Axel Peterson, Ranch Creek history | SkyHiNews.com

Axel Peterson, Ranch Creek history

Kristi Martens, PhD
Cozens Ranch Museum

Culture, Art and History hounds will want to attend the Taste of History Champagne Brunch and Social at the end of August. The fundraising event is an opportunity to learn about the history of Devil's Thumb Ranch and ranching history in the Fraser Valley.

The champagne brunch takes place under Axel's Pavilion looking across Ranch Creek Valley to the Devil's Thumb rock landmark. Axel's Pavilion is named for Axel Peterson, a Swedish logger who settled in the Fraser Valley in 1907, and homesteaded a 40 acre parcel in Ranch Creek, near the present Devil's Thumb Ranch, in 1919. Axel and his bride, Dea Matteson, raised their son Robert (b. 1927) at their Ranch Creek homestead.

Robert is a local history scholar. He writes fascinating accounts of early ranching life under the shadow of the Devil's Thumb. Stop by the GCHA museum bookstores and pick up Bob's updated version of Fraser Valley Memoirs.

Up along the Continental Divide, so prominently marked by the Devil's Thumb, the first Native Peoples, and later the Ute and Arapahoe, crossed seasonly to gentler lands towards the plains.

In 1937, the original Ranch homestead was built by Margaret Radcliff and the property operated as a dairy, but it was brothers Dan, Louis, and George Yager who started Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort as a vacation property in 1946. The Yagers incorporated the Radcliff homestead into the Ranch facilities and the original building exists today as the exclusive Ranch House Restaurant.

Generations later, the wave of anglos followed in the moccasin prints, building an early wagon road over Rollins/ Corona Pass which descended into Ranch Creek where early pioneers settled. The road extended transversely over the Ranch where it followed the course of the current County Road 83. The land was rich agriculturally and was used for cattle grazing in the early 1900s.

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After the railroad was introduced in 1904, settlers began moving west in search of wealth and opportunity. Many ended their journeys in the Rocky Mountains. During this time, there were more people living in the Fraser Valley than there are today. One favorite hangout of the railroad workers was a dance hall on Black Ranch, located immediately north of the lodge at Devil's Thumb Ranch.

In 1937, the original Ranch homestead was built by Margaret Radcliff and the property operated as a dairy, but it was brothers Dan, Louis, and George Yager who started Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort as a vacation property in 1946. The Yagers incorporated the Radcliff homestead into the Ranch facilities and the original building exists today as the exclusive Ranch House Restaurant.

The Yagers operated Devil's Thumb Ranch as both a working ranch and dude ranch until 1972. Cross-country skiing was introduced in the winter of 1975-76 when Dick Taylor, a 1964 Olympic cross-country team member, designed the first 35 kilometers of our Nordic trails. Though well known as a Nordic destination, the property did not offer many guest amenities.

NEW ERA OF DTR

In 2001, current owners Bob and Suzanne Fanch changed the property's fate from becoming developed with residences and a golf course. The Fanchs had a vision to create a special place where visitors to the Ranch Creek Valley could have a truly authentic Colorado experience, one celebrating the rustic spirit of the West. In addition to winter sports, the horses, ziplines and hiking make the ranch an adventurer's haven year round.

Under their stewardship, Devil's Thumb Ranch has added 15 'cabins;' the Broad Axe Barn, built from a reconstructed Civil War-era barn; a new Main Lodge with Heck's Tavern; the amazing Ranch Creek Spa and pool; and most recently the High Lonesome Lodge and Axel's Pavilion, dedicated in 1914.

Devil's Thumb Ranch is expanding its outstanding services into the Fraser Valley with the addition of Volario's and Caffe Giocondo at Vasquez Creek Inn, Trailhead Inn, and the new community center in Cozens Ranch 'hood. Our citizens are fortunate that DTR creates strong partnerships with many non-profits in the community. They host significant fundraisers for Grand County non-profits, including the Grand Foundation and CASA, and now, GCHA.

GCHA is indebted to the leadership of Devil's Thumb Ranch. The history group deeply appreciates their friendship and sponsorship of the 5th annual Taste of History Champagne Brunch.

5th annual Taste of History Champagne Brunch

Saturday August 27, 10 am – 1 pm

Tickets $40 to $50: http://www.grandcountyhistory.org

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