History of Estes Park
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From Estes Park Trail 26 October 1923 – Column title and byline: Estes Park in the memoirs of Lord Dunraven by Mrs. Albert Hayden. When a paper entitled “Estes Park in the Memoirs of Lord Dunraven “ was planned it was taken for granted that the Earl had given an elaborate account of his visits to America. Investigation shows that in the two large volumes only four pages are devoted to Estes Park and in them there is nothing that differs from what we already know. The program committee gave me permission to use whatever I wanted to make a longer paper so I will begin at the beginning and give a brief sketch of the discovery and settling of Estes Park from the coming of the first white people in 1840. The dictionary gives the definition of pioneer as “one who goes before and opens and leads, or prepares the way for others coming after.” With that understanding of the word I think I am justified in including the people who came in even after our first appearance here, as tourists in 1901. It is impossible to say who was the first white visitor to this part of Colorado, but probably it was Kit Carson. At any rate a band of trappers, of whom he was one, was in Estes Park in 1840. Apparently they came in from the Poudre region and crossed southward to the St. Vrain. Other trappers came to this region and entered the Big Thompson canyon ever earlier than this but turned back before reaching Estes Park on account of the ruggedness of the canyon. A small cabin was built in a stream a short distance southeast of Longs Peak Inn in the early 1850’s, but the first permanent settlement was made in 1860 by Joel Estes, for whom the Park was named. In the autumn of 1859 he reached the top of what is called Park Hill and had his first view of the country which is as wonderful to us now, as it was to the first hunter many years ago. A log cabin was built early in 1860 a few hundred feet north of the Ranch House and Mr. and Mrs. Estes and their son Milton moved into it bringing in their belongings on two packhorses. The following year they brought in a two-wheel cart. At that time the Estes’ saw new lodge poles and other signs of Indians, but so far as I s known, no Indians camped in Estes Park after the white people came in. Arrowheads are still found here and I possess three especially perfect bird arrowheads, one of which I found myself about three years ago on Broadview. Early in 1861, Milton Estes went to Fort Lupton and returned with his bride who was Mary L. Fleming. Four years later, their son, Charles F. was born, being the first native son of Estes Park. Mrs. Estes says that their life was full and happy, food plentiful and the climate good. After living here six years (1866) they tired of pioneer life and moved away. They sold their holding for $50.00, a yearling steer, or a yoke of oxen. Whether it was one or all of the above considerations, which was accepted, Michael Hollenback certainly acquired a fine property for a song. Later, in 1876, the Estes claim came under control of Grif Evans who remained at the Ranch House for twenty years, the first permanent settler. In the summer of 1868 Abner E. Sprague and two companions came to Estes Park on horseback and in 1874 returned and climbed Longs Peak. The following year the Sprague family including Abner E. Arraeanea now Mrs. Chapman, and Fred, settled in Willow Park, now Moraine Park, and the first building has been in constant use until now it is being torn down to make room for a modern cottage. The Reverend and Mrs. Lamb were in Estes Park in 1871 and Mr. Lamb tells of two weeks chopping and clearing before they succeeded in getting a wagon through to their homestead near Longs Peak Inn. In his book Mr. Lamb says that he and his son had “for ten years the singular experience of guiding the aged ones, the young, gay, and giddy to the summit of the Peak. He also writes at length of his financial straitsand the generous help of kind friends many of whom you know. At one time a “donation party” was given for him at Elkhorn Lodge by Mrs. James and her daughter, now Mrs. Hondius, and the guests were generous with their gifts. Mr. and Mrs. W.E. James came in 1874 and lived in the north end of Black Canyon, until 1877 when they moved to the present location of Elkhorn Lodge, which they opened in that year. I depended on Mrs. Hondius to tell us more about her parents’ early experiences, but am disappointed to find that she will not be here. Each year saw many new settlers, people who expected to remain. John Jones came in 1874 and the following year he married one of the Hupp daughters. This family arrived in August 1875 and lived for a year on Beaver Flats near the spring, west and north of the cross roads. The next year they filed on a claim farther west and the remains of the old house can still be seen from the High Drive. The family was large, four daughters and three sons. Henry and Charles still live in Estes Park as well as the children of John Jones. The R.Q. MacGregors arrived in 1874 and located in Black Canyon. Donald MacGregor still owns the original homestead and has added to it until he has a wonderfully fine property. In the same year, a young man from the east, James Nugent, better known as “Rocky Mountain Jim” appeared on the scene. He seemed to be a man of education and claimed to be English. When sober he was gentlemanly, courteous and agreeable but when intoxicated, he was pugnanious and generally undesirable. In 1875 Henry (“Hank”) Farrar built a log cabin near the Low Filling Station but later moved to Elkhorn Avenue and built again. The cabin, which is on Miss Foot’s property and is still rented to tourists. When the H.W. Fergusons left Missouri and came west, seeking health for Mrs. Ferguson, they stopped first in Evans but later came to Estes Park in 1875 and filed on a claim on the Longs Peak road this side of Mary’s Lake at the Highlands. The first wedding in Estes Park was solemnized there in 1876 when Miss Anna Ferguson married Richard Hubbell. Mr. Hubbell has passed away but his wife often visits Estes Park as the guest of her sister, Mrs. Charles L. Reed of the Brinwood. Israel Rowe, a hunter, built a cabin in 1876 near the present home of F.W. Crocker south of Mount Olympus. He is said to have discovered Mary’s Lake and Halletts Glacier. Rowe and Mr. James Sr., used to hunt together and sent many wagon loads of game to the valley as did some of the other settlers. Mrs. Ovie Webb is a daughter of Israel Rowe. Charles W. Dennison was another who came in the 1870’s. John Buchanan, who married a niece of Grif Evans, settled near Mary’s Lake but he only lived a short time. Another person who was very much in the limelight at this time was the Earl of Dunraven who was in Estes Park in 1869 and again in 1872. He was an Irish nobleman and brought titled guests with him. They were enthusiastic over the wonderful hunting, and Lord Dunraven decided to acquire Estes Park for a game preserve. He at once found men who were unscrupulous and could be bought to file on claims and managed to secure about 15,000 acres from the government. After the claims were proved up they were to be turned over to the Earl but some of the men refused to give up their land and, as the whole scheme was fraudulent, no action could be taken against them and they remained in possession of both the property and the Earl’s money. The law requires some kind of a house that can be really lived in for a given length of time, while a person is proving up on a homestead but many of these claim cabins were only a few logs laid together, roofless and doorless. There is the remains of one of these so called cabins on Broadview now. In 1874 Albert Bierstadt, the celebrated artist, was the
guest of Dunraven and at once selected the site for Dunraven’s cottage and hotel, called first Dunraven, later known as the English Hotel and finally the Estes Park Hotel. This hotel, which was operated at the time by C.E. Lester, was burned to the ground a dozen years ago. In his memoirs, Dunraven says that the difficulty of managing an estate so far from home caused him to dispose of his holdings here. He mentions the country, a few of the people and ends by saying, “that he understands that Estes Park has become ‘civilize’ and is a summer resort of some fashion.” Also that he would like to see the place again but as he is more than eighty years old, I think it is doubtful if his wish is gratified. When the idea of a game preserve was abandoned numbers of cattle were pastured in his estate and as late as 1901, when we came here, there were many to be seen bearing the Dunraven brand, an elaborate crown. The name of Theodore Whyte, one of the Dunraven agents appears on the abstracts in many of Estes Park transfers as he held the land in trust. The present Bourk property is part of what is known as the Goldendwyre place or tract, Golendwyre being the second of the Dunraven agents. In 1908, F.O. Stanley and B.D. Sanborn bought the property and much of it is still held by them. In the Chicago Tribune of August 15,1871, appeared this notice; “Mr. Evans and others contemplate putting up a cheap hotel for next season. I see no reason why this cannot be made a prosperous resort, worth a dozen Saratogas to the invalid, but no one should come in a wagon, as a pony or mule is the better, allowing the trip to be made in a day from Longmont.” Gradually a road was developed and in 1877 a toll road was completed from Lyons to Estes Park. In the 1890’s the charter had expired but the company who owned the road still collected toll and even increased the rates. In 1901, when we came over the road for the first time, I remember a tollgate. To J.E. Blair, who refused to pay toll and tore down the gate and Abner E. Sprague, who joined in destroying it a second time is due the credit of giving Estes Park a free road. The affair was fought out legally and the Estes Park men won. I have not found the exact date of John T. Cleave’s arrival but in 1877 he became post-master, the office being located at the Ranch House. Ten years later it was moved to the village in the building now occupied by the Secord Curio Shop and remained there until the present building was erected in 1915. In the early 1890’s Mr. Cleave began to keep a few articles for sale. He bought or traded for 160 acres practically where the town stands, but later it was sold to the Loveland Colorado and Mr. Bond helped to lay it out. Mr. Cleave now lives with his daughter, Mrs. John Griffith. C.E. Lester was here first in 1887 but went to the valley in the winter for a number of years. He opened a store at the Ranch House and issued a very creditable advertising folder concerning Estes Park. 1888 saw the arrival of Shepherd N. Husted, and with the exception of one summer he has been here ever since then. [XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX] He was employed in the Dunraven Ranch until 1893 when he married and took up the homestead where he still lives. A number of men came in about this time 1895-1898 and settled in the “North End.” Milton Clouser has been here since 1895. He bought 160 acres and added it to his homestead, put up a cabin and lived in it during the summer. The winters were spent in Denver. Jim Fuller, who was caretaker of the Ranch bought (or took up) a 160 in the same neighborhood. He took down the cabin on the Clouser place and put it together again on his own ground. Later it was again taken to pieces and moved to what is now the Lester property and is still in use – a much traveled cabin. Warren Rutledge also took up an 80 and has never moved from
it. R.H. Tallant is another to homestead an 80 a few miles farther east. The Sims filed on a claim in the South end in 1897, coming here from Denver, and are residents on the old place. The John Manfords, too, came in early. E.B. Andrews camped and hunter here first in 1895 and became a permanent resident in 1896. He was the first Park man to whom we spoke when we came in 1901. I have been unable to find in Enos A. Mill’s books any reference to his earliest experiences here. We know that he came as a lad in about 1883, remained for a time, then went to Montana, returning in 1885. He was associated with Mr. Lamb for years and in 1902 bought and homesteaded property and built Longs Peak Inn which he operated until the time of his death in 1922. The resort was a very popular one and Mr. Mills often entertained his guests with accounts of his exploring trips through the mountains, as well as with stories of the wild creatures that he loved so well. The Denver papers tell that the first 4th of July celebration in Estes Park was held in 1897 and about 150 people gathered near the post office to see the flag raised. The orator of the day was Enos A. Mills. John Adams was here in 1889, employed by W.W. James of Elkhorn Lodge. He finally took up his homestead on which he lives and which he keeps like a private park. His brother George came later. Peter Hondius came in 1895, a health-seeker, and was a guest at the Lodge for years. He finally became interested in the country and bought large tracts of lands much of which he still owns. Part of it has been sub-divided and developed and sold for cottage sites, forming a large colony. While not among the earliest settlers the Services came in 1902 and bought out W.T. Parke who had a shop in the east end of town. J.H. Boyd, Mrs. Service’s brother, was here at the same time and placed a horseshoeing shop west of the Service store. The ground was staked off and they were ready to begin building when Mr. Cleave passed by. He objected strongly saying that the building would be so far forward that Mrs. Service could not see up the street and the stakes were moved back. The A. Griffiths came in more than thirty years ago and took up the homestead where they still live. C.H. Bond camped for two weeks near the Eaton place on the road to Moraine Park in 1879 but did not come here to stay until 1905. To him we are largely indebted for the development of the town. Mark Bartholf came in many years ago and was connected with the Dunraven Ranch – Bartholf Park was named for him. J. Frank Grubb was here in 1901 and drove the stage for a short time. In 1902 he hauled logs for the Wind River Lodge, the first building of what is now the Y.M.C.A. After being in the valley for several years he returned in 1905 and drove again. They lived on the riverbank almost opposite where the church now stands. Nothing seems to have been said about the early tourists who first appeared in the 1870’s. Many of these had summer camps and the annual trip from Denver, and the valley towns was long, difficult and tiresome. The McCreary’s, Walkers, (the preacher) the McClintocks, 1879 and Lights 1880 had places in the North End and came regularly for years. Mrs. Robert Collier, who was Miss Light, still comes to Estes Park and the family occupy the old Light place, which is much enlarged and modernized. Mrs. Graham, who was Miss McClintock, I met last summer. F.O. Stanley, also an invalid, was here first twenty years ago and as we all know has returned regularly. To him we are indebted for the first modern improvements, making our beloved Park a most desirable place for the thousands of tourists who cannot exist without electric light and modern plumbing, and still not spoiling the wonderful wilderness, if one cares to seek it. W.L. Hallett was another early visitor who came in search of health. He built a cottage at
“The Highlands” and was there for many years. He still visits Estes Park irregularly. Hallett Glacier was named for him. William Allen White and General Frederick Funston also camped and hunted here before 1900. The story runs that General Funston, he was a Major then, found a man defacing the rocks near Moraine Park with painted signs and took after him with a Winchester, threatening to kill him if he caught him at work again. The Major was a very small man but he was so emphatic that the man fled and no more painting was done. The lettering on this rock is still visible and on one other on the Fall River Road above Elkhorn Lodge, the only two of which I have any knowledge. I do now know when the F.W. Crockers first came but it was a long time ago, about 1869. They bought the Stuyvesant place and still own it, with many added acres, and are regular summer residents. I have not forgotten that Miss Isabella Bird was among the first if not the very first tourist in this part of the country, but you have all heard of her and her adventures so often that I decided no to go into detail about her. I feel sure that I have omitted many names but the length of this is such that I dared not go on. I am indebted to the books of Mr. Mills, the Reverend Lamb and Miss Bird for information, and to many of the village people who were never too busy to answer my endless questions. I only regret that I cannot tell you all the interesting things that were told to me.