Colorado ranch celebrates 100 years since homestead
A man, in 1938, was working nights as a watchman, overlooking a bridge development in southeastern Colorado.
Raising 10 kids in Lamar, Colo., he was working for the town while three of his brothers-in-law and his sister-in-law were working on the land they homesteaded in 1918.
One night someone was at the location attempting to steal gas. The man, carrying a kerosene lamp, went to investigate. The gas was still running and when the lamp and the gas got too close, the lamp exploded and the man burned to death, leaving behind a wife and 10 children.
Robert Emick was only 7 when his father died, and within a couple of years he started to work at his uncle Aaron’s ranch.
MOVING TO THE HOMESTEAD
Three of Robert’s uncles and his aunt, Elizabeth, homesteaded the land in 1918, under the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909, which expanded the amount of land up for claim to 320 acres. The land owned by the family is now much larger and in the thousands of acres, according to Robert.
When Robert was about 9 or 10, he started to work on Aaron’s portion of the ranch during the entire summer. He continued to work there until he was drafted on July 13, 1951.
Aaron, who didn’t have a child of his own, took Robert under his wing. Robert laughed when asked to describe his uncle. The first thing that came to mind was Aaron’s looks.
“He was a very handsome man…,” he said, adding he was a bachelor for most of his life. He dated, and once went away for a few days and came back married in 1945.
Aaron’s wife died only a few years later, around Christmas the year Robert was drafted.
Once Robert returned about two years later, Aaron told him, “Maybe we can work out a deal.”
So in 1953, Robert and his wife, Helen, moved to the ranch full-time. Helen gave up her job in town at the courthouse.
“Fast forward from there, we still live here,” he said.
The family is celebrating the homestead’s 100-year anniversary over Memorial Day weekend.
GROWTH AND CHANGES
When Robert and Helen moved to the ranch in 1953, there was no indoor plumbing or electricity. They raised eight children — seven sons and a daughter — on that ranch, in a house his aunt, Elizabeth, had her brothers help her build.
Robert leased the land from his uncle when the family first moved to the ranch. He started his herd by purchasing 15 Hereford cows and later 55.
In 1971, Aaron sold the ranch to the couple, before moving into town.
Since the couple first moved in, though, there have been significant changes on the ranch.
There’s electricity and indoor plumbing, for starters.
Robert, Helen and their children own most of the land and their cousins also own part of the land.
Before, when driving to the ranch, there was only a small trail that led to the property.
There is an antique windmill collection on the ranch, along with power windmills that were installed in 2003.
The herds are much larger and the family owns more land than they had when they homesteaded.
“It’s changed a lot since we moved here,” Helen said. ❖
— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at (970) 392-4410, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.
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