History under Devil’s Thumb
Special to the Sky-Hi News
Taste of HIstory Champagne Brunch
Saturday August 27, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Tickets $50 General Public, $40 GCHA Members
Following seasonal Ute and Arapahoe presence in the Ranch Creek area below the west side of Corona Pass and Devil’s Thumb, early settlers set out to ranch the area as early as the 1870s with Billy and Mary Cozens some of the earliest.
Years later there were two main ranches were established nearby in the Ranch and Cabin Creeks area near Fraser. These were Yager’s Devil’s Thumb Ranch and Mueller’s Sky Valley Ranch. In January 1940, the Yager brothers, Don and George, purchased 480 acres from an old dairy farm that sold milk to Fraser residents. They doubled the size of their lands over the next years and decided to move onto their Devil’s Thumb Ranch, living together with their mother in a one-room woodcutters cabin.
With the support of their growing families, the Yager brothers focused on their goal to combine not only cattle raising but to add a dude ranch. They built a saddle shop for horse riders and started on the main lodge. All the logs were local cut and then stripped by George and Don Yager. This structure is still part of Devil’s Thumb Ranch today. At the time there was neither electricity nor water.
World War II brought a halt to expansion of Devil’s Thumb Ranch, but by 1946 the Yagers were back in force. In a 1955 dude ranch brochure, the Yagers claimed, “A bit of the old west with all the comforts of the new. A real working cow outfit, smack dab in the middle of the grandest, prettiest county in the world.”
The Yagers operated Devil’s Thumb Ranch for thirty years as a combination working and dude ranch. They sold the ranch in 1973 to Willi and Retty Mueller who owned the adjacent property, Sky Valley Ranch. The Mueller’s rebuilt the main house and made other improvements to both ranches.
Learn more about the history of Ranch Creek and Devil’s Thumb Ranch this Saturday, August 27 at the Taste of History Champagne Brunch, a fundraiser for Grand County Historical Association. A History Table will showcase a collection of Willi Mueller’s fabulous photographs of the region, now safely housed in the GCHA archives.
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