The Boyd brothers: Andrew and Robert
by Frances E. Hanson
“Go West Young Man, Go West,” advised Horace Greeley and the Boyd brothers did. Robert Boyd was an integral chapter in the annals of Greeley and that section of Colorado.
The biographical sketch of Robert Boyd published in a 1918 edition of the “History of Colorado,” reveals the importance of the man to Colorado history:
“He was prominently associated with business interests and public events which have had important bearing upon shaping the policy and directing the interests of the commonwealth and promoting the utilization of the natural resources of the state. He was among those who were in the Pike’s Peak country during the early mining excitement there and through the intervening period to the time of his demise; he remained a resident of Colorado.”
Robert left the farm in 1857, at the age of 20. He worked for two years in Leavenworth, Kan., returning home to finish his studies. During the Pike’s Peak excitement, Robert came to Colorado, arriving in Denver in May of 1859. He mined at Black Hawk all summer, and then returned to Kansas until the fall of the next year. With his partner, Lewis A. Rice, he opened a butcher shop in Mountain City, and they also operated a milk route. In 1860, Robert built a sod house on his claim along the Platte River and he put in a crop.
However, in May of the following year, a band of Indians camped on the land and destroyed the crop. Robert kept the ground and 25 years later built another house at the place. Forced to leave that claim, he then took a squatter’s claim on 160 acres in the Cache La Poudre valley and was associated with Graham Scoot, Lewis Rice, and George Hunt, each of who had a quarter section of land. Robert bought out his partners in 1865. His interest in irrigation led him to help in building the Boyd and Freeman ditch, which was the first one in the entire county and privately owned.
In 1865, he ran a freight line for the government from the Missouri River to Denver and afterward he had the contract for hauling ties for the Union Pacific Railroad and a contract for grading four miles of the Cheyenne and Denver road from LaSalle to Platteville. From 1863 until 1870, Robert raised farm produce and ran his freight line. About 1866, he opened a road ranch on Meadow Creek, along the Wells, Fargo &Company route to Salt Lake, and another at Barrel Springs, Wyo.
His business interests were very successful and he owned over 800 acres of good land, all under irrigation, near Greeley. At Big Springs, he owned four sections, which he used for pasturing his stock. Some say that he ran about 200 head of cattle and 100 head of horses. His lumber and sawmill business were located in the foothills.
Historians say that in the fall of 1897 Robert shipped 50 carloads of cabbage besides large quantities of onions and potatoes. His success at operating numerous businesses contributed to the development and progress of the districts in which he operated.
Robert married Agnes W. White of New York on Feb. 14, 1871. She was the daughter of Andrew P. White, who was for 11 years a government official in Washington, D.C., and for many years superintendent of school at Ellington, N.Y. Robert and Agnes had six children: Andrew W., Robert Jr., Aurelia, Charles, Jennie, and Elizabeth. The family belonged to the Congregational church. Robert died on June 1, 1915.
Historians say that he made valuable contributions to the development of this section of the state, being among the honored pioneers who laid the foundation for the prosperity and progress, which is enjoyed today.
Andrew Boyd, born in Pittsfield, Mass., on Feb. 22, 1841, joined his brother, Robert, in Greeley in 1861, and began searching for a place of his own. Young Andrew rode horseback all over northern Colorado and southern Wyoming.
In 1866, he established a feed store at WyoColo, a railroad station on the Wyoming-Colorado line in Albany County, Wyo. Traffic from the Overland Trail and the railroad station made his operation very successful. On one occasion, Andrew took an extended leave from his store for supplies and to visit relatives in New York.
Once home again, he found his store had been looted and burned by the white people who in turn blamed the Indians. By then there were few hostile Indians ” however, renegade whites took advantage of a place when the owners were absent.
Francila Aurelia (Gardner) Boyd was born in Greenwich, N.Y., near Troy, on Aug. 27, 1852. She was also called “Frances” and “Aunt Frank.” Her mother died when she was nine months old and various relatives raised her sister, Elizabeth, and Francila until she was in her early teens. Francila did not like to talk about her early life, saying it was most unpleasant. Family members say she never felt that she belonged anywhere, that she had no sense of family security, and she dreamed of a home of her own.
In the spring of 1870 Francila, Elizabeth, and brother-in-law, Luther Nettleton, joined the Horace Greeley Colony, boarding a train, which traveled to the end of the line, which was Cheyenne, Wyo. From there, they commuted via wagon to Greeley. In 1871, her sister died in childbirth and Francila went to live with a great uncle, Clayton Young. It was while living here that Francila met Andrew Boyd.
They were married May 21, 1872 at the home of brother Robert. Andrew Boyd intended to take his new bride immediately to the beautiful mountain valley ” however their trip was delayed a week due to an injury sustained by one of the horses.
Andrew Boyd and his new bride joined Andrew’s mother and step-father, Isaac Stafford, their daughter, Emily, and Francila’s Uncle Clayton Young and his wife as they traveled to the Fish Creek valley, just a short distance below the Virginia Dale stage station. The Stafford house was built first. Later, Emily Stafford became the first schoolteacher at Virginia Dale.
Andrew Jr. had located land on Dale Creek during his travels in the area. Some say that Andrew and Francila left Greeley on May 27, 1872, in a spring wagon piled high with their possessions. The next day they reached the top of the last hill and looked down on the beautiful valley below. Francila said it looked like a bit of heaven to her and sweeter because it was the first real home of her own. She wanted to spend the rest of her days there, and she did.
In late May of 1872, Andrew established his homestead north of the Stafford ranch. The Boyd family camped out in a cave until their first cabin was built just below the place where Fish Creek joins Dale Creek.
As their family grew, the need for a larger house caused Andrew to build the second house. A new one-and-a-half-story house was crafted from hand-hewn logs, above Dale Creek on the site where the present Boyd ranch now stands. Finished in 1881, family members did the rough work themselves, hiring a carpenter from Laramie to do the finish work. The house stood until the winter of 1925, when a flue fire destroyed it. A new house was built shortly thereafter. Materials came in on the railroad north of Tie Siding and were hauled to Virginia Dale in wagons.
The Boyds were known for their gardening expertise and they raised dairy cattle. The family sold surplus vegetable produce in Cheyenne, Laramie, and Fort Collins and made butter they sold in big jars packed with salt on the top.
The couple had five children:
– Rachel (the first white child born at Virginia Dale) who later married Cash Webber and lived on the original Stafford ranch.
– Leon Andrew, who died young.
– Twins, Merton R. and Marion G.
– Kate Waverly, who died at age 16 and was buried on the Boyd ranch.
Francila was well- known and liked in the ranching community. She delivered the babies, nursed the sick, and took a leading role in the development of the church and school at Virginia Dale. She was instrumental in the development of the Virginia Dale community. Andrew died Dec. 13, 1929, and is buried on the Boyd ranch beside his youngest daughter.
Robert, Carolyn, and Raymond (grandchildren of Marion) ” the fourth generation ” grew up at the homestead. The family attended Virginia Dale Church, a few miles away. Marion Boyd raised strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, peas, beans, turnips, and lettuce. People came from all around to buy vegetables. The homestead had abundant water and good farm ground.
Oscar Boyd, father of Robert, Carolyn, and Raymond, sold the place to Herman Funk in the mid-1940s.
Carolyn married Herman’s son, Quinn, so her interest in the old homestead continued. The Funk family sold the land in 1953, and it has had several owners since.
In 1996 an anonymous donor, with family ties to the Catholic Church, offered the women of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Walburga, at Boulder, a gift ” 253 acres at Virginia Dale, the Andrew Boyd Ranch. With the Boulder farm no longer sufficiently far from the “distractions of society,” the abbey had been considering other locations more conducive to their slow-paced, Benedictine lifestyle.
At the Boyd Ranch, the abbey women continue following the “spiritual and practical guidelines for Christian community life” pretty much as Benedictine nuns and monks did in Europe 1,500 years ago.
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