It is hard to get your head around the numbers but during the 1870s, The Eldon and Edwin Beckwith Ranch, here in The Wet Mountain Valley, constituted 3,000 fenced acres. Within the fencing, 7,000 cattle huddled, their backs to the wind, their heads down, too cold to bawl, not thinking about much.
Oh! Wait! The numbers above (taken from a historical sign on the property) do not jive with those given at the ranch website: http://beckwithranch.org. According to the website, the ranch was home 3,000 head on 6,000 fenced acres.
Whatever! 3,000 of something and 6 or 7,000 of something else. It is “our” ranch and “our” dysfunctional family: Eldon Beckwith may have suffered from syphilis-induced madness and Eldon and his wife Elsie disowned their daughter after she married someone outside their social circle.
Regardless, we love everything about the ranch and self-made men who started small and built it big. What’s not to like? We’ve got cows and cattle drives, cowboys and Indians, soiled doves and bawdy houses, mining camps and claims jumpers. Throw in sweat, spurs and camp coffee and you’ve got the romance of the Old West.
Furthermore there is the Beckwith brothers’ link to Charles Goodnight, immortalized in Larry McMurtry‘s Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove. (And later in the movie starring Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover and a host of others.)
It was Charles Goodnight who, after serving in the Confederate Army, took part in a state-wide round-up of stray cattle in Texas following the Civil War. Based in the Panhandle, Goodnight bred the tough Texas longhorn to the more refined Hereford. Over time he accumulated one-million acres and 100,000 head. The cattle he drove north. Up the Pecos River to Ft. Sumner and then on to Las Vegas, Raton, Trinidad, Pueblo, Denver, and ultimately Cheyenne.
As for the Beckwith boys, the year was 1869, and Eldon and Edwin, two sons of a prosperous Maine shipbuilder, caught cowboy fever, came west, bought 160 acres, and built a log cabin. By 1877, they had made their name and money driving Texas cattle north on the Goodnight-Loving Trail to feed the Colorado miners.
The cabin was now The Waverly House, complete with a groomed lawn, a ballroom, and guest cabins. You would have stepped down from your carriage under a porte-cochere. Tea was served at four o’clock sharp.
The Waverly is currently under restoration, and it is thrilling to see the house take shape. Water, snow damage, and neglect all played a part in the decay. But oh my, you should see The Waverly today. The furniture is not yet in place – Friends of Beckwith are still waiting for purchase money and/or donations of turn-of-the century furniture, but Chris LeCuyer of Diamondback Painting has done a marvelous job at restoring the house to its former glory.
The photo to the left is that of a “truth window” in the dining room. Beneath the newly restored wall, an opening or a “window” was left to expose the walls of the original log cabin.
The attention to period detail is impressive. The ballroom ceiling is a work of art. The decor, the blazing fire in the wood stove and the music made by the Pretty Good String Band had us in a dancing mood. I didn’t get my costume made, but the Folkwear pattern and my material are in place. After Christmas, I’ll be sewing my docent costume. 1903 is the target date for all things Beckwith. I particularly like all the lighting fixtures.
Thank you to The Friends of Beckwith for bringing the house to life again. I look forward to volunteering as a docent. In between entertaining tourists, I plan to sit on the south porch and watch the weather come down off the mountains.
Join me for tea. Four o’clock sharp.