Community Agriculture Alliance: History of the Hitchens Overlook Ranch
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
The Routt County 4-H Art of Ranching Community History project is hard at work documenting some of Routt County’s historical ranches. 4-H youth Alley Kvols and CSU History Master of Arts student Dale Mize enjoyed visiting and researching the Hitchens Overlook Ranch this past year. Below is a brief narrative of the amazing story about this ranch.
After working in Colorado mines for years, James Hitchens first arrived in Routt County in the late 1890s. Once the family had filed a homestead claim, James built a two-room log house with a dirt roof, cellar, barn, and a spring box with an accompanying pond to supply water. The Hitchens family raised chickens, cattle, pigs, and even a few sheep. In addition, they grew hay for the animals. James also served as the postmaster for the town of Pool, Colorado, located between Steamboat Springs and Milner. In 1918, James built a new two-story home in Milner and retired from ranching to be the Milner postmaster until he died in 1920 from black lung disease.
After working on the original homestead and ranch his entire life Albert, the youngest of the Hitchens’ children, filed a homestead claim at age 18 in 1910 right next to his father’s property. He put a small two-room house on the property and dug a root cellar into the hillside near his house. In 1929, Albert moved his father’s house to the ranch property in order to be closer to the new highway. Albert added a log barn to the property that he expanded over the years to a large two-story structure with a tin roof containing tack stalls for the horses, dairy stands for the cattle, sow and piglet pens, and hay storage.
The youngest of the third Hitchens generation, Errold, left the ranch in 1949 for the U.S. Air Force, serving until his discharge in 1954. After leaving the Air Force he met Geraldine Holderness and moved back to Routt County to work in the mines briefly before returning to the family ranch. In addition to ranch work, Errold took a great interest in the Steamboat Springs ski area and served on the National Ski Patrol in the 1960s and 1970s during the winter. Errold was a good skier and he and his brother promoted night-time ski jumping for the youth in the area, funding large competitions themselves.
By the late 1990s Diane, Errold’s daughter, unexpectedly came into possession of the ranch. After selling off a small piece of the ranch property to pay for the estate taxes, Diane secured the remaining property under her ownership and formalized the historic water rights. As the tourist industry boomed in and around Steamboat Springs, she and her family transitioned the ranch operation from its historic livestock raising activities to those that support visitor experiences such as horseback riding and hunting on the property.
Diane’s sons Cody and Travis Holly are now the current owners and operators of the, now called, Overlook Ranch. Together they work toward finding new and interesting ways to keep the ranch going, including hosting an AirBnB on the property. Now in its fifth-generation, the ranch has been in the family for over 100 years and hopes to continue that legacy even further as the sixth generation experiences the same landscape as their ancestors.
To learn more about the 4-H Art of Ranching Community History project please visit our website at routt.extension.colostate.edu/art-of-ranching/.
Dale Mize is a 4-H participant. For more about the Community Agriculture Alliance, CommunityAgAlliance.org.
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