by Marissa Lorenz
In the early 20th century, when the West was still wild, Anna Bemrose Fetters Dietrich was a woman of unconquerable spirit, who would become known as “The Cattle Queen of Grand County” and sometimes “The Cattle Queen of the Western Slope.”
Anna was born August 23, 1868 in what is now Anamosa, Iowa to parents George and Charlotte Bemrose, immigrants from England. Charlotte had survived scarlet fever as a toddler and been left deaf and non-verbal, but was herself a strong enough character to have raised eight children on the American plains and to have inspired three of her daughters to venture far as well. Anna, the second youngest, left Iowa sometime in the late 1880s to join her eldest sister Eliza and husband, a Mr. McClout, in Dillon, Colorado where they operated a boarding house for railroad workers.
Anna soon met John Fetters who ran a meat market in Dillon, but had already filed on land near Kremmling in 1890. The two were married in December, 1891, and their first child, Jake, was born nine months later. They moved to John’s Grand County property in 1893, accompanied by Anna’s younger sister, Fanny. Their home was the former Clark Ranch on the Muddy, located near the present day intersection of US 40 and Highway 134, about six miles north of Kremmling. John took over as postmaster of the Clarkson Post Office and Anna and Fanny ran a general store. Residents soon heard tales of the two attractive women at the Clarkson P.O., and one young man even had his mail transferred from Kremmling in order to court the unmarried sister.
Two more children, Lula and Mary, were born during this early time on the Muddy. Unfortunately, John’s father died in 1895 and the Fetters moved back to Ohio to take over the family farm. There, a fourth daughter Winifred or “Minnie” was born before John fell ill and died in early 1898. The widowed mother of four filed probate for the Ohio property, including a mule, a cow, a variety of pigs and sows, and 10 acres of planted crops. But by 1899, she returned her family to the Muddy, where she married a neighbor, Jacob Dietrich, a Swiss immigrant, thus increasing their shared ranch lands. Mary would not survive to her fifth birthday, but the Dietrichs would have three more healthy and strong children together, Alfed, Bertha, and Horace.
Life was seemingly good during this time. Schools popped up on the Muddy, where the Fetters-Dietrich children were among the first students and of which Anna was superintendent in 1910, at least. She built a home on Eagle Avenue in Kremmling that still stands behind the Kremmling Community Church and which had a sod roof until the 1960s. The Dietrich’s would both vacation at their home in town throughout the years and graze their cattle on the property that lay between what is now 1st and 5th Avenues and Eagle and Range, where today’s Town Hall, Hospital, and Kiddie Park can be found. Via Anna, the property would eventually become Kremmling’s
Dietrich addition, one of the earliest platted neighborhoods in town.
However, tragedy would strike again in 1910 when Jacob shot himself twice, once fatally through the heart. He had been suffering from typhoid, a bacterial infection normally caused from contaminated food or water that can cause high fevers, painful cramps, vomiting, and hallucinations. The Middle Park Times reported that it was “thought that he did the rash act while in a fit of temporary insanity.” And for the third time, when faced with the choice of wrestling a living and a life out of the ranch on the Muddy or returning to somewhere more “civilized,” Anna chose the ranching life– but this time she would be the rancher.
Her home on the Muddy, nicknamed the Lighthouse by ranchers and ranch hands far and wide, became a regular stopping off point for travelers and during round-ups. There were parties and all-night dances where everyone was welcome. Anna herself described a party that marked the last traditional round-up, held in 1915, before “the range was fenced by individuals.”
“I sent word to all the cowboys that they were invited to my house for Thanksgiving dinner,” she would write in a letter to the Middle Park Times in 1939. “And such a crowd that came! They played the piano and sang and entertained themselves, while my daughters [Minnie and Bertha] helped me with supper. (…) So ended a never-to-be-forgotten roundup of the cowboys on the range.”
Anna quickly became a successful and recognized business woman. Records show that just one year after Jacob’s death, she sold 17 steer, 7 cows, and 2 bulls at a single sale. By 1915, she was a regular at stock markets and stock meetings in Denver and Middle Park. In January of 1916, she attended the 10th Annual National Western Stock Show in Denver before setting off on a “pleasure trip to San Francisco, California; Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, and back by way of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.” She bought a herd of “pure-bred Holstein cattle from a breeding farm in California,” with which she stocked her own ranch that year. And in May, following her return, she bought a brand new Dodge Brothers motor car, possibly being the first woman in the county to do so.
In October, 1916, the Record Stockman noted Anna had a “reputation for marketing good cattle, and the bunch marketed this morning were exceptionally choice,” when
she sold 24 steer, averaging 1,050 pounds, for $7.40. And in February 1917, a published update of local and national stock news read, “Mrs. Anna Dietrich of Kremmling had the honor of being the only woman exhibitor of cattle at the National Western show, with a load of two year old steers in the car lots of feeders. (…) Mrs. Dietrich is to be commended for doing her part to uphold the standard of the Middle Park Cattle.”.
The 1920s brought a difficult time for cattle ranchers across the state. In 1920, according to that year’s census, she was living with the three youngest children in a house she owned in Denver. But by 1926, she was back on the Muddy, raising sheep for the next decade. In 1935, at the age of 68, Anna finally stepped back from “personal management” of the ranch. She would remain in the place she had made home, however, and live out her days between the ranch and her little house in town. She passed away in 1949 at 81-years old and is buried in Kremmling’s Riverside Cemetery.
What may have been the original Fetters property seems to have gone back to Jake Fetters after his mother’s retirement. The remaining property was willed to Bertha, Alfred, and Horace, according to Anna’s grandson, Charlie Parsons, Jr. Bertha would later trade property nearer Granby for Albert’s share. Eventually, the Horace Dietrich portion would be sold to Tom Davison and the rest of the Dietrich Ranch would end up between the Davison and Hinman ranches.
[Sources: Grand County Historical Association Journals:
“Up and Down the Valleys of the Muddy,” “Historic Kremmling” walking tour, and “Where the River Meets”; Middle Park Times and other Routt County Papers, sourced from ColoradoHistoricNewspapers.org.]