Maxwell Ranch History

As Known and Written by Lon D. Lewis – 2015 & Edited by Pat Clemens

The Maxwell ranch is in a beautiful valley on the North Lone Pine and is comprised of several homesteads. One of first homestead was established south of Prairie Divide Road  by Lemuel Sloan in 188l. In 1886 it became the home place of George W. Jewett and his family, wife, Julia and 12 children. The original home was located south of the present day log home. The home burned during the family’s early years on the ranch and in 1902 their barn and hay burnt down in a “combustion fire”  of which the family did not recover financially. Their second home burned in 1946.  The Jewett’s raised cabbage, carrots and grain.  The cabbage was made into sauerkraut and sold in Laramie, Wyoming.

Jewett Ranch, 1891

Jewett Ranch, 1891. Photo provided by the Maxwell family.

Jewett children tending to cabbage

Jewett children tending to cabbage. Photo provided by the Maxwell family.

Jewett's grain field

Jewett’s grain field. Photo provided by the Maxwell family.

In 1884 Charles W. Sloan homesteaded obtaining title to 160 acres from the US Government on 5/21/1889.  To obtain title to homesteaded land a house had to be built and the land lived on for 5 years.  Mr. Sloan’s cabin remnants are still present a few hundred yards near the west side of the road on the north bank of the N. Fork of N. Pine Creek.  Across the road from it is a hand dug well with a hand pump, and an old hay sweep.  Pieces of a ~1930’s pickup, and building logs were also in that area.  On 11/11/1896, 12 years after he begin living there, Mr. Sloan sold his homestead to Amanda D (Kerr) Birdsall for $800.  She and her husband, Sylvester H. Birdsall lived in the Sloan cabin until their deaths in 1898 and 1926, respectively.

Site of Charles W. Sloan Homestead now in Lewis Park

Site of Charles W. Sloan Homestead now in Lewis Park. Photo provided by the Maxwell family.

Mr. and Mrs. Birdsall had two daughters, Mary (Mrs. William) Stewart and Grace Sloan (Mrs. Allie or William A-not W-Sloan son of Lemuel), later Mrs. Lawrence Peterson.  Mr. Birdsall, who was a singing master, taught at the school just east of “The Copper King” mine then owned by George W Jewett which in 1950 became known as the “Prairie Divide Uranium Mine.” It was also known as the “Copper Bug Mine”. Copper and zinc were mined during World War I.  During World War II pitchblende was found and was mined for its uranium in 1950-52.  It had been abandoned since then.  In 2009 it was reclaimed by the US Forest Service who for safety reasons filled in the mine and obliterated all traces of it.  The Jewett, Smith and Sloan children went to the school that had been located east of there.

Copper Bug Mine

Copper Bug Mine. Photo provided by the Maxwell family.

Mrs. Birdsall died on 6/8/1898, only 19 months after purchasing their 160 acre home site from Mr. Sloan.  Following her death, one-half of the land went to her husband and one-fourth to each of their daughters.  On 1/26/1906 Mary A (Birdsall) Stewart bought her father’s and sister’s interest in this land for $2000.  Fourteen years later on 10/16/1920 the court confirmed her sole ownership of these 160 acres.

In 1898 Mary also purchased sections 9 and 17. From 1862 to 1871 the US Congress gave land grants for the construction of transcontinental railroads in western United States.  A 400 ft right-of-way and alternate sections for 20 miles on both sides of the track were given to railroad companies.  They sold these sections of land to help finance their construction of a transcontinental railroad.  The Union Pacific rail line ran from Omaha to near Ogden, Utah where it met the railroad built by Central Pacific from Sacramento completing in 1869 the first of five transcontinental railroads by companies given land for this purpose.  On 3/12/1898 ownership of all of sections 9, 17 and also 21 (T10N, R72W) were transferred from the federal government to Union Pacific whose nearest rail line is at Tie Siding, Wyoming 19-20 miles north.  Nine months later UP sold these sections to Mary Stewart.  She immediately transferred the western one-half of section 17, which is congruent with her parents’ home site on the eastern portion of section 18, to her father Sylvester H Birdsall.  The transfer of the south ½  of section 9 and all of section 17 (960 acres) from Union Pacific to Mary for $672 (70 cents/acre) occurred on 7/7/1906 by which time she had purchased all of the Birdsall home site from her father and sister, Grace Sloan Peterson.  Following Mr. Birdsall’s death on 7/13/1926, Grace transferred ownership of this portion of section 17 back to Mary on 6/27/1929.

In contrast to that on the Birdsall place, many of the original buildings are still present on what was Mary and Billie Stewarts’ place on the SE quarter of section 9.  Much of the original log cabin, build by the Stewarts soon after the land was purchased in 1898, still stands as do a large barn and 3 sheds.  In 1912 a new house with a concrete meat house attached was built near the homestead cabin.  July 4, 1912 is written in the concrete floor of the meat house.  Many years later (30 to 50) this house burned to the ground. At the time it burned it was being lived in by the Becksted (later Maxwell) Ranch’s hired man Arthur Aldrich.  Art was known as the “Slow Talker,” because he was a slow moving, slow everything fellow.  Mike Maxwell said about two in the morning Art appeared at the ranch headquarters house, which is about four miles southwest and very slowly said “That – there – house – is – on – fire.”  Of course by then there wasn’t any house left.

Four hundred acres of Section 16 were purchased by her husband William “Billie” Stewart on 1/18/1920 from the state of Colorado for $3840 ($9.60/acre).  Later Billie transferred it to Mary.  Ownership of the Stewarts’ land was periodically transferred back and forth several times between Mary and Billie.

Section 16, which is in the center of each 36 section township, was a school section.  From 1785-1820 these were given by the Federal government to each state for the support of public education.  Later in some areas both sections 16 and 36 were given to the state and later in four other western states four sections of each township were given to these states for the support of public education.  Most school sections were sold by the state and the proceeds used to build and maintain public schools.

On 5/27/1929, three years following her husband Billie’s death on 5/28/1926 at age 67, Mary and their only child, Helen A Holiman traded all of the Stewart Ranch’s 2200 acres together with 131 cattle, 3 bulls, 7 horses, all hay, machinery, tack, furniture, chickens and equipment belonging to the ranch to W H Hopkins for The Brenton Apartments at 1237 to 1243 Lafayett Street, Denver, Colo. valued at $3000.  However, 4 months later on 9/25/1926 Mr. Hopkins transferred all back to Mary along with all water rights and forest reserve rights and fences.  On 9/6/1932 Mary transferred ¼ ownership of the Ranch to Allan H. Williams and the remainder to Charles P. Scott and Belle Scott. Mr. Williams transferred his ownership to the Scotts on 7/17/1934.  On 7/6/1935 the Scotts sold all of this land, along with all ditch and water rights belonging to or used in connection with this land to Margaret L. Goldsborough Stonehouse of Denver for $8000.

Several years earlier, in 1926 Mrs. Goldsborough had purchased the George W Jewett 1886 homestead, which is now the Maxwell “Caerlaverock” (the name of the Maxwell ancestors’ castle in Scotland) Ranch headquarters.  Mrs. Goldsborough also purchased the Noal W Gowan 1899 homestead west of Prairie Divide Road and the William Allan Sloan 1900 homestead.  These were bought by Mrs. Goldsborough as a wedding present for her daughter Mildred Emelia’s marriage in 1926 to Dr. Wallace Brown, a veterinarian.  Mrs. Goldsborough hired two Swedish carpenters who built both the log barn and the main ranch house on the Jewett homestead for them to live in.

Jewett's Log Cabin

Jewett’s Log Cabin. Photo provided by the Maxwell family.

Log Barn

Log Barn. Photo provided by the Maxwell family.

Mrs. Goldsborough had inherited choice real estate in downtown Denver from her husband Lewis Custice Goldsborough following his death in 1919.  Their daughter Mildred Emelia was born 3/7/06 in Edgewater, Colorado.  Less than 3 years after her marriage to Dr. Brown, Mildred filed for divorce which was granted in February 1929 on the grounds of mental cruelty and the assumption that he had married her for her mother’s money.  Two months later on 4/12/1929, he married Marion Elliott Brown, a rich Denver socialite divorcee in Juarez, Mexico but before his divorce from Mildred was final.  As a result he was charged and fined $500 for bigamy.

Wallace Everett Brown, Jr was born 8/6/1897 in North Adams, Massachusetts to physician Wallace E. & Rhersace E Brown.  At age 18 he served in a tank corps in World War I.  Afterwards he moved to Helena, Montana where on 9/15/1922 he married Lucy Betty Sanner.  A few years later they divorced.  Mildred & Marion were therefore his 2nd & 3rd wives, although all reports at the time give them as his 1st & 2nd wives.  He and Marion lived on the ranch Mrs Goldsborough had bought for her daughter Mildred until on 5/28/1930 Marion also filed for divorce charging extreme and repeated cruelty which he denied.  A year later on 7/7/31 in Denver he was charged with a DUI and running into a woman pedestrian who wasn’t seriously hurt.  Prior to his marriage to Mildred he was reported to have obtained a veterinary degree from State College of Colorado in Fort Collins; if so it would had have been 1923-1926.  On 8/3/1943 at age 45 he was found dead on the floor of his hotel room in Sweetwater, Texas where it reported that he had practiced veterinary medicine the previous 7 years.  Death was ruled to be from natural causes.  It was reported that he was widowed at that time.  If so it would have been from a 4th or subsequent wife.  One report states that he married 5 women, all rich, but spent several years in the penitentiary.  No information to support this could be found.  If he did his additional marriages and penitentiary time would have been during 1931 to 1939 after his DUI arrest in Denver and before he was reported to be practicing in Sweetwater, Texas.  Two bullet indentations in a metal family crest above the stone fireplace in the house Mrs. Goldsborough had built on the Jewett 1886  homestead was reportedly put there by Dr. Brown while drunk.  He was reported to be nice sober but mean when drinking.

After Dr Brown’s divorce from Marion, Mrs Goldsborough got the ranch back in 1935 at which time she bought the Billie & Mary (Birdsall) Stewart ranch from Charles P &Belle Scott to make up most of what in 1964 became the Maxwell ranch.  In 1930, a year after divorcing Dr. Brown, Mildred married Chris Cusack, a prominent Denver businessman.  In 1932 they had a son, John, and that same year was divorced.  Afterward, Mildred, John & Mrs. Goldsborough lived on and operated the ranch.  During this time much logging was done on the ranch leaving many slash piles, tree stumps & many still used logging roads.

Logging on Goldsborough Ranch in early 1930’s

Logging on Goldsborough Ranch in early 1930’s. Photo provided by the Maxwell family.

Mrs. Goldsborough died on 9/13/1938 at age 59.  Three years later Mildred married Alvin J. Becksted, who had been ranch foreman for her and her mother for several years.  “Beck” was a rough looking old cowboy, who had been through the mill including, according to him, a hitch or two as a Texas Ranger.  They had one child, Margaret Ellen in 1941.

In 1950 Mildred purchased section 21. UP sold it on 6/30/ 1908 to Warren C. Johnson for $916.80.  On 4/26/1926 he sold it to William Penn College of Oskaloosa, Iowa who on 11/18/1950 sold it to Mildred G. Becksted for $2652.  On 12/23/64 Mildred and her husband Alvin J. Becksted sold their ownership of the 4560 acres that is now Lewis Park and the Maxwell ranch to Stuart G. and Shirley B. Maxwell for $125,000 ($27.41/acre) and a down payment.  Mildred passed away August 5, 1966 at 57 years of age.  “Beck” passed away May 21, 1971 at 75 years of age.

Stuart and Shirley Maxwell prior to buying the ranch from the Becksteds ran a dairy in Fort Collins, Colorado.  They had two daughters, Kathryn (Mrs. Todd) DeVries of Idaho Falls, Idaho and Karen (Mrs. Fred) Beuk of Agate, Colorado.  They also had two sons, Michael J. and Dan P, who with their dad ran the ranch until his death on August 5, 1997.  They along with their mother Shirley continued to run and live at the ranch headquarters.  Shirley died August 20, 2011 at age 84.  Beginning in 1988 the ranch was operated in the partnership SG Maxwell and Sons from whom Lon D. and Nancy L. Lewis bought the northern 1840 acres which they call Lewis Park on Dec 15, 2006.

See also: Photos of the Maxwell Ranch from the July 2015 Tour.