Tales from the Tread: Remembering the Pritchett Ranch
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Emerald Mountain, with its unending beauty, trails and open space, is one of the most popular recreation areas in Steamboat Springs. What many of today’s hikers and bikers might not know is that an out-of-the-way meadow on this mountain provides a colorful window to our storied past.
Just a short hike up Old Dairy Lane from the western edge of Fairview are the remains of an extensive historic site — the summer home of Lulie Crawford Pritchett and her husband, Carr Pritchett. Lulie was the eldest daughter of the founder of Steamboat Springs, James H. Crawford.
Though all of the ranch buildings are now gone, several foundations and plenty of collapsed siding and rusty hardware provide clues to some of the former farm buildings, including barns, a cottage and well of the lower ranch.
The Pritchetts called their slice of paradise Wild Rose Ranch. Beginning in 1905, Lulie and Carr purchased various parcels on Emerald Mountain to assemble a ranch that included most of the upper north slope of Emerald Mountain west of Blackmer Drive and north of Quarry and Agate peaks.
The Pritchett family, which now included daughters Margaret and Lulita, lived on the ranch in the summers and raised registered Shorthorn cattle and alfalfa. From 1919 to 1922, Carr quit his work as a mining engineer, and the family lived on the ranch year round.
There were two distinct parts of the 765-acre Pritchett Ranch. The upper ranch, including the old Wither homestead, consisted of three buildings: a one-room frame house, a tool shed and a small log stable. The main buildings of the ranch were located on the lower ranch at the northern edge of the property. The Pritchetts built their cottage there in 1913, at the edge of the forest across the creek from the main farm buildings.
The main farm buildings consisted of a large cattle barn, corrals, small horse barn, bunkhouse, power house and granary, machine sheds, blacksmith shop and carpenter shop. A well pumped spring water to the cottage, bunkhouse and barns. They even had a private phone line strung from town to the ranch. While touring the remains of these structures today, one can hardly imagine the number of buildings that once existed.
After Carr reportedly became restless, the family sold the ranch, animals, machinery and miscellaneous items to E.O. Furlong in 1923 and moved back to Denver. When Carr and Lulie’s daughter Lulita heard there were talks of selling or leasing the ranch, the 15-year-old wrote about her feelings in her 1921 dairy: “What can they know of our sweet wanderings through the pines to gather orchids, hunt Pipsissewah or pull pine gum! They couldn’t love it all as we do — they couldn’t. They might not even notice the sunset pictures or the purple hills and valleys and they wouldn’t love the Wild Rose Ranch as we would.”
The ranch has had several owners over the years, but remarkably, the land has stayed intact and is currently owned by the city of Steamboat Springs.
To learn more about life on the Pritchett Ranch on Emerald Mountain, read Lulita Crawford Pritchett’s 1921 Diary published on http://www.lulitacrawfordpritchett.com.
Author’s note: Many thanks to James L. Crawford, great-grandson of James H. Crawford, for providing the research for this article in his “The Pritchett Ranch” booklet. To learn more about the Crawford family and early Steamboat Springs, go to http://www.crawfordpioneersofsteamboatsprings.com. Candice Bannister is executive director of Tread of Pioneers Museum.
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The Longevity Project: Part three of a four-part series