Tales from the Tread: Museum exhibit series honors local ranching family
Tread of Pioneers Museum
“To escape the Dust Bowl in 1939, Dad drove an open-cab tractor all the way from Gothenburg, Nebraska, to Steamboat Springs.” — Rancher Marsha Daughenbaugh, speaking about her father, Raymond Gray
Raymond Gray was in his early 20s when he drove a tractor, pulling the family’s farm equipment, nearly 450 miles from Nebraska to Routt County in November of 1939. Soon after, he began what would eventually become a five-generation ranching tradition in the Lower Elk River Valley. Today, Raymond Gray’s descendants continue the same ranching traditions while serving as stewards of the land, agriculture proponents, role models for youth and community volunteers.
On Oct. 28, the Tread of Pioneers Museum will open the newest installment in the “Foundations of Steamboat” exhibit series featuring the families of the Rocking C Bar Ranch — the Gray, Daughenbaugh and Allen families. The family joins a long list of the “Foundations of Steamboat” exhibit series, such as Fetcher, Gay, Allen, Stanko, Light, Kemry, Gooding and many more.
Located about 10 miles from Steamboat Springs along the Elk River and under the shadow of Elk Mountain (a.k.a. Sleeping Giant) is the Rocking C Bar Ranch. The same family has operated the ranch for over 75 years. Originally known as the “Woodcock Place,” the Gray family purchased the property in 1946. Times were hard, but within a few years, Raymond bought out his step-father and step-brother, becoming the sole owner of the ranch.
Marsha, daughter of Raymond and Alice Gray, grew up working the land alongside her parents. When not on her horse, she was on the tractor. Marsha remembers, “Because I was an only child, I was expected to help, a lot.”
Marsha met and married Pennsylvania dairy farmer and Marine veteran John “Doc” Daughenbaugh in 1973. After their union, the family made a calculated and determined decision to stay in agriculture.
Doc and Marsha moved onto the ranch and started a partnership with Marsha’s dad Raymond. According to Marsha, “He couldn’t have kept it up alone. By joining him on the ranch, we allowed my dad to keep ranching, and he allowed us to work with him and make it our home. It worked out really, really well.”
The same holds true for the fourth generation. Marsha and Doc’s children, Adonna and Nate, sought education and other employment options before returning to Steamboat Springs to raise their families. All three families live and work on the ranch property today.
Marsha Daughenbaugh has been a valued proponent for the appreciation and understanding of the importance of local agriculture for decades. Through her work with the USDA’s Farm Services Agency and later with the locally formed Community Agricultural Alliance, talking about agriculture became her passion and purpose. Marsha connected people who represented the ranching community with those unfamiliar with agriculture’s importance.
Through Marsha, her daughter Adonna, and granddaughter Leah, the ranch has become an on-site learning opportunity. Marsha explains, “many years ago, we decided we should open our ranch to groups who are interested in learning about ranch life, our stewardship practices, and our lifestyle. As a result, we have a waiting list of groups requesting on-ground educational opportunities.”
The families of the Rocking C Bar Ranch embody the spirit and dedication of other notable ranching families that make the Yampa Valley the special place that it is today. Join us in honoring this local family through this new exhibit, and learn more about these iconic industry leaders whose devotion to the land and livestock earned them notable respect and admiration by their peers and community.
Katie Adams is the curator for the Tread of Pioneers Museum. For more, TreadOfPioneers.org.
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