Community Agriculture Alliance: Stories of the Brown Ranch |

Community Agriculture Alliance: Stories of the Brown Ranch

Mary Walker
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Hay bales stand in front of the historic family home on the Brown Ranch in North Routt County. The ranch was one of two from Routt County that was recognized at the State Fair in Pueblo at 2019 Centennial Farms & Ranches Ceremony.
Photo courtesy of Mary Walker/Brown Family

The 2012 Ag Census says there are almost 800 farms and ranches in Routt County. Did you know that 10 of them have been owned by the same family for more than 100 years? These Centennial Ranches are a very special part of our community.  The following are some writings and stories of the Brown Ranch, located near Clark it is still in agricultural use and owned by members of Margaret Brown’s family.  

Margaret Duncan Brown (1882-1965) embodied the determination, business sense and sheer unflagging vitality required of any woman who chooses to go it alone in a man’s world. A prolific diarist, note taker and journalist, her life and writings reflect the trajectory of her youth in Victoria, Texas, into a successful homesteader and sheep rancher in Clark.

“I was brought up in the South … I saw the birth of the walking skirt — a heavy, ankle length affair of golf-goods. It was not looked upon with favor. (Fifteen) years later I was wearing breeches, and I had learned to walk in the truest sense of the word — walking for the joy of walking, not to get somewhere. This walking with nature is one of the best experience life has given me, or misfortune if you will,” Brown wrote.

Widowed at age 36, Brown wrote of the self-sufficient women of her era, “She was a happier woman swinging that ax than she had ever been waiting for some man to swing it.” (July 3, 1926)

While her writings were rooted in the everyday realities of the extremely hard work of a homesteader and shepherdess, she was also keenly self aware.

“March 11, 1929. Signed mortgage for $850.00 dated March 6, 1929 for 180 days at 10% on 90 sheep. Signed two notes, one for $850 to cover mortgage and one for $200 to pay Federal Farm Loan. This leaves one note of $75 unsecured. Life becomes a series of impressions and the days unfold like the pages of a book, a book much too quickly read. These spring mornings when the crust is on the snow, when the blackbirds are singing in the grove, the river beginning to break when there is a certain mellowness in the air seem to me almost expressibly wonderful. The first awakening of springtime after the long winter. I felt the same verge to run about on the crust this morning that evidently possessed a little gray squirrel just out of his winter’s hibernation.”

Margaret Duncan Brown ranched alone for 47 years in the Elk River Valley of Routt County.
Courtesy Photo

In 1939, at age 57, Brown voiced the determination and grit required of her circumstances, “Don’t ever give up. Don’t let others spoil your faith in yourself and what you hope to be and do. Remember, some people have no faith in themselves or anything else. They definitely try to keep you from doing what you plan.”

Through it all, Brown had an abiding love for her sheep. She named them all. Her life on the ranch was never easy, and her legacy carries on.

Mary Walker is knowledgable in the history of The Brown Ranch.

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