by Penny Hamilton
At one time in 1927, Charles Lindbergh was the most famous person in the world. An experienced pilot from the early 1920s, he barnstormed, parachuted, and even wing-walked. Lindbergh carefully planned everything.
Colorado was a familiar place because in the summer of 1922, Lindbergh performed in “barnstorming shows.” He was billed as “Daredevil Lindbergh” because of his breathtaking cut-away parachute falls, hanging underneath planes, and standing on the wings as the planes looped in the sky. Charles Lindbergh knew planes could be much more than entertainment. He wanted them to connect the world.
By 1927, he connected with St. Louis, Missouri bankers, community leaders, and some of his flight students, who shared his vision. They backed him with money as he carefully planned a solo, Trans-Atlantic flight which had never been done before. In fact, a $25,000 Orteig prize was offered to the first person to complete the daring flight. That was like $350,000 in today’s dollars. Plus, he would be the first and only person to literally connect the new world of America with the old world of Europe.
Well, Charles Lindbergh in the Spirit of St. Louis, Ryan Aviation custombuilt, single engine, single seat, highwings aircraft flew from Long Island, New York to Paris, France in 33 hours 30 minutes all alone on May 20-21, 1927. The world went wild.
So, what does this have to do with Grand County, Colorado? The Harry Knight family owned a 1,500 acre ranch on the South Fork of the Colorado River in the 1920s until the Granby Reservoir was built in the 1940s. They were part of the financial syndicate that funded the famous Spirit of St. Louis flight.
When you are world-famous, the peace and solitude of Grand County is pretty appealing, even today to celebrities. Plus, Harry Knight built a first-class airstrip on the ranch. In addition to the natural beauty of our area, nature lover, Knight, had a 28-room estate, private guest cabin, miniature golf, horses, carriages, camp-fire sing-alongs, and Lindbergh owed the Knight Family big time for making the historic flight possible.
The Knight Ranch is now under the chilly waters of Lake Granby. But, the six-mile Knight Ridge Trail in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area is a reminder of the storied aviation history of our area. That story continues to be honored at the Grand County Historical Association Emily Warner Field Aviation Museum.
Monday, May 21, 2018, the 91st anniversary of the Spirit of St. Louis solo, trans-Atlantic flight, will be remembered from 11AM to 1PM in a free Learn With Lindbergh community program lead by local volunteer, Will O’Donnell of Grand Lake. The museum is family-friendly. Located at the Granby/Grand County Airport in the former Rocky Mountain Airways airline terminal at 1023 CR 610 in Granby.