Ranching in South Park

The Lost Ways 2

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The first ranches in South Park were established soon after the first gold mining strikes in the 1850s. Fairplay became as much a ranching center as a mining center. The excellent grazing land in South Park is one of the primary reasons that cattle ranching became the most stable industry in the area. Hay grown in this area has been shipped as far away as Kentucky and even to England as feed for racehorses. The right of landowners having no access to streams to appropriate and divert water to their land also played an important part in the development of this industry. In the 1890s the U.S. government established forest reserves and assessed fees for grazing cattle on these reserves. Following the creation of the Forest Service in 1905, these reserves became national forests (Simmons, 1966). Today fee-grazing continues on Colorado State and Bureau of Land Management acreage as well as on forest service lands. Since the 1950s, water rights have been aggressively pursued by east-slope municipalities.

Some of the more notable ranches in South Park include the Salt Works Ranch, initially homesteaded by the Charles Halls in the early 1860s; the Hartsel Ranch, established in 1862 by Samuel Hartsel, which grew to be the largest ranch in Colorado and one of the largest in the nation by the late 1950s (Bair, 1959); the Guiraud ranch, located on the South Fork of the South Platte in the water gap in Red Hill, established by Adolph Guiraud, who also claimed the first two permanent ditch rights for agricultural purposes in 1861 (Simmons, 1966); and the Stirrup Ranch, homesteaded in 1880 and eventually owned by Wharton H. Pigg (Everett, 1966a).

Other ranches of importance in the park, as noted by Everett (1966a) and Huntley (1976), included the Santa Maria Ranch, the Elkhorn Ranch, the Spinney Ranch, the Switzer Ranch, the IM Ranch on Badger Creek near Black Mountain, the

Badger Springs Ranch northwest of Hartsel, and the VVN Ranch northwest of Black Mountain.

Lon and Badger Gribble were well-known early ranchers; Badger's son Dudley ran horses on Black Mountain (Everett 1966a). The Bassham family first homesteaded in Nathrop in 1870, and Bassam Park was named after George Bassham, who farmed a large area in South Park (Shaputis and Kelly, 1982).

In unpublished personal remembrances, Mary Ann Parrott Locke (1996) told of her father Clarence Parrott homesteading in South Park in March 1917. Clarence had crossed Kansas in 1916 with several wagons of family members, in what they believed was the last organized wagon train to South Park. Clara McDannel ran away from home at the age of 25 and traveled from Illinois to Salida to marry Clarence Parrott in July 1917. Born in 1931, Mary Ann recalled that during her childhood there were wild horses in South Park. Although some of the cattlemen did not approve of the presence of sheepmen in South Park, Clarence and Clara Parrott, accompanied by Ru-fus Marshall, traveled to New Mexico in 1928, where they purchased sheep that were shipped by train to Salida, then trailed up the Ute Trail to the ranch. When Clarence began selling off his property in South Park, he wanted to keep the peace between the sheepmen and the cattlemen, so he sold part of it to Rufus Marshall, an employee of the Parrotts, and part of it to Tom McQuaid, a cattleman from the Salt Works Ranch.

Everett (1966a) described his ancestors Galatia and Caroline Sprague, who arrived in Colorado in the 1860s by covered wagon pulled by teams of oxen. They homesteaded the ranch now owned by the Everett Land and Cattle Company, the present-day Everetts being fifth- and sixth-generation descendants of the Spragues. The Everett Cow Camp is located several miles up the Ute Trail from Salida toward Hartsel at the site of the Whitehorn mining camp, not far from Porcupine Cave. Glen Everett has been politically active as a Chaffee County commissioner.

Shaputis and Kelly (1982) related the story of Henry Fehling, who came to Chaffee County from Cincinnati in the late 1880s, lived on Cottonwood Creek, and later bought the Rooks Ranch. Drought forced him to move to the valley, where he acquired the Franz Ditch and the Crymble Ranch. Soon he bought another 160 acres and a log house, then went on to purchase several more parcels of land. Henry's son Frank worked for other ranchers as well as his father and eventually bought the Nachtrieb Ranch at Nathrop. Frank Fehling became a Chaffee County commissioner in the mid-1930s and was a member of the Colorado state legislature from 1939 to 1947. Glen McMurry, the son of Frank Fehling's sister Katherine and Elmer McMurry, started working as a cowhand, went on roundups, and rode with other cowboys of the day: Bill Dunlap, the Everetts, the Cogan brothers, Tom McQuaid from the Salt Works Ranch, Bill Hallock, and Frank Christopher. Henry Fehling chose his nephew Glen McMurry to take over the home place. When Frank and Winniebell Fehling moved to the Nachtrieb place, Glen and his wife Margaret moved to the McMurry home south of Nathrop and eventually pur chased the McMurry Ranch from his uncle Frank Fehling. When he retired in 1975, Glen sold the ranch to his son Frank. Following in the footsteps of his uncle Frank Fehling, Frank McMurry has also been a Chaffee County commissioner. The Fehling and McMurry holdings are now operated by the Mc-Murry Land and Cattle Company, and Porcupine Cave is located on McMurry land.

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