|SW Colorado was good place to ranch
Lots of land and not too many people
|[SW Colorado] Ranchers came into the San Juans in the mid to late 1800s to supply miners and their families. As towns grew and the economy diversified, ranches spread out onto land once occupied by the Utes. (See related story,) Southwest Colorado was particulary well-suited to ranching and farming - lots of land and not too many people. Plenty of grazzing for cattle. With the arrivial of the railroad, long cattle drives were no longer necessary, and it was easier to get the beef (or sheep) to market.
Ranching, often thought to be "man's work, was really work for the whole family, and many women became very successful in their own right. One of the best known, was Marie Scott. At one time, she owned over 100,000 acres, land that stretched across the Colorado border into Utah. (A piece of her land is now the RRL Ranch on the Dallas Divide.)
Marie bought her first homestead when she was just 16, and kept adding more and more land, most of it purchased, some of it leased. She frequently made headlines as she continued to acquire property. Am amazing woman—and a tiny one; she was less than five feet tall, Marie continued to grow her holdings through and in spite of the depression. By the 1960s she had 65,000 - 100,000 acres of land valued at $30 million. But the figure is hard to pin down since she kept buying, selling, and trading land. Marie ran cattle and sheep and had at least eight mountain camps. And all the while, she helped her neigbors, especially those who lost their land or needed jobs. Sadly, when she died, most of her property went to pay state and federal taxes. Her lifetime efforts ended up, ironically, in a windfall for her oldest enemy, the U.S. Government.
Ranch people started young and most kept at it their entire lives. There was a special comaraderie still seen today in some of the old ranching families. Families were large and helped each other with branding and haying, and socialized on Saturday night. Once of the more popular places was the old Cow Creek Dance Hall, gone now, but well-remembered by many of the old timers. It was a hard way of life, but when you hear some of them speak of it, a good life for all the work.
Left: MarieScott in 1970,
Cattle grazing on Marie Scott's ranch.
Bottom right: The Israel Family at cow camp.