History of Bradford Area

Mining the Miners

In the 1850's, gold was found in Cherry Creek. This caused the "Great Colorado Gold Rush," which took place nearly ten years after the major California gold strikes in 1849. Gold was discovered soon after, in the mountains west of Denver. However, it was very difficult to transport supplies to the mining camps or bring gold back to Denver.

In 1859, Robert B. Bradford decided to build a toll road leading to and from the mountain mining camps, hoping to make a lot of money at the same time. He was a partner in the merchandising firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell. This company helped start the famed "Pony Express" coast-to-coast postal service.

With his own company, named Robert B. Bradford and Company, he built a toll road, which led from downtown Denver, southwest through the Dakota Hogback, to what he called Bradford City. Here he built a hotel called the Bradford House. Miners and ranchers would travel from Denver, stay at the Bradford House, then travel up the Bradford Toll Road, at a cost of $1.50 per wagon, into the mountains.

Bradford was a very social man, belonging to a number of clubs in Denver. He routinely held parties at the Bradford House or in what was later to become "Colorow's Cave." Bradford City was, at one time, thought to have been an excellent place to become the Capitol of the Colorado Territory. Unfortunately, his business and political efforts did not go as well as his social life.

The Bradford Road was very hard to travel in places. Just west of the Bradford Hotel, travelers had to go up a very steep hill. Stockmen grumbled that they made more progress backward than forward. In 1861, another, easier road leading to the mining camps was built, leading through Turkey Creek Canyon.

As a result, Bradford City was doomed to failure. Bradford stubbornly stated: "A fool built this town and a fool will die here." His prediction came true when he died in late December 1876 in his hotel. The remains of the Bradford Hotel still stand in the north end of what has become the Ken-Caryl Ranch.

Colorful Renegades

After Bradford died, a group of outcast Ute Indians began coming to the area. The band was led by a half-Ute, half-Apache Indian, named "Chief Colorow." Colorow was raised in a reservation school, where he learned the English language. As an adult, he was a sub-Chief who was routinely used to negotiate treaties with the American "white man."

After the 1879 Meeker Massacre, where American Indian Agent Nathan C. Meeker and his company were killed because Indians felt they were being pushed out of their native hunting grounds, Colorow was banished from the State. Although he did not take part in the attack, it was reported that Colorow inspired the violence. Even though he was not supposed to be in Colorado, Colorow and his band of renegades would mysteriously appear back in the Ken-Caryl Valley to harass settlers, then hide out in his favorite cave north of the Ranch.

Pioneer housewives knew Colorow very well. He would stick his head in the windows of their kitchens demanding biscuits and molasses. If the women pretended not to have baking supplies, Colorow would sometimes produce his own flour and the baking would go on. His taste for biscuits, molasses, and other non-Indian food made his gain a lot of weight. At over six feet tall, Colorow weighed 275 pounds.

After what was called the "Ute War of 1887," Colorow displayed his ability to outwit the U.S. Cavalry. Even in his late 70's, he escaped the military who spent over 80 thousand dollars in the chase. He was eventually caught and sent to the Uintah Indian Reservation in Utah in 1887. Colorow died just one year later and received a formal burial, fit for a true Indian Chief, with squaws cutting off their hair and horses being killed in his honor.

The Modern Era

Early in the 20th Century, the face of this land began to change, and change rapidly. It was no longer the place of the cowboy and Indian, as we knew them. The automobile was replacing the horse, and gold was not found as often as before. It was no longer the "Wild West."

In 1914, John Charles Shaffer bought a number of pieces of land which formed a majestic, 3,000-acre ranch. He named it after his two sons, Kent, and Carroll (Ken-Caryl Ranch) and began to build his dream of a large cattle empire. Shaffer then built the 8,000 square foot Manor House high atop the hill in Ken-Caryl Valley overlooking his growing cattle business.

John Shaffer was a very successful businessman from Chicago, who made his fortune building and selling mule-drawn carts commonly used in the City for carrying goods (before the automobile). He further built his fortune and fame by purchasing large newspapers, including the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. Historians believe he moved to the Denver area because one of his sons had trouble with tuberculosis.
Some people felt Shaffer's behavior was somewhat peculiar. He rarely let his own children into the majestic Manor House, unless it was a special occasion or the Sabbath. Instead, he had two houses, one for each son, built adjacent to his big, white, southern-style home. Because his father was an alcoholic, Shaffer never drank. Yet he threw some of the biggest parties Colorado had ever seen.

Presidents such as Calvin Coolidge, Teddy Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft were known to have visited Ken-Caryl Ranch. When these or other important people came to the Ranch, a party was normally thrown. Shaffer would hoist a flag up a 75-foot pole in the back of the Manor House to signal friends in Denver that a special event would take place. A light atop the pole would also be lit so friends could see it at night. His wife Virginia, nicknamed "Vergie", would write, direct and even perform special plays for the entertainment of the guests.

Shaffer actually spent only a short time of each year living on the Ranch. Most of the time he was in Chicago or on the West Coast tending to his business dealings. When he was home on the Ranch, he enjoyed the outdoors. He would frequently take friends to the mountains in the West Ranch to hunt.

Shaffer built one of the West's greatest cattle breeding empires on the Ken-Caryl Ranch. He continued to breed award-winning cattle until financial trouble beset the Ken-Caryl empire in the 1930's. John Shaffer put the Ken-Caryl Ranch up as collateral for some large construction projects. Because banks were financially troubled, due to the Great Stock Market Crash, they demanded Shaffer pay off his real estate loans. Shaffer could not, and lost the Ranch back to the banks.

Shaffer's son Kent died in 1925, after leaving the Ranch to go to Los Angeles, California. Carroll divorced his wife to marry his secretary. This was very embarrassing to John Shaffer, who sold the Rocky Mountain News, apparently because he no longer wanted to give it to his only remaining son. Vergie died in 1933. John returned to the Chicago area. He eventually died in 1935.

Up to Today

Steel Industrialist, William Allen, purchased Ken-Caryl Ranch from the bank in 1937 to continue with an equally large passion for cattle breeding. He rebuilt the Manor House to its former beauty including the planting of the large Spruce trees on either side of the entrance. He hired his son, William Jr., to operate the Cattle Ranch because he knew little about the business. With the increased costs of operating a cattle ranch, less money paid for cattle and the beginning of World War II, William Allen was forced to focus his attention on advising the Government about steel production and sell the Ranch.

The Allens sold the Ranch to an Italian businessman named Joseph Minissale. He was a wealthy real estate tycoon who bought the Ranch to offer his children a "ranch-like" living experience. He even tried raising turkeys. Before he sold the property, several thousand escaped and went back to the wild.

In 1971, the Johns Manville Corporation purchased the 10,000-acre ranch from A.T. "Cap" McDannald, a wealthy oilman, to build their World Headquarters. They also wanted to construct a master planned community where their employees could enjoy the best of Colorado living. This community has become the Ken-Caryl Ranch that is now familiar to us, with beautiful parkways, trees, and homes. In 1987, the Martin Marietta Corporation bought property of the Manville Company and moved into the large, silver building in the south portion of the Ranch.

Reprinted with permission of the Ken-Caryl Ranch History Club
Steven P. Roalstad
Eleen Laubenheim
Copyright 1991
Ken-Caryl Ranch Master Association
All rights reserved
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