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History of the Wet Mountain Valley Colorado Ranch

Posted in: Wet Mountain Valley
By Wild West Properties
Jan 13, 2012 - 1:37:26 PM

Colorado Horse Property
CO Horse Property
In the Wet Mountain Valley, a property referred to as a Colorado ranch may be a farm. Farmers work the land, ranchers tend cattle and horses, alpaca and sheep, and naturalists seek to preserve the open spaces and rural heritage of the Valley.

Settlers came to the Wet Mountain Valley in search of a better way of life. Hispanic shepherds grazed their sheep during summers before several farmers settled into the valley in the late 1860s. German-Americans came together from Chicago, forming the community of Colfax. The group disbanded after the first tough year, but many remained to homestead and eventually ranch. Today, their descendants still farm and ranch those Colorado lands.

Colorado Ranch
Colorado Ranch
Simultaneously, the miners and their families settled near the gold mines in the hills of Rosita, silver mines at Silver Cliff, in Bassickville (now Querida) and, frankly, just about anywhere they could perforate the earth to investigate the composition of the rock beneath the surface. Mines with colorful names like Racine Boy, Starlight, Last Swindle, and Moneyless bloomed and died, but the homesteads continued to pop up in the beautiful valley.

In 1878, two Silver Cliff men measured off Cliff and Mill streets and instigated the building of the first post office and saloon considered "two prime necessities of American life." As the Silver Cliff stage transported load after load of immigrants, Silver Cliff grew to quite a mixture of over 5,000 residents from all kinds of backgrounds. Rosita recorded over 1,000.

Colorado Mountain Land
CO Mountain Land
Two distinct cultural communities had their own schools and community traditions. Numerous Germans settled the southern portion of the valley and the English settled in the north. Community schools such as Adobe, Brush, Fair View, Froze Creek, and others became the center of community activities. The multi-purpose rooms hosted weddings, voting, Christmas parties, plays, lectures, and funerals. Many ranchers married the schoolteachers at weddings held right in school.

Cattle ranching began in the valley after the well-educated English, who settled in historic Ula and The Pines in the northern section, shared knowledge of cattle breeding and cheese production. All the while, many immigrants settled on ranches, raising mules and horses used by the mining companies and beef to feed the workers.

Isolation kept the population down. In the early 1870s, Pueblo businessmen built a road to the area, opening up a better travel route. Then came a short-lived narrow-gauge railroad and then in 1901 a new Denver & Rio Grande line along Texas Creek. Railroad investors wanted a piece of the heavenly getaway. They opened Westcliffe, a new town a few miles west of Silver Cliff, competing with the older town for business. Soon their influence moved the county seat from Silver Cliff to their domain. Population boomed in the early 1900s and then dwindled.

Colorado Land
Colorado Land
Although mining companies and railroad tycoons had their day in the Wet Mountain Valley, the valley ranchers provided consistent economic stability over the decades. The ranches supported the towns and Custer County. Ranchers nurtured the land, healed the damage done by reckless mining, and became pillars in the rural society. Ranches sustain a quality of life that makes the Wet Mountain Valley a cherished homeland and relaxing vacation Mecca.

For more information about real estate, ranches, land, homes, and mountain properties in the area, contact Bob Joslen of Wild West Properties, LLC at 719-783-0801.


Wild West Properties LLC
201 Main Street - P.O. Box 1519
Westcliffe, CO 81252

719-783-0801 office
719-783-2110 fax

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