Closing in

What is left of Eagle Peak Ranch, which Alfred Rowe patented in 1894.

In 1909, the Dells sold their original 320 acre homestead ranch to the Rowe brothers, Frank and Eugene, “Gene”, according to a May 7 Flume article. This became the upper place, or “Dell Flats.”

Even though the Rowe’s weren’t among the first settlers along Currant Creek, from mile marker 20 on Colorado Highway 9 up to Currant Creek pass, they ranched in the area 72 years and Gene lived around 50 years at the Dell homestead. Frank’s cattle empire was just over the Park County line in north Fremont County. The Rowe’s amassed “a pile of land and had a lot of cattle,” according to Charlie Dell who worked for Frank or Gene Rowe for 40 years.

It’s hard to believe, but there was a lot of traffic on the Currant Creek wagon and freight road in its heyday. This area of the creek is remote in the sense that one was a day or more wagon trip to a town, but there were a lot of homesteaders.

By 1900 all of the land on both sides of the creek was homesteaded. A typical land patent was 160 acres, which if you make it a square, is ½ mile on each side. So, one had a homestead about every ½ mile up and down the creek. They were packed in like sardines.

At various times, there were eight post offices along the road, Currant Creek, 1870 – 1894; Currant, 1894 – 1901; Taclamar, 1901 – 1905; O.P. Allen post office, it burned down in 1900; Micanite, 1904 – 1924; Idaville, 1885 – 1886; it became Freshwater and then Guffey about 1903; and Divine or Black Mountain, 1896 – 1911, according to a Rowe Family History by Frank’s son Sam.

The homesteaders soon found out that one could not make a go of it on 160 acres in this area. Even later, when the land allotment was increased to 640 acres, it was still hard to make a go of it. Today, all the homestead buildings along the creek in this area are gone with only the Bender ranch at the pass and the Dell ranch near Guffey still left. Both are working cattle ranches still. The other places either burned down or there is no trace left. Perhaps only a milled timber or two or some are partially or totally fallen in.

These homesteaders sold out their holdings either before they were proofed up or after they were proofed up, a five-year proposition. People like Gene and Frank Rowe bought these failed homesteads up and acquired quite a bit of land in the process for their cattle business.

Alfred Rowe (1/11/1844, Illinois – 10/20/1926) came to this area from Illinois in 1870 to secure his Civil War land entitlement located eight miles west of Currant Creek, south of Mill Gulch and north of Tallahassee Road. He then returned to Illinois.

Called Military Bounty Land, Union veterans of the Civil War got special homestead rights in 1870 when an amendment in the 1862 Homestead Act gave them the right to claim 160 acres within railroad grant areas. Another amendment in 1872 gave them the right to deduct their length of war service from the five-year residency needed to proof up a homestead. Soldiers or their heirs got a Federal Bounty Land Warrant which they exchanged for the land patent.

While attending law school at the University of Michigan, he married Mary Jane Gardner (7/24/1850, Pennsylvania – 2/12/1900) on October 3, 1871 in Ottawa, IL. They were passing through Chicago when the great fire started, according to Sam Rowe.

In 1874 Alfred and Mary bought some land on Tallahassee Creek and Alfred freighted to Leadville, Alma, Fairplay and Breckenridge. They returned for a time to IL and their first child, Frank Leslie was born, 6/25/1874, in Sheridan in the first house ever built in Sheridan by Alfred in 1869.

In 1876 the couple left for Colorado, by way of Kansas to see some of Mary’s relatives living there. The family was in Denver the day Colorado was declared a state August 1, 1876.

In 1880 Alfred and Mary lived at the juncture of Mill Gulch and Currant Creek on the Currant Creek Wagon Road. Mary taught school in the area. She was a college graduate and had an extensive musical background. With his background as a lawyer, Alfred was a justice of the peace for some time around 1888 - 1892 in the area, although he never practiced law.

Alfred proofed up his homestead in 1894, which he called the Eagle Peak Ranch. The house built of logs was just south of the confluence of Smith Gulch and Currant Creek in Fremont County.

The couple’s other three children were born at the Eagle Peak Ranch – Eugene “Gene” Claire, 6/15/1879; Irene “Rene,” 6/10/1884; and Cora Jane, 7/7/1887.

One of Frank’s earliest memories as a small boy was watching the first herd of longhorn cattle to the area going by “all day it seemed,” according to Sam. Most likely it was the 3000 head of cattle that John Reeves Witcher brought to the area in 1880.

In 1890 Frank, aged 16, and his father Alfred started their cattle partnership, buying 30 longhorn cows and calves. Gene joined the partnership later, around 1911.

When not digging potatoes, Frank rode the range, branding and weaning the cattle.  Frank and Alfred freighted potatoes, other vegetables, hardware and feed to Balfour, Buena Vista, Leadville, Fairplay, Alma and Breckenridge. The local homesteaders grew lots of potatoes, vegetables and sweet corn. It was said that the corn sold for $1 per ear in Fairplay.

Alfred’s 160 acre Eagle Peak Ranch was proofed up in 1894, and at 21 years old, Frank proofed up his first 160 acre homestead, known as the lower place, at Highway 9 and Park County Road 104, near the town of Micanite.

In the early 1900s, the Rowes ran most of the cattle along Currant Creek. Gene proofed his homestead on Baldy Mountain in 1910 and just kept adding cattle and needing more and more land for them, according to Paul Huntley in “Black Mountain Cowboys.”

Alfred was a charter member of the Fremont County Livestock Protective Association. Their first meeting was December 28, 1897 and he was president in 1904, 1906 and 1912. Frank was round up captain in 1904 and 1906 and Gene in 1909 and 1910.

Around 1900, the town of Micanite was formed by the Mica Mining Company to provide worker housing for their mica mine and mill in Mack Gulch. There was a post office in Micanite from 1904 – 1922 and the Micanite mail route ended there. There was a church, a few houses, a hotel and dance hall surrounding the mill. It was all but abandoned around 1918, though, and the buildings sold at auction, according to Sam, and Frank bought the mill and built a hay barn with the lumber. He also bought two other buildings and moved them to his homestead just adjacent south of the townsite.

In 1905, Phoebe Stewart Cleland (1875, Ohio) and presumably her sister Myra (1883) came to Colorado Springs from Chicago. They were the daughters of Ezra and Ella Cleland of Ohio. The sisters were accompanying a friend who had tuberculosis; she came for her health. The sisters also came to work at the mica mill sorting mica in Micanite. For some reason the mill was closed and the sisters got jobs at the hotel, where they met the Rowe brothers at a dance.

Brothers married sisters. Frank married Phoebe Cleland March 22, 1906, and Gene married Myra Cleland January 2, 1909…to be continued.

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