Reliving Grand County’s past with History on Horseback highlights to look forward to on July 11

Commissioner Merrit Linke explains the history of Cottonwood Pass in 2013.
Commissioner Merrit Linke explains the history of Cottonwood Pass in 2013.

On July 11, Commissioner Merrit Linke will be sharing a historic ride over Cottonwood Pass.

The rich history of the first homesteaders along the trail will be brought to life on the back of a horse, or in the relative comfort of a horse-drawn surrey. The surrey will follow County Road 55 and will be guided by Colorado Headwaters Land Trust Director, Jeremy Krones. Riders will be guided by Commissioner Linke.

Those attending the tour of the Cottonwood Pass will be able to speak like a true pioneer and know the locations of the Chamberlain, the Egger Place and the Button Place.

The original Cottonwood Ride was conceived by Linke to help raise funds for the Highway 9 project in 2013. This year it was reborn as a fundraiser for the Grand County Historical Association and Colorado Headwaters Land Trust.

The day will begin at the Linke Ranch with a breakfast catered by Lion Head Coffee.

The Linke Ranch was homesteaded in 1883 by Emil Linke, who along with his pregnant wife, came to Grand County with all their belongings in a covered wagon while driving six head of cattle from Denver.

Riders will then move along the trail to the Lettuce Patch; a remnant field from of the once-thriving lettuce industry, and the small log cabin where the lettuce workers stayed as they worked the fields. This cabin was Ed Linke’s, (Commissioner Linke’s grandfather) homestead cabin, but was moved in from the actual homestead site further west. The term “iceberg lettuce” originated in Grand County and was a dominant industry in Grand County, centered in Granby, which boasted two lettuce warehouses and shipping facilities, one of which now houses Maverick’s Grille restaurant.

Along with commerce, riders will be treated to the location of the Eight Mile School. The country school is where all the nearby ranches and homesteaders sent their kids. This building is now at the Pioneer Village Museum in Hot Sulphur Springs.
Historic homesteads are next in line with a stop at the Chamberlain, Eggers Place and Button Place.

Mr. Chamberlain was the county assessor over 100 years ago. This site is the remains of his homestead and the route is the one he would have taken to go to work. This is also the crossing of Eight Mile Creek, which is how it, Nine Mile, and Ten Mile Creek got their names-that is the distance from the courthouse by this route.

The old barns at the Eggers Place are the remains of a homestead started by the Eggers, which was bought out by the Linkes, and significantly increased the size of the ranch. Emil and Sophie’s first son, Dick, in a visionary enterprise, put in a gas station at this location about the same time when cars were replacing horses as the main method of transportation. However, about that time, the railroad came through with regular service. By then Granby, and what became Highway 40 and the prominent route.

The Button Place is another homestead purchased by the Linke family, which at one time was a toll road, where the charge was “whatever was deemed proper.” The Buttons sold out and moved their family to a place near Hot Sulphur, where Horace became known for his skiing and raised Hereford cattle. Schuyler Button was also a county official and would have taken this route to work at the courthouse.

After the homesteads, the oil well pasture will be highlighted. This is where the road deviates significantly from CR 55 and follows a route over the hill on a gentler grade all the way to the top of the pass. Up the valley, below the cliffs was a drilling rig exploring for oil over 70 years ago.

Finally, the time travelers will reach the summit of the Cottonwood Pass. At just under 9,000 feet elevation, the horses that pulled the heavy freight wagon up the hill needed a rest before starting the last five miles downhill to Hot Sulphur.

The rest of the trip, as riders and the surrey descend into Hot Sulphur Springs, will highlight the end of the Linke Ranch at the last cattle guard, about three miles from Hot Sulphur Springs.

Travelers will also pass the Hot Sulphur Springs cemetery. The cemetery is the final resting place for many members of the Linke family from the first and second generations. Hot Sulphur was their town, as Granby didn’t exist for most of their lives. It didn’t come into prominence until 1906, when the railroad came through, and even then didn’t prosper until 1926, when regular rail service became available.

The nine mile tour concludes after approximately three hours at the Pioneer Village Museum in Hot Sulphur Springs with a lunch provided by Dean Public House and a proclamation read in the historical museum.

To attend next week’s event, contact Shanna Ganne at 970-726-5488.