Love is in the (thin) air: The story of the Cozens and Engel families |

Love is in the (thin) air: The story of the Cozens and Engel families

Kristi Martens and Patty Marshall
Grand County Historical Association
A 1901 photo of the lovebirds, William and Mary Cozens, with their two English shepherd dogs, sitting on the porch of their ranch. Mary York and Billy Cozens met and married in Central City in 1860 where she ran a board house and he was Gilpin County Sheriff. They were united for more than 40 years of marriage until his death in 1904.
Courtesy photo |

The love stories of two of the Fraser Valley’s most influential couples will be highlighted at the upcoming Taste of History Champagne Brunch and Social, one of the premier social and philanthropic events of the summer.

The theme for this year’s Taste of History, the sixth annual, is “Love your Museum.” It is an opportunity to highlight the history of the Fraser Valley and the love stories of William and Mary Cozens and George and Joyce Engel. The theme was inspired by two horses kissing for a photo at Casa de Engel.

The story of the Cozens family and their ranch, stagecoach stop and post office is the subject of the Cozens Ranch Museum. The Cozens Museum is the only museum in the Fraser Valley. It presents not only the history of the area but also displays contemporary artworks by local artists and offers rich educational programs for youth and adults.

William Zane Cozens was born in Canada and moved with his family to New York State. As a young man he supported himself as a carpenter building barns and working his way west. He heard of the Pikes Peak gold strikes and moved to Central City, Colorado. There he became a deputy sheriff and then sheriff of Gilpin County and was well known as an honest and tough lawman.

William and Mary Cozens met in Central City in 1860 when the extremely tall “Uncle” Billy Cozens, age 31, came to live and eat at the inn where the petite Irish orphan Mary York housed and fed gold miners. Mary was the same age as Billy and had been orphaned at age 12 when her father died on the ship that carried her family from Ireland to Canada and her mother died three months after arriving. She was separated from her brother and became a servant, moved to New York and then accompanied her employers to Colorado when they followed the gold rush. William and Mary married within months of their meeting. In 1872, determined to start a new life and with three children in tow, William and Mary led their family over the Continental Divide to the mountain paradise along the Fraser River, where they were among the first ranchers.

The story of the Engles family is one that defines the history of Winter Park Ski resort, the local rodeo, the National Sports Center for the Disabled and many other civic and social aspects of the Fraser Valley. And, like the Cozens, the Engels knew very quickly that they had met their true loves.

In 1945, Winter Park Resort hired George Engel as its first paid ski patroller. In the following years George took on different responsibilities at the ski area, and eventually became one of the first ski instructors. In 1948 he bought the Winter Park ski school and later added a ski shop.

When Joyce Hanna got off the Winter Park Ski Train in 1951 she met the handsome ski instructor. Joyce came to the Resort to ski and work after attaining two BA degrees from the University of Colorado. After dating for only three weeks, George proposed to his future bride and business partner. The Winter Park Ski School under George’s leadership, and the Winter Park Ski Shop with Joyce at the helm, became fixtures of the ski area. George and Joyce’s two daughters grew up on the slopes.

Another Engel passion was horses, which led to their acquiring 40 acres along County Road 5 where they built Casa de Engel. The Engels helped to establish the Winter Park Horseman’s Association and the High Country Stampede Rodeo in Fraser. Naturally, their daughter Janet Engel became a rodeo star. The Engels were also involved with the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo for decades.

As community leaders, the Engels transformed Winter Park Resort and the Fraser Valley. They helped start the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and the Winter Park Sanitation District. Joyce Engel was a founder of the Grand County Concert Series bringing live classical music to this rural community. In 1968, George Engel was instrumental in bringing the National Sports Center for the Disabled to Winter Park.

This year the Grand County Historical Association is honored to partner with Wendy Christensen and Janet Engel to host the Taste of History, on Aug. 26, at Casa de Engel at 540 County Road 5, which overlooks the Fraser Valley, above the Fraser Ballfields and the B Lazy 2 Event Center.

The Taste of History 2017 at Casa de Engel is an opportunity to not only feel the family love but to appreciate the impact of the Engel Family and the Cozens family on the Fraser Valley and beyond. The event includes a fabulous brunch, bottomless champagne mimosas, paintings and photography, live music by Tight Like That, and opportunities to win wonderful items in a raffle and in auctions of unique items, art and adventures.

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