The Scates’ Ranch: Building a Legend

The Scates’ Ranch: Building a Legend
Barbara Lawlor
Peak to Peak

Part I of II

The view from Magnolia Road shows a rustic, two-story cabin dwelling in a meadow that was once called paradise. The ranch has been remodeled for modern living, but still harbors the feel of the past. Until a few years ago, the meadow, 175 acres, was home to a herd of grazing cattle. Also on the homestead property are out buildings, showing the scars of time and the patina of history.
This land was precious to Edith Scates, whose family purchased the property in the 1800s. It is now precious to the neighbors who want to honor Edith’s desire to keep the land an agricultural property, with limited development and with the best interest of the mountain community in mind.
In 2007, Edith’s relatives sold the ranch to Kimberly and Tad Horning, who did the remodeling work and then put the property up for sale. The selling price was $4.5 million to $5.7 million, “depending on time of year, phase of the moon and whether or not the gal in the photo is pregnant again,” read the brochure on the Wild Divine Ranch. The ranch would be a commercial business enterprise, for profit.
In the past year, the cabin and access to the land has become a vacation rental property, with people paying as much as $3,500 for a weekend of peaceful mountain living. In January, the for sale sign disappeared and neighbors were shocked to learn that the Hornings were applying for a special use permit allowing them to become a bed and breakfast type facility with the opportunity to hold weddings and other celebrations. Since then, Magnolia Road residents have rallied to present a case against the application to the County Commissioners.
First and foremost on their minds is preserving the integrity of the land as Edith would have wished. This week, we look into the past, how the ranch was started and how Edith Scates lived her life. Her ties in the mountain community were strong, and she led the legendary life of a pioneer woman. Next week, we will hear from the neighbors who take issue with what the owners have planned.
This history is compiled in short from a book written by friends of Edith who transcribed her words before she died in 2001.
In 1874, C.P. Wing, Edith’s maternal grandfather, walked from Wyoming to work in the mining towns of the Colorado Territory. He was a sawyer by trade and hoped to find a market for timber and lumber near the mines. He met and married Adeline Hurley, a miner’s daughter from Central City. The couple had nine children. When their second child Eva May was six months old, the family moved to the Magnolia area, “where there was water and a grove of trees where C.P. ran a mill with a little steam boiler and engine over two gulches. You could skid the timber by dragging it into the mill,” remembers Dick Scates in the memoir about his family.
C.P. bought a 160-acre homestead near what is now the Front Range Trails on Magnolia Road. He operated one of his sawmills at the junction of County Road 68 and Aspen Meadows Road. Into the mid-1940s there was need for lumber, mine props and railroad ties. He also installed a telephone to take orders for the sawmill. The line ran from tree to tree because poles would have cost 50 cents a month.
The first of the Scates family to move to Colorado was Sherman William Scates, who, when he was 16 years old, moved to his aunt and uncle’s ranch on Magnolia Road, where he lived in the cabin that stands today. His Aunt Agnes and her sister Maggie ran a boarding house in the town of Magnolia. Agnes inherited the property when her father died and Uncle George was the executive director.
Sherman worked for C.P. Wing, cutting wood for mills and woodstoves. When C.P. caught pneumonia, Sherman was asked to fetch the doctor from Rollinsville, and when he arrived at ranch, he met the Scates’ daughters, including Eva May, Edith’s mother. Eva went to school until the fifth grade, when she began to help raise her seven younger siblings.
Sherman and Eva were married by a Justice of the Peace in 1906 in Central City. Edith Rose Scates was born in 1907, and Dick was born in 1909, both of them delivered at the Scates’ Ranch house. Sherman, not knowing how to deliver a baby, pulled at Edith during the birth, and as a result, one hip was higher than the other, giving her the “hip trouble.” Edith had many chores and responsibilities as a girl. When she was a teenager, she rode her horse up around Hessie and took long rides to Mt. Thorodin.
Both Dick and Edith remember having many visitors, including children who were neglected. One of their lifetime friends was George Giggey, who lived at the ranch from when he was 16 to when he got married, learning how to be a heavy equipment operator.
Pine Glade School was built in 1912 where the entrance to the Boy Scout Trails is now located. The school was later closed and in 1970 it was moved to the Nederland Community Center where it remains a private home. The Magnolia School is also near the NCC and has been used for art and pottery classes.
Edith was six years old when she walked the two miles to school. The children had a six-month summer so they could help with ranch work, but Edith valued education, and when she finished the ninth grade she went to Mt. Saint Gertrude Academy, Boulder’s first private school. It was a catholic school on the top of the hill on Aurora Avenue and was taught by nuns.
When Dick purchased a Model-A Ford, it was easier for Edith to visit the ranch on weekends. After St. Gertrude’s, she attended Emily Griffith’s Opportunity School in Denver, which Edith said was a wonderful experience.
Griffith lived in Pinecliffe until she and her sister were murdered by a man she befriended who later drowned himself in South Boulder Creek. It was a huge tragedy to the community and to the students in Denver where Griffith taught.
In her early 20s, Edith had a job in Golden at the Coors porcelain plant making crucibles. When her father became ill, Edith returned to the ranch to stay with her mother and Dick. Sometimes she worked at the food stand at the Pactolus Skate Rink. At that time the Espy Ice Company in Rollinsville cut ice in the creek for the Denver market and westbound refrigerator cars carrying perishables over Corona Pass, before the Moffat tunnel was constructed.
Edith never married because, she told friends, it just never worked out, wasn’t the right time or place for her. She and her brother had enough work to keep them busy.
Over the years, the Scates family bought up thousands of acres of land, homesteads that people left, unable to make a living. At one point they owned 2,100 acres of land. After 1965, that amount was reduced to 175 acres. When the Moffat Tunnel was being built, Sherman Scates put in a herd of cattle and then hauled beef to Rollinsville for the workers.
Sherman died in 1940 and Eva, Dick and Edith inherited the property, which they sold off except for the 175 acres that remain as the ranch today. Eva died in 1969 and Dick died in 1985. Edith lived on the ranch by herself, with the help of Magnolia Road neighbors and long-time Nederland friends until she died in 2001.
Before she died, in the fall of 1998, Edith Scates restricted future development rights of the ranch in perpetuity by giving a conservation easement to the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust. However, the underlying ownership of the property is held privately, and could change. At the time of granting the easement, it was written that The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association will monitor the property annually to preserve this extraordinarily beautiful ranch land.
Edith said, “I feel it is what Dick would have wanted.” It was also what she wanted.
A new owner is not allowed to build any new development, except a 4,000 square-foot log-cabin caretaker residence for the ranch, “to preserve the ability of the property to be agriculturally producing, with farming and ranching activities that will preserve the open space character, wildlife habitat and scenic qualities of the property.”
The National Trust designates the Scates’ Ranch as a Centennial Farm for Historic Preservation because it has been continuously associated with the family from the 1870s to the present. The buildings are architecturally significant for their pioneer log and wood construction, and little has changed from their historic appearance. Built with 14-inch-square, hand-hewn logs fastened with a V saddle notch, the cabin was chinked and daubed with white lime-based mortar. In her later years, Edith joined the Nederland Community Presbyterian Church, and soon became a familiar and admired person around town. The Mountain-Ear newspaper in Nederland honored her by featuring numerous biographies and news clips about her life.
In July 1999, she was chosen Grand Marshal of the Old Timers’ and Miners’ Days parade and she was delighted at the honor. She wore a kelly green straw hat and rode in a red Cadillac convertible at the head of the parade. She was 91 years old and waving merrily at the crowd.