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Cattle and Railroads and Prunes, Oh My

The recent announcement by Eagle County’s Open Space Department that part of the Horn Ranch will be preserved as open space makes me happy.  Not only is this acreage strikingly beautiful, it also has a fascinating history. We begin with Rupert Sherwood.  Sherwood came to Colorado in 1862 and became a trapper. “For years he was a fur trader between the Continental Divide and the Missouri river, but the lure of gold lead him to prospecting for that metal, and the most interesting years of his life was spent with a gold pan and prospecting pick, in company with ‘Prunes,’ his faithful old burro.” – Eagle Valley Enterprise, Sept. 4, 1931 p.1.  Rupe and Prunes are buried together in Fairplay.

In 1883, Rupe Sherwood homesteaded eight miles east of Eagle which later became one of the best cattle ranches in the county.  The Rio Grande railroad built through the Eagle River Valley and placed a switch near the ranch, the ‘Sherwood Switch, with a section house at the major crossing point on the Eagle River between Wolcott and Eagle. Rupe owned the ranch when a rock quarry was operational in Red Canyon (now between mile markers 135 and 134 on I-70).  The quarry sold red sandstone to builders in Denver, Aspen and Pueblo during the construction boom of the 1880s.  The remains of the pulley system to lower the sandstone from the top to the bottom of the cliff is still visible.

Old quarry rigging in 1918. Old quarry rigging in 1918.

 

Rupert went back to prospecting and, at the time of his death in 1931, his ranch was owned by George W. Watson.  ”The Watsons bought the old Sherwood [Kent] ranch near Wolcott from John Morris, and owned that property until ten years ago [1940] when they sold to Leonard Horn and moved into Eagle, maintaining their home here since.” -- Eagle Valley Enterprise Jan. 12, 1950 p.1

Man standing on the cliff at Red Point, on the north side of the Eagle River circa 1917. The railroad tracks can be seen in the valley below. Leonard Horn frequently jumped his horse across the crevice between the cliff and the hillside. Man standing on the cliff at Red Point, on the north side of the Eagle River circa 1917. The railroad tracks can be seen in the valley below. Leonard Horn frequently jumped his horse across the crevice between the cliff and the hillside.

 

The William and Catherine Flynn family lived in the Sherwood section house, William being a railroad man with the Denver & Rio Grande beginning in 1888.  William died in 1905 and his obituary still lists Sherwood as a place of residence for his widow and seven children.  The sons also worked for the railroad and Mrs. Flynn cooked at the section house for many years.  It is from their family albums that we can document the Sherwood switch which later was renamed Kent.

The Kent [previously Sherwood] section house in 1918 which was the home of the Flynn family until Oct. 15, 1923, at which time Catherine and Nora Flynn moved to Glenwood Springs. The Kent [previously Sherwood] section house in 1918 which was the home of the Flynn family until Oct. 15, 1923, at which time Catherine and Nora Flynn moved to Glenwood Springs.

 

The 480 acres generously granted by the current owner, Magnus Lindholm, includes 7,300 feet of access to the Eagle River, preserving wildlife habitat and beautiful fishing areas.  As this agreement proceeds, it is good to remember the people who recognized the value of this Red Canyon landscape and the lives they made for themselves in Eagle County.

The cement bridge near Kent, looking downstream along the Eagle River toward the west. The cement bridge near Kent, looking downstream along the Eagle River toward the west.

 

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I ALWAYS learn from this blog... thank you!

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