family Ranch, located about 8 miles south of Steamboat Springs, was homesteaded by Bear Bill Harvey in the 1880s. The ranch property adjoins the Lake Catamount development land on the west. In 1944, the Brenner family purchased the ranch from W.S. Thorne. The family had viewed the beautiful Yampa Valley from Rabbit Ears Pass and determined that they were destined to leave Kansas and become Coloradoans.

Harold Brenner attended Steamboat Springs High School graduating in 1945 then served three years in the Air Force. After his tour of duty, he returned to the Yampa Valley and assumed the operation of the ranch for his aging father. It was operated primarily as a sheep ranch along with raising grain and hay. Presently Harold’s son, Gerald, is the ranch operator, and Harold and his wife live here in the summers and winter in Sun Lakes, Arizona.

Brown Ranch/Margaret Duncan Brown

The Brown Ranch was originally purchased by Thornton Brown, an assayer,  and his wife, Margaret Duncan Brown, a school teacher, in 1915. They moved from Cripple Creek, CO in hopes of a simple life on a small ranch away from the hustle and bustle of a mining boom town. Three years after moving to the ranch, Thornton died in the flu epidemic of 1918. Margaret chose to stay and run the ranch by herself, which she did until her death in 1965. In the nearly 50 years that she operated the ranch, she increased it from 160 acres to 700 acres.

Margaret was a copious writer, writing many diaries, journals, and first person accounts of her life as a woman alone running a sheep ranch during the early to mid-20th century. A memoir, "Shepherdess of Elk River Valley," was based on these accounts and published posthumously in 1967. 

Margaret never had children, so the ranch was passed on to her family descendants. It is now owned by the fifth generation of the family.

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee


One of the largest ranch holdings in Routt County was the Cary Ranch west of Hayden. Starting in 1890 with just 160 acres, the Cary family methodically acquired acre after acre until the ranch spread from the limits of Hayden to west of the Routt County line. The ranch frontage ran for 10 miles along what is now Highway 40 with additional non-adjacent holdings.

At one time, the ranch ran 16,000 head of livestock including 400 head of Shorthorn cattle, several thousand head of grade cattle and steers, and several hundred head of horses. The ranch buildings spread across several ranch sites, and the Cary barn was noted as one of the largest in the area. Writing for the Steamboat Pilot, Irwin Cary relates the following story, "In the early summer of 1903, the biggest calf round-up I ever remember has held up in California Park. We had our grub wagon there in charge of Johnny Bigtold, who was the best camp cook I ever ate after. His sourdough bread was the best….We branded cattle there for four days and Charlie Temple did most of the roping. When he brought a calf in and called out a brand, no one every questioned it, and I believe that he made few mistakes. Sometimes after this round-up, Emory Clark and Marion Yoast had one of the best fights I ever saw. They were both husky men and fought with no holds barred." Today this ranch is separated back into many small holdings with several owners.


In 1880, Adam Fiske, a Civil War veteran, came to the Hayden area and homesteaded land to the east now known as the Carpenter Ranch. Fiske is recognized for building the valley’s first irrigation reservoir and ditch, sowing the first alfalfa seed in Routt County, and rebuilding the area’s first threshing machine.

The Dawson family of Cimmaron, New Mexico purchased the Fiske homestead plus many more acres, 4200 in all, and developed the four Dawson Ranches. These were managed by the Dawson brothers. In 1915, the entire spread was sold to the Victor American Fuel Company. Underground coal mines were opened, but the surface rights were leased to Ferry Carpenter, a friend and former employee of the Dawsons.

Ferry Carpenter became Routt County’s most prominent citizen as a rancher, attorney, and state official. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carpenter preferred "cowboying" in the West. He arrived in the Hayden area in 1905 after working summers for the Dawsons in New Mexico. Carpenter proved up on his own homestead, engaged in the cattle business, completed law school, and maintained an active legal practice. In 1942, he purchased the present Carpenter Ranch from the Dawson heirs. The ranch is now owned and operated by the Nature Conservancy as a protected biological area teaching ranch operations and history.

Ferry Carpenter’s legacy still lives today. His developments in the beef industry, implementation of the Taylor Grazing Act through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and innovations in ranching impact modern ranching practices. In the epilogue to his auto biography, Confessions of a Maverick, Carpenter is quoted as saying when asked about raising cattle:
"There’s not much money in it, son. And I never found it anything but a pain in the neck some of the time. But hold on! It was the good life for me and my family---the freedom of it, the joy of being able to tell the rest of the world to go to hell any time I felt like it, which was often."

Today the ranch is owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy.


Irish emigrant, Patrick Cullen, came to the western United States with the goal of land ownership. The frugal young man had saved money for passage to America by working jobs in Ireland and Scotland. After working for an additional year in the United States he had saved enough to bring his Scottish sweetheart, Annie McGlothlin, across the Atlantic to marry him. They traveled West on the railroad, then finally made their way to the Steamboat Springs area.

Patrick worked first for John Trull but soon filed on his own homestead about 5 miles up the Elk River from Steamboat Springs. The Cullens were hard working and developed a cow-calf operation on their ranch. They supported their nine children, and earned the respect of all who knew them. They built a fine two story house for their large family. Cullen Corner, on Routt County Road 129, is still a landmark for today’s travelers.


The ranch now owned by the Fetchers has an interesting homestead history. Fred Akhurst, one of ten children born to an English family, had worked his way to Colorado via France, Canada, Iowa, Texas, and Kansas. While in Leadville, Colorado in 1882, he and his friends heard there was land and also mining rights available along the Elk River in Routt County. They bought a team of horses, a wagon, and supplies, and they were off to claim their portion. Fred located a good spring and began to clear the land of sage brush, choke cherry, scrub oak, and rocks. In 1883, he filed a preemption claim on 180 acres, a timber claim on 120 acres, and a homestead claim on 160 acres along the Elk River. In addition, he bought another 160 acres.

His friend, Charlie Franz, filed on the land next to his. They headed for Denver for supplies, and on the trip met a family on their way to that section of Routt County. Traveling with them was Annettie Stimils. When Fred returned to the area, they became better acquainted, but she had to return to her home in Wakeeney, Kansas. It was not long however, until she returned to the Clark area, and they were married in 1890. In 1915, the ranch was sold to Hans Larson, and then passed onto Stanley Larson. The Fetchers purchased the ranch from him in 1949.

John Fetcher was a graduate from Harvard University and interested in living in the West. He and his brother purchased the ranch, and he learned the ranching business by experience. At the same time, John became one of the most noted water experts in the state of Colorado and was instrumental in water storage and use planning. Several water storage projects have come to be through John Fetcher’s work, among them Steamboat Lake. He is also one of the world’s experts on ski jump design and has been one of the primary citizen workers in Steamboat’s legacy. He was one of the founders of the Steamboat Ski Area and helped clear and install the first lifts. The same hard work he put in on his ranch also went into making the ski area successful.

His son, Jay, now lives on the ranch and runs the operation, but John and his wife, Criss, are there routinely helping with ranch chores. The Fetchers have been leaders in land conservation and were one of the first ranch families to put protective easements on their holdings.

Green Creek Ranch/GAY FAMILY

The Green Creek Ranch is one of the last active ranches in the Pleasant Valley south of Steamboat Springs. The ranch is owned by Elaine Gay and her son, Bill. Her partner in marriage and in ranching, Bob, was killed several years ago feeding cattle. Previous owners of the ranch were the Monsons, Bonards, and Gabiouds. One owner installed a system of water wheels to produce electricity using the swiftly falling water of Green Creek. Only the supports for the wheels remain today.

After Elaine and Bill were married, they lived for ten years in a house they built on his parent’s ranch. Bill was one of five children in his Swiss family that moved to Pleasant Valley in 1898. Elaine was the daughter of a local agricultural family also. In 1950, Bob and Elaine bought the Green Creek Ranch and worked to add more land to their holdings. Together they developed a successful cattle and sheep business. They loved the land and were attached to every acre.

The Gays were determined not to let their ranch become a development site and participated in land preservation efforts. When there was an active movement to make the Pleasant Valley area around Lake Catamount into a resort village and recreation area for several thousand people, Elaine successfully derailed the project with heartfelt activism and her famous homemade pies. Elaine was solicited by the Routt County Commissioners to record the history of Pleasant Valley while memories were still vivid. The following quote from her book, How Pleasant Is the Valley, is a lament that Elaine lives and believes. "Pleasant Valley has changed drastically in the last fifty years. No longer can the sound of a rooster crowing be heard across the valley, nor the clucking of a hen as she scratches the barnyard looking for worms for her brood. There is not a single chicken raised in the valley today. No longer can one hear the grunting, smacking and snuffling sounds of pigs at the trough. There are no pigs raised in Pleasant Valley today. No longer can the tinkling of cowbells be heard as the cows are being driven to the barn at milking time. There are no milk cows in Pleasant Valley today. The jingling of harnesses and hoof beats of the workhorses drawing sled or wagon loads of hay or grain, are things of the past.

The neighbors do not gather for a friendly picnic or two during the short summer. Nor do the neighbors drop in to play a game or two of cards on long winter evenings……….How wonderful it would be if we could just keep what we have left, as it is, for all the world and future generations to see."

Crags Ranch/Green Family

Crags Ranch – In 1895 Leon H. and Mary Green came from Sterling, Colorado, and started homesteading what is now the Crags Ranch on 160 acres near Hayden in Routt County.  Additional acreage was later purchased to bring the ranch to 1751 acres.  The ranch was eventually passed down to Leon’s grandchildren Leon S. and Mabel Green.  Mabel and her son, Jerry, and his wife, Judy raised hay and cattle.

The Albert Coffin homestead (1909)south of Hayden was sold to Joseph Green of the Green Cattle Company in 1917. (Joseph Green was not related to the Greens who now own the ranch.) In 1937, Mabel Green’s family bought this ranch and has passed in on through the family to her son and daughter-in-law, Jerry and Judy Green.

In 1895, Leon and Mary Green homesteaded another parcel where they raised Hereford cattle. In 1912, the property was named the Crags Ranch after the rock formations surrounding the parcel. Pictographs on the rocks are symbols of earlier inhabitants.

Many of the original buildings still stand on the ranches now operated by Jerry and Judy Green. There is historic integrity in the buildings on the site, and it has been recognized recently by a full page article in the Sunday New York Times. Judy and Jerry Green were active members of the Hayden Heritage Center, as well as respected, working ranchers in that area.

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee

HITCHENS OVerlook Ranch

Hitchens Overlook Ranch – The Hitchens Overlook Ranch dates back to around 1886 when James Hitchens began a 160 acre homestead near Milner in Routt County.  Old-timers may remember the ranch as a post office stop on the stage route from Hayden to Steamboat Springs.  Over the years, the ranch has grown to its present size of 1,980 acres. James and Emma Hitchens, immigrants from Cornwall, England, came to the Yampa Valley and homesteaded at Pool, just one mile east of Milner. The property is now known as the Overlook Ranch and is owned by their great-granddaughter, Diane Holly.

While maintaining a small ranching operation, James and Emma also operated the Pool Post Office for twenty years and served as a stage stop for the Steamboat to Hayden run. Freighters also used the Pool stop to take on water. Emma’s kitchen skills were well known to travelers and may have been a prime reason that the site became a traditional stop.

Hitchen’s son, Albert, and his wife, Winifred, developed the property into an active ranching and farming operation. After the elder Hitchen’s death, Albert decided to move his father’s large, two story, retirement home from the town of Milner to the ranch site. It was the winter of 1929, and there was an abundance of snow on the ground. Using four bobsleds and 26 head of horses, the house was moved from town to ranch in eight hours. It is still in use on the ranch today.

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee


Ward and Amy Holderness were the ancestors of several Hayden and Craig relatives. Their parents had emigrated from England via Canada. Ward came as a young man to the Yampa Valley and punched cattle for two of the large outfits in Northwest Colorado. He met Amy in Hayden, and they were married in 1889.

The couple homesteaded west of Hayden at the head of Holderness Gulch, then moved closer to Hayden, and finally settled on a ranch located on the old west river road for their remaining years. The couple raised eight children. Their original homestead became a part of the sprawling Cary Ranch.


A Russian shoe cobbler becomes a wealthy American rancher---this is the story of Isadore Bolton. He arrived in the United States in 1905, and came to Northwestern Colorado in 1913. He homesteaded in the Elk Head country, and worked on hay crews for his room and board, plus $1.00 a day.

He tried cattle, but made his fortune in sheep. Remnants of the sheep and cattle war still permeated attitudes in Routt County. The effects of the Depression left Bolton with deep debts, but he and a partner managed to borrow $15,000 to buy 5000 head of sheep. Hundreds were killed by vengeful cowboys, but Isadore managed to winter through about 3,700.

In 1921, he was hired by the Davis family to manage their sheep to the financial advantage of both parties. In 1926, Isadore married Ethel Fuiks and also partnered that same year with Charles McIlvancie in a successful cattle business. He and his wife settled in their fashionable new home on a ranch near Hayden. When Bolton died in 1952, his estate was valued at well over $2,000,000. As Pat Holderness stated in the book, History of Hayden and West Routt County 1896-1989, "Not bad for a small, penniless man who walked into the Elk Head in a cutaway coat and a brown derby hat in 1913."


The early history of the Kemry Ranch, near the intersection of Highway 40 and 131 east of Steamboat Springs cannot be documented, since the abstracts are missing. George and Alta Kemry purchased the ranch from a gentleman named Adair in 1937. They moved there with their three children, Lewis, Eunice, and Harriet. The ranch house that they occupied is now lived in by Dr. Lambert Orton. The Kemrys, before their move, lived for 16 years on 20 Mile Road near the Stanko and Willett property and partially on the Woolery land.

After Lewis Kemry returned from the service in World War II, he ranched with his father. He then bought the adjoining Priest Creek Ranch and ran both cattle operations for the family as his parents aged. In 1970, Lewis sold both of those ranches and moved to the Lower Elk area to ranch until his recent retirement and sale of that ranch also.


In 1878, Preston King’s father visited the south Routt County area. Intrigued by his father’s account, Preston King and his wife came with six other "colony" members to settle in the Eigeria Park/Toponas area. Several decedents of those families still live in Routt County.

During the first winter, Preston was busy with surveying jobs and gone days at a time. Mrs. King had been a teacher at a New York girls’ school and not accustomed to the isolation of frontier living. She spent many lonely days without seeing another person. Mr. King raised wheat and hay and also maintained a cattle herd. King Mountain is named for this pioneer.

In 1901, Mr. and Mrs. Preston King moved to Steamboat Springs locating on Crawford Avenue. They built the house that Nancy and Lynn Kramer now own. Mr. King was widely known as an expert surveyor and among his projects were Rabbit Ears Pass, 20 Mile Road, the Steamboat Springs Cemetery, and the Brooklyn area. King had the reputation as being "the only surveyor in the West who could survey a ditch so water could run uphill." -Burroughs, "Where the Old West Stayed Young"

Mrs. Preston King was close friends with Mrs. J.H. Burroughs, and they were well-known for donning their fancy clothes to go afternoon social "calling" on other Steamboat Springs ladies.

LAUGHLIN Family Ranch

After the endorsement of the Homestead Act, many families came to Routt County in search of better grass and water for their livestock. Among them were the Laughlin's who homesteaded near the town of Yampa. They arrived in 1886 and suffered through an unanticipated harsh winter.

Their food supply was inadequate, and they finally had to rely on sage hens for the major part of their winter diet. They claimed that this stunted the growth of the children. Moccasins of elk hike served to cover their feet as they checked trap lines. The family lived in a one room cabin but were able to add a second room when the weather warmed.

"The next summer (1887) we got another room built on our house with the help of Riley Bird. We hewed the logs down smooth on the inside after they was put up. Then we chinked them on the outside while the women papered them with newspaper on the inside, so we thought we had a pretty fine house…" Ben Laughlin as quoted in Where the Old West Stayed Young

Descendents from the Laughlin/Moore family still maintain a ranching operation in the Yampa area today.


Ida Dupeire, from Villa Ridge, Illinois, arrived by stagecoach in Steamboat Springs in 1902 with her teenaged son and daughter. Newly divorced, with some money in hand, she soon purchased a homestead about 5 miles east of Steamboat Springs. Her son, Herbert Lufkin, eventually took over the ranch and began to acquire other homestead properties. Herbert married a young teacher, Eva Rowell, from Kansas. She taught in rural schools on the Snake River and on Slate Creek in northern Routt County, and eventually in Steamboat Springs. The Lufkins had three children, Lloyd, Doris, and Don.

After Don returned from the Navy in 1945, he leased and eventually purchased the ranch from his parents. He continued to add pieces of land until the ranch spread to about 2000 acres. The largest parcel of land was on the valley floor east and south of Steamboat Springs. The Haymaker Golf Club now occupies a piece of the Lufkin Ranch.

Don ranched for 30 years. Now he and his wife, Eileen, have a retirement home on the edge of a small, picturesque lake on a remaining parcel of the Lufkin property.


Surrounded by hills and mountains, the May Ranch sits snugly on the banks of the Elk River about five miles west of Steamboat Springs. Patrick Cullen homesteaded the property. Fredrick May bought the ranch in 1928, and before he had homesteaded in the Mystic area further out from town.

The main house of the ranch was built in 1910 with three additions since. The original homestead cabin still remains on the ranch. Several pieces of "recycled" area history are a part of the May Ranch. The cabin, built in 1911 at Mystic, was moved to the Elk River property for reuse. The floor of one building is made of boards from the Chieftain Ballroom in Steamboat Springs, and portion of a fence is constructed from logs from the 1885 Sheridan Hotel on Lincoln Avenue. The bridge that spans the Elk River and leads into the ranch has parts taken from the Milner, 5th, and 13th Street bridges.

Bill and Cynthia May acquired the ranch from Bill’s father and have ambitiously kept a cattle operation going, until Bill’s recent health problems. Bills’ annual cattle drives to and from the high country have entertained and delayed many travelers on the Elk River Road. Cynthia is a well recognized ranch wife that has been a hardworking partner in keeping the business going. Bill, his sister, and son have been active in cowboy poetry circles and also provided music at several events. His extensive writings are well recognized throughout Northwestern Colorado. Through stories and letters, he has retained much of the history of his family and early pioneer experiences. For many years, Bill was a member of the Board of Directors for the Tread of Pioneers Museum and has donated several artifacts that are on display at the museum.


Twenty three year old Missourian, Jerry McWilliams arrived in Steamboat Springs aboard a Concord stagecoach in 1889. With money in his pocket and an eye for business opportunities, he was seeking his lot in the American West. He and two young partners purchased a mercantile establishment within a week of their arrival. Not only were they selling general merchandise, but the post office was located in their business. This put McWilliams in contact with all of the residents and newcomers, and he was soon in the real estate business. As John Burroughs states in his book, Where the Old West Stayed Young, "it would no more be possible to trace Jerry McWilliams’ business career in detail than it would be to plot the progress of a whirling dervish…" He was filled with ambition and energy and was hard to keep up with.

In 1895, McWilliams married Hattie Casley, the new school "marm" in town, after a whirlwind courtship. He built a fine new home on his Pine Grove Ranch for his new bride. Seven years later a son was born and then in 1902, a second son arrived. Both boys were associated with major, national print publications in their adult lives.

McWilliams sold his interest in the mercantile business and concentrated on real estate, ranching, and cattle. In 1900, he sold 41 ranches in the Yampa Valley, marketing five in just one week. He became well known throughout Northwestern Colorado, and it was said that although he drove a fancy, fast, red, rubber tired wagon, he was never above rolling up his sleeves and "riding the range".

He sold the Pine Grove Ranch and moved to a ranch in Pleasant Valley south of Steamboat Springs. He eventually settled near the Yampa River about five miles south of Steamboat Springs where he built two huge barns, several out- buildings, and a another fine home. Just as Jim Norvell did, he traveled from Browns Park to the Yampa community, buying small herds and marketing them by the carload.

Store owner, post office operator, real estate tycoon, rancher, cattleman, and State senator---McWilliams was a legend in Routt County! He was always moving and always making money, and he had a lasting impact on the agricultural industry of the area.


William More and his family came to Pleasant Valley in 1885. There were frugal, and by 1920, had acquired 800 acres of land. During the economic hard times of the Depression, the family lost all of their property.

William’s son, Val, herded for money during the decade of the 20s. He could recall huddling in his sheepskin coat on nights well below zero to protect haystacks from wandering livestock and wild life. By spring 1923, the family had again acquired 160 acres in the valley south of Steamboat Springs.

In 1957, Jerry More, Val’s son, purchased the Yock property where the well recognized "More or Steamboat Barn" sits. That picturesque barn was built in 1926-28, the exact year is uncertain. In l950, a lean-to was added to supplement space for a dairy operation. With the Steamboat Ski Area and Mount Werner in the background, the barn has become an unofficial icon for the town. It is used in many photo shots and promotions.

Mountain View Ranch/Monger Family

Mountain View Ranch – Adeline Johnson came to Routt County from Goldhill, CO with her family who homesteaded near Saddle Mountain.  In 1907 Adeline homesteaded a piece of land at the base of Elk Mountain.  In 1909 she married John Monger.  The Mongers started their life together on Adeline’s piece of land in the small one room house Adeline had built.  They first raised cattle and later changed to sheep.  John and his neighbors built the house and barn that is still there today.  The couple had 6 children.  After coming home from the service and with new bride Evelyn in 1946, Lloyd, the 5th child, bought the Mountain View Ranch and in 1958 purchased land from John Monger that included the original homestead.  Lloyd and Evelyn went back to raising cattle and grew some wheat and barley.  They raised five children on the ranch, who eventually took over running the ranch.

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee


Charles Willis Neiman was born in 1861 in Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania but moved to Kansas at age nine. In 1880, he came with his father for a visit to Colorado. He worked for a short time in Denver and then reluctantly returned to Kansas to complete a college degree in agriculture. For three years he made an effort to farm in Kansas, but Colorado was in his heart. He returned to the northwest corner of the state and fell in love with cowboying. He worked for large outfits as a cowboy and sometimes as foreman in the Browns Park/Wyoming border area. His association with those well known ranches earned him respect for his honesty and skills.
Neiman filed on a homestead in the Snake River Valley, gave that up, returned to Kansas, but was soon back in Routt County cow punching wherever he found work. This gave him a wide knowledge of the area and the people who lived there. In 1895, he successfully ran for sheriff, and that position earned him lasting fame. Neiman’s capture and recapture of outlaws, Tracey and Lant, is a story of the West that is still remembered today. His true contribution to Routt County ranching was his understanding of law enforcement from a cattleman’s point of view.


Jim Norvell was one of Northwest Colorado’s most notable characters! Born in Tennessee, Norvell came to Rawlins, Wyoming and then hiked south to the Hayden area. He first homesteaded a ranch between Hayden and Craig and eventually owned or leased land all over Northwest Colorado and Routt County. He prospered as a cattleman and also owned an early mercantile store, saloon, hotel, livery stable, and was a developer in Hayden.

If you asked old timers where Norvell ran his cattle, they would say "everywhere"! Besides his own herds, he would start at Browns Park buying up small groups of cattle from small operators until he had a large enough bunch to make it economical to market them by the carload. This practice not only make Norvell wealthy but also allowed many small ranchers to stay in business since they did not have sufficient numbers of cattle to market on their own.

Norvell formed a syndicate that purchased all of the vacant lots in Steamboat Springs as well as the springs and swimming pool. He served the town as its mayor in 1914. He had a 1600 acre ranch in Pleasant Valley which he later sold to acquire a large ranch property near Yampa and another large parcel near Toponas, as well as the Toponas store.

There were legends about Jim Norvell, his gambling, and drinking. "When he was one of the boys, he made Rome howl. He didn’t sneak in the back, take a drink, and then try to conceal his breath with a clove. He walked in the front door, called up all the boys, named his poison, went out to the middle of the street with his hat on the back of his head, and let out a yell that would make old Sitting bull turn over in his grave." ( Burroughs, Where the Old West Stayed Young) In the early 1900s, all that changed. He became religious and was widely known as the "Cowboy Preacher". It is said that immediately after being converted he went to his saloon in Hayden, brought the barrels of liquor out to the street, and drained all of them. Although he spent great amounts of time ministering to the people of the area, he remained an active and prosperous cattleman and rancher.

The Perry Ranch

Winfield Scott Perry made his homestead claim in the spring of 1911. Two years later, in 1913, he purchased water rights. The Perry Ranch has now been operated by five generations of the Perry family, over more than a century. In the early days, the ranch produced crops such as spinach and lettuce, before turning to oats and hay in the 1950s. The family also raised English Herefords—Junior Perry, the grandson of Winfield Scott Perry—developed a relationship with a rancher in Canada, from whom he purchased his bulls. The remaining part of the original ranch now raises hay and has a grazing lease.

The Perry family has always been dedicated to community, and multiple members of each generation have generously given their time to worthwhile endeavors. Winfield Scott and his son, Ora Scott, or “Ote”, helped to establish and build the Toponas Community Hall. Junior’s wife, Mary Jean King Perry, started the South Routt Library District by building her own little library on the hillside of the family’s ranch headquarters in 1978. Mary Jean volunteered at many organizations, most notably as a board member of the Yampa Valley Electric Association for more than 40 years—an elected position that her son, Chuck Perry, would later take over after her retirement.

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee


Noah Reader, his wife, and three sons were nearly destitute when they arrived in their dilapidated wagon in Rawlins, Wyoming. They were stopping to pick up some meager supplies and continue onto a Montana destination before winter set in. Mr Reader was ill, and the rest of the family did not look as if they were faring so well either. By chance, they met "Bibleback" Brown, the mountain man from Northwestern Colorado. Observing their situation, he invited them to follow him to Colorado, and they turned their wagon south into the Snake River valley of northern Routt County.

Mrs. Reader became the areas "doctor" and midwife. Together the family maintained a small trading post and also increased their cattle herd. The family thrived in their new surroundings and became the first permanent settlers in the area. It was their son, Al Reader, who became one of the area’s leading cattlemen. Along with other ranchers, he helped form the Snake River Association giving them the ability to be competitive with other large operations in this corner of the state.

A visit to the beautiful Reader Cemetery in northern Routt County is a visit to the history of the area. On a bluff above the river, the story of the valley is revealed in the tombstones.


James and Elizabeth Redmond, natives of Illinois, acquired the land that is still being actively ranched by a Redmond descendant. The ranch was first owned by Emma Boar who bought the property in 1890 to be near her parents. The Redmonds bought the ranch in 1916, and Jack and Wanda Redmond purchased it from the parents in 1980. The elder Redmonds raised three sons and a daughter on the ranch.

The original ruins of the first cabin are still on the property, but the main ranch house that is still in use was built in 1890. It has had alterations and additions since. Other original ranch buildings give a sense of Routt County agricultural work and history. A son of Jack and Wanda Redmond, John, also operates a ranch south of Yampa.

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee


The early history of the Rossi family is related to mining as well as ranching, and still today they contribute to the agricultural community in southern Routt County.

Two Rossi brothers acquired historic ranches which are still actively operated by family members today. George and Merino Rossi bought land in southern Routt County area in the mid-1920s. They acquired the property that had been homesteaded in the 1880s by John and Bruce Roup and the Whipple Brothers. Later George’s son, Joe, and his wife, Virginia, ranched the land that George had acquired. Grandchildren of George now operate those holdings. This ranch and its buildings maintain and demonstrate a sense of Routt County’s rural history.
Dean and Jim Rossi operate the ranch that Merino, and his son, Louis, had. They have acquired additional land to increase the size of the Rossi holdings.


A.W. Salisbury arrived in Hahns Peak in 1880. Born in Redmond, Canada, he made it to the American West to seek his fortune. He had driven cattle on the Chisholm Trail and worked in the cattle business in Texas and Oklahoma. In Hahns Peak, he met Bob McIntosh, who hired Salisbury to wash dishes at his boardinghouse. They became friends and forged a lifelong partnership.

McIntosh was interested in ranching and bought the McCarger place near the headwaters of Slater Creek. He sent Salisbury, with $1000 in gold pieces to buy breeding stock for work horses. A.W. drove 200 head of horses from as far away as the Brazos River in Texas back to northern Routt County. They bred and sold work horses for several years, and it proved to be a profitable venture for both men. McIntosh continued his interest in horses, and A.W. Salisbury bought the Saddle Pocket Ranch on the Snake River as headquarters for his active cattle operation. Salisbury descendents still live in the area.


In 1886, Charley Honnald came by covered wagon with his parents the Snake River Valley to homestead what was eventually called the Focus Ranch. Later Charlie Temple bought the ranch, who in turn leased it to his brother, Harry Temple. Harry brought his family from Boulder by covered wagon in 1911, trailed by his small herd of cattle and some horses. Also along came the five Temple children.

The Temple boys named the property the "Focus Ranch," explaining their choice in this way: "Where the sun’s rays meet, and where the sons raise meat." Eventually it was Harry’s son, "Shorty," who became the most closely associated with the ranch. He married Lucy Wood in 1924 who had come from Georgia to visit and stayed to teach. They had two children, Jim and Pat. In 1932, Lucy and Shorty purchased the Focus Ranch and by l936, they were keeping a cattle business going and also opening a guest ranch. They set up outdoor tents for their children, who were then 8 and 9, and rented their rooms to visitors.

The Temple children thrived on the idea of a guest ranch, and Pat even moved the chicken house making it a small concession stand called "Pat’s Pop Shop". When the children were older, they organized a club that built a rodeo ground holding events to entertain residents and guests. The admission charge paid for their materials in no time. Dances were held in the Pep Hall. For many years, the Focus Ranch was a popular destination for city folks who wanted to escape for a true ranch experience in the West.

Jim Temple was one of the idea men and founders for the Steamboat Ski area. His sons are both successful business men, with Jeff founding Spyder Ski Wear and Jeff developing CaseLogic CD containers. Together they are now developers in the Yampa and Wet Mountain valleys among other projects.

Pat Temple was a successful realtor in the Steamboat Springs area for many years. She was instrumental in founding an historical society that gathered much of the information about the area. She also served on the Tread of Pioneers Museum board for several years.

J. C. TEMPLE Ranch

J.C. "Charlie" Temple was the fourth of six sons born in Central City, Colorado. His family moved to Wagon Mound, New Mexico where all six sons were well trained in the cattle business. In 1884 at the age of 17, Charlie and one of his brothers drove 1500 head of cattle to the Yampa Valley---Charlie never left! He bought the Reid ranch on the west border of Hayden, then sold that to the sprawling Cary Ranch and settled on the Dry Creek Ranch south of Hayden.

Charlie Temple was well respected by other cattlemen, and also earned fame as running the best round-up chuck wagon in the area. He served as President of the Northwest Colorado Stock Growers Association for many years. The following account reflects some of the hardships that cattlemen in this remote mountain region faced: "In the fall of 1908, it snowed us under on the sixteenth day of October, and the snows did not go off until the following May. The first storm left twenty nine and a half inches of snow on the level at Steamboat Springs. On January 7, 1913, the temperature dropped to fifty-four degrees below zero at Steamboat. We fed a bunch of cattle before daylight that morning at the J.C. Temple’s, but they didn’t eat, but followed the hay rack and bedded down on the feed they were so cold." ( Burroughs, "Where the Old West stayed Young")


It was common for miners who had come to America to work in the precious metal industry to seek new frontier areas when the mining industry began to shut down. There was land to be claimed and a piece of the West available to those willing to work hard.

Albert and Mina Squire were among the hundreds who followed that pathway to Routt County when they settled in the Morgan Bottom area near Hayden in 1880. They had three young daughters (a fourth had died in infancy), and then eight more children were born to them after they settled in the Yampa Valley. Shortly after the birth of the twelfth baby, Mina Squire died leaving the large family motherless.

Later Ruben Squire, one of the sons wrote these words, "My heart aches when I think back to when Mother was taken from us leaving a houseful of youngsters to fight their way through life. What is a home without a Mother? Father must have been a superman to shoulder the burden." Ruben and his brother, Frank, became important figures in the cattle business. Frank was the foreman for Jim Norvell’s operation for over twenty years, and that was no small task! Ruben worked the trails and was also associated with the Norvell ranches.

In 1915, Frank Squire married Annie Cullen, another Routt County ranch girl. Her family was well respected in the Elk River valley. Together they bought the Duquette Ranch which still remains in the family today. The couple also owned the infamous bucking horse, "General Pershing", who dumped many a Colorado cowboy.

When Frank Squire retired, the ranch was passed down to their daughter, Margaret, and her husband, Charles Hogue; and now on down to their son, Mike, and his wife, Maureen. The Hogue family also owns the Maxwell Building which houses Lyon Drug in Steamboat Springs. Frank and Annie Hogue retired to an apartment in the upper level of that building. Members of the family still occupy that dwelling today.

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee


Peter Stanko came to the Steamboat Springs area in the early 1900s and acquired a ranch on 20 mile road. He met and married Natalie Willett who had come to the area to work for her uncle, the local doctor. She also taught in rural schools. They had two children, and their son, Jim and his wife Jo, still operate the Stanko Ranch. The ranch sits on a hill overlooking grassy, rolling hills and the Yampa River. The ranch property has been in the family for over a century.

Like so many ranches of the area, some buildings are original and others have been moved to the property. The bungalow style house and the barn are among the originals, and along with them are the Willett coal shed, a Mt. Harris and a Klein ranch building, and the Haybro Mining Camp dance hall and community center.

Jim and Jo Stanko maintain an active ranching operation and also are associated with several organizations. Jo is the president of the Colorado Cattlewomen’s group, and for many years, Jim was president of the local museum board. He also is chairman of the cemetery district.

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee


Midway between Burns and Yampa, Colorado lies the headquarters for the Bar A Ranch. This property was homesteaded by Tony and Phil Sterner, two bachelors. Their place was a stopping place for travelers in southern Routt County.

Now owned by Alfred Fisher of the Fisher Body Company of Detroit, the ranch remains as one of the largest and enduring properties in southern Routt County.


Vernon Summer had distant views across the Yampa Valley floor from his living room on the land where he was born and raised. His family acquired the ranch property from Jacque Phillips in 1890, and it has been owned and operated by the Summer family continuously and is listed among Colorado’s "Centennial Farms". Just recently the original pioneer style barn and shed were removed and replaced by new buildings.

When the elder Summers were ranching, the Sydney community was thriving with many residents and businesses. Among them were a post office, saloon, café, stage stop, school house, and general store. Few bridges spanned the Yampa River, and Vernon recounts this story of his father’s crossing during spring run off near their ranch to reach the other side for work. "My dad would keep an empty milk can with a tight fitting lid (these were large cans that held several gallons) on the river bank. He would cling tightly to the buoyant can and fight against the current to cross the river. It would sweep him a ways down stream, but he finally would make the crossing. When the day’s work was finished on that side, he would use the can to reverse the crossing."

The Summer family ranched and raised some food items that they marketed to the miners in Oak Creek. Vernon remembers riding with his dad in the wagon to deliver the goods. The children attended the rural Sydney School near the Summer ranch. Vernon still recalls some his grade school recitations memorized for school programs.

Vernon has served the Steamboat Springs community in many ways. He was chairman of the town’s first planning commission and served along with his wife, Edythe, on the Tread of Pioneers Museum board of directors. His greatest legacy may be the sharing of many stories and accounts of the area’s history locked in his keen memory.

Vernon Summer passed away in 2012, the Summer ranch remains protected and in operation by a ranching family.

The story of the Summer family of Routt County is one from the “wild and wooly” West, transitioning into ranch life, anchoring his family to “the Mesa” and the Yampa River Valley they all loved. Read Louis Summer's full memoir: louis summer story.pdf

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee

Soash Ranch

Soash Ranch – The original farm was homesteaded by Kate Monger on May 2, 1904.  In 1905 she married W.R. Gray and they bought other adjoining parcels.  The original warm was 200 acres, and crops grown were cattle, wheat, hay, and barley.

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee


In 1913, Chester and Gladys Wheeler moved to the Clark area. Chester’s father had long been associated with horses, riding with both Kit Carson and Buffalo Bill. The Wheelers lived on several different ranches in the area with their four children. When Gladys passed away, the oldest son, Clarence, became the "housekeeper"for the family. He was only 13, but was the cook, cleaner, and laundress. It was a relief for the family and for Clarence when the father remarried.

The Wheelers were well respected and always considered good neighbors. They would help move snow, work on the roads, or pitch hay. They were best known for their fine horses. The Wheelers left the Clark area and moved to the lower Elk River. Chester died in 1970 at age 80. Clarence took over the ranching operation until his retirement.

Clarence Wheeler was one of the most trusted riders in Steamboat’s Winter Carnival and appeared for decades since 1933 in the horse and people competition. Only recently, has he not been able to continue his long riding tradition.

Zehner Ranch

Zehner Ranch – In 1901, Vernon and Orville Wheeler acquired 196 acres in Routt County near Hayden that in 1906 was transferred to Florence Wheeler Jones.  The land was passed down to daughter Ayliffe Jones Zehner in 1943 and today son David, wife Judith and their sons David, Darren and families share ownership.  Sheep, cattle, and wheat have been raised in the past, while today the land produces a hay crop through a land lease arrangement.  The farm house is believed to have been built in 1890 and has since 1906 continually housed generations of the Zehner family.

*A Colorado Centennial Farm/Ranch awardee