The story of the events that contributed to the formation of Ken-Caryl Ranch is told by information in the rocks that outcrop in this area. Rocks which range in age from recent to those as old as two billion years are present on the Ranch.
The earliest geology of the Ranch can be noted along the mountain front west of the Manor House, marked by the sharp break in topography rising to Tincup and Beacon Hill. Tincup is the highest mountain west of the Manor House. Beacon Hill is the shoulder on the south side of Tincup. These rocks were formed into large mountain ranges intruded by great molten masses of granite with the resulting heat and pressure altering the rock to the metamorphic rock we see today. Erosion leveled these ranges to a flat featureless plain.
Some information on the events of the next 300 million years is lacking on the Ranch. However, the valley varies in elevation because it is not the work of one river, but is the result of erosion of the front range over 60-100 million years. Rock shelters on the Ranch are in the fountain formation. Lithic tools and materials such as a few points have been found in excavated sites in the valley and on the plains as well.
The Ken-Caryl Ranch region was a shoreline with abrupt topography to the west and a myriad of streams carrying coarse sediment into a sea to the east 300 million years ago. These coarse sediments hardened into the red rocks of the Fountain Formation. In Lyons time the sea returned and deposited sandstone that forms the hogback east of the Equestrian Center. As the sea deepened, muds and limey muds were deposited resulting in the shale and limestone of the Lykins Formation, and the valley between the Lyons and Dakota Hogbacks which rises from the west side of Highway C470.
The sea again withdrew to the east, leaving a low coastal plain through which sluggish streams wandered. This plain became a swampy paradise for dinosaurs during the time of the Morrison Formation. The great reptiles continued to roam this region for the next few million years until the seas again returned to form the beaches of the great hogback maker, the Dakota sandstone. Evidence of the dinosaurs walking these ripple marked beaches can be seen along Alameda Parkway as it crosses the Hogback north of the Ranch. The ripple marked beaches and the dinosaur footprints and bones are preserved there in stone at Dinosaur Ridge National Historic site.
The sea advanced and drove the dinosaurs to the west. Thousands of feet of mud and limey mud were deposited in this sea. At the top of this layer of mud are the coals and sands of the Fox Hills Formation and the reason for the name Coal Mine Road. Sharks and shellfish were present in this sea and their remains can be found in the limestone of the small Niobrara Hogback east of the Dakota Hogback.
About 70 million years ago the sedimentary layers next to the mountain front were bent sharply upward. Great masses of molten granite, deep within the Earth, were in-truded into the rapidly rising mountains to the west. Some of this material found its way to the surface as lava flows and volcanic ash. At this time, a small wrinkle formed to the east of the mountains and when the erosion process was through there was a valley which later was named the Ken-Caryl Valley.
The same processes would also conduct the final shaping of the hard sandstones and lime¬stones into the hogbacks, and the softer shales into the intervening valleys and produced the Front Range topography we see around us today.
Over the years, the Colorado Archaeological Society has done 33 archaeological digs on the Ken-Caryl Ranch. Excavations around the red rock formations up and down in the Valley have unearthed artifacts such as pottery, projectile points and hide scrapers of the Woodland and Archaic Indian cultures who occupied this area between the years 10,000 BC and 800 AD. These Indians were probably hunters and gatherers with little knowledge of farming, since no farming tools have been found. Archaeological sites found on the Ranch by the Colorado Archaeological Society excavations yielded human burials dating back to 40 B.C.
Evidence of butchered bison vertebra was exposed in the stream cut bank of Massey Draw on an alluvial terrace southwest of and adjacent to Massey Draw. Similar evidence delayed C-470 Highway work for many months. Natives probably ran herds of bison through the narrow openings of the Hogback, then killed and butchered their prey. In addition to buffalo and small game, antelope and mountain sheep roamed the area.
The Utes and Chief Colorow
The Ute Indians, more than any other tribe of Plains Indians, seemed to feel a special affinity for the Valley. Living in tepees, which could easily be taken down and rolled up, the Utes traveled and lived for a long time throughout the Morrison area to the north of the Valley. They had a trail that passed through the Ranch, a section of which the Bradford Road followed.
Deposed Ute Indian Chief Colorow, an immense six-foot-five inches estimated to weigh 275 lb., was often seen in this area. Named for a slurred version of Colorado, he was actually part Comanche and captured by the Utes as a boy. He disliked the white man, not so much generally as individually. He despised the individual miners and trappers and especially the settlers who were invading his land. He would ride up to a settler’s cabin and shout, “This is Ute land! One, two sleep – you go!” And often they did.
Eventually the white men grew too numerous. Colorow and his men retired to the red rocks and made almost daily rounds of the settlers demand¬ing food, clothing and anything else to which they took a fancy. One particularly notable fancy was biscuits, thick with syrup, which Colorow would eat as fast and as long as a ranch wife could bake them.
In a reminiscence written for the State Historical Society, Dora I. Foster tells of visiting her aunt in Bradford City and of the day the Indians appeared. Dora and her aunt made biscuits as fast as they were able, but since they did not want the Indians to find their store of flour in the pantry, brought out only enough at one time for a batch or two. Finally the aunt, tiring of the game, told the Indians she had no more flour. The Indians, thereupon, brought forth more flour wrapped in greasy skin pouches and bits of dirty rags. The baking continued.
After the Meeker Massacre in 1879 the Utes were sent to the Uintah Indian Reservation on the Colorado-Utah border. Colorow was one of the last to leave and promised, “I go now. In winter I come back – hunt deer and elk.” Every winter for seven years he returned to his Shining Mountains for the traditional winter hunt. He himself was quarry for the government men, but he eluded them until 1888 when he was wounded in a battle with a posse. He went into hiding at his camp at the mouth of the White River near the Uintah Reservation, but developed pneumonia and died in December. A cave north of Ken-Caryl on Colorow Road in Willowbrook was one of his favorite places and it is still called by his name.
Major R. B. Bradford and Bradford City
Dreamers, schemers, bandits and bankrupts from the 1857 depression joined the gold rush to the Rockies in 1859. The more visionary of them platted towns, the more mercenary built saloons, and some cut down the cottonwoods to build log cabins.
It seemed clear to at least one man, Major Robert B. Bradford from Lexington, Missouri, that the valley would become the hub of commerce for all the mines along the Blue River near Leadville and South Park. In September 1859 the firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell, freighters and merchandisers, sent Bradford, a full partner in the firm, to Denver to establish a store that would be stocked by the wagon trains of the main firm. In December 1859, Governor R. W. Steele appointed him Brig. Gen. R. B. Bradford, aid to the Governor’s staff.
With W. H. Middaugh, Bradford set out to build a toll road to accommodate the miners from Denver to the mines. He was issued a charter by the Jefferson Territory for the Denver, Bradford and Blue River Road Co. On December 7, 1859, he purchased the property today known as the Bradford Perley House. He planned to develop a town and community.
The Bradford Road started operating as early as February 1860, and was advertised as “Ho for the Blue,” in reference to the mines at the Blue River. The road left Auraria on the shores of Cherry Creek on the south, and traveled along the east side of the Platte River for 9 miles where it then crossed Brown’s Toll Bridge, in which Bradford owned shares. The road then turned southwest to the hogback, through the Ken-Caryl “cut” north to where the town of Bradford City was established. Later on, the road ran through Weaver Gulch and over parts of Morrison Road, which was previously called Bradford Road.
In January 1860, a wagon road survey report states, “At the canyon in the foothills is a most beautiful site for a town, which is already occupied for that purpose by a company embracing many of our best businessmen in Denver and Auraria. The name of the new town is Bradford City, which, when it shall become known and its great natural advantages appear, will become an important rival to the towns and cities along the foot of the mountains.”
Later that year, William N. Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News, reported that, “Two cabins – one of logs, the other of stone- we found finished and inhabited.” He also observed several piles of lumber and hewn timber, indicating the sites of contemplated buildings. On October 11, 1861, Bradford and Middaugh were granted a charter for 20 years for the company known as The Denver, Auraria and South Park Wagon Road Company and advertised as The Bradford & Colorado Wagon Road.
Ruth Beckwith, in the 1954 Brand Book of the Denver Posse of the Westerners, Volume 10, says the walls were 18 inches thick. According to the Homestead Act application of December 9, 1870, Major Bradford shows “a stone house thereon, 24 by 30 feet, 2 stories high and an El 20 by 40 feet, 1½ stories high – board floor and a shingle roof, with 12 doors, and 17 windows and has built a stable, corn cribs, smokehouse, milk house, hen house, and blacksmith shop – has dug 2 cellars – 2 wells and had enclosed 120 acres of said land with post fence and board fence – has set over 40 apple and peach trees.” Some of the apple trees are still productive today. They are the Heirloom series, Ben Davis variety. The front addition to the stone cabin was finished in 1872.
Buried treasure on top of the hill alongside the stage route is another story told, but never proven.
In 1863, there was Civil War recruiting in Bradford City. Records show that Col. John M. Chivington was one of the recruiters. The Bradford Perley house is the only remaining Civil War recruiting site left in Jefferson County today.
The Bradford Road operated successfully for seven years to Fairplay, Oro City (Leadville), Tarryall and Breckenridge, Colorado, in which town Major Bradford was one of the founders. The toll road was abandoned when a new, easier, road opened through Turkey Creek Canyon in 1867, the same year Major Bradford married Fanny E. Miller. (His first two wives, Martha Waddell and Elizabeth Waddell were deceased for many years.)
Major Bradford lived out his life on the ranch and died on December 30, 1876. He left his wife, Fanny, and one married daughter, Mattie. His wife mortgaged the property and in November, 1881, a sale of the property was advertised in the Rocky Mountain News.
An editorial correspondent for the Western Mountaineer, published at Golden City, once lamented, “Bradford, fourteen miles out, is a city of one house, which stands solitary and bereaved, a monument to those enthusiastic gentlemen who predicted a few months ago that the town, like the rod of Aaron, would swallow up all its fellows.”
The Bradford Perley House was declared a state historical site in 1997. In 2002, the site was named to the Colorado Preservation Inc. list of “Most Endangered Sites in Colorado”. Thanks to the dedication and perseverance of the Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society, the house was preserved as a ruin in 2006 and named to the saved list by Colorado Preservation Inc.
The Perley Years at Bradford Ranch
James Adams Perley, born in 1835 in Vermont, emigrated west and became a miner in Blackhawk, Colorado. He and his wife, Charlotte Virden, had six children: Warren, Emma, Eliza, Martha, Lydia and James Henry. He purchased the Bradford Ranch in 1895. Farming and ranching became his way of life, and they raised steers for slaughter and milk cows.
His son James Henry and his wife, Ida Leota Tuttle, raised their four children on the ranch, the older three having been born in the old stone house. George, Charlotte, Josephine, and Jim went to school in a one room school house called Mountview, located five miles east of the hogback. They often rode horseback or walked to school.
There were good times with evening parties with neighbors, picnics and rowing on the lake that existed to the east of the house at that time. Life on the farm was not easy and the children worked hard. Many chores were unpleasant, like cleaning lice out of the chicken house. The farm provided most of their needs, but the family occasionally went to the store in Littleton. Ice was hauled to them from Soda Lakes at Morrison and kept in the ice house.
James Adams worked in the garden to provide food for both families, even after he was too crippled to help with the ranching. In 1920 Charlotte and her grandparents moved to Golden. James Henry lived on the Ranch most of the time from when he was 17 until it was sold when his father died in 1926. He was killed in an accident in 1934 and Ida died in 1950.
In later years George liked to reminisce about life on the farm. He told many interesting stories, but the one printed in the Rocky Mountain News in June 1972 had to have been one of his tall tales, as there is no evidence that he had a brother buried under the tree at the Bradford House. He did find a tomahawk in the rocks and reportedly loaned it to someone at the Ken-Caryl Ranch to exhibit at the Ranch House. George and Jim had families and both died in old age. Charlotte and Josephine married and lived long lives, but had no children.
Frank Mann and The Falcon House
At the turn of the century, Frank Mann built a house for his soon to-be-bride on the west side of the Valley Highway, north of Deer Creek Canyon Road. Disillusioned, she returned to her home in England before the wedding took place. Part of the road up to the house was visible into the 1990’s. The Falcon House got its name because people could watch the falcons soar while sitting on the porch.
Mann Lake, on the east of the Valley Highway, was named for Frank Mann. During the mid-30’s the Falcon House was inhabited by a family whose father was a ranch hand on the Ken-Caryl Ranch. At that time, the children in the family walked to school in Waterton. After Martin Marietta purchased the property in 1987 the building was razed because of the legal liabilities posed by the condition of the house and problems with vandalism, despite local efforts to save the house.
John C. Shaffer and The Manor House
On Oct. 17, 1914 the Denver Times reported the sale of a 3,000 acre Northern View Estate southwest of Denver and adjacent to the Perley’s ranch to John Charles Shaffer of Chicago, owner of the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Times. Shaffer bought the property for $100,000, and named it Ken-Caryl after his sons, Kent and Carroll.
The Denver Times wrote: “Immediately following the transfer of the property, Mr. Shaffer gave instructions for the drawing of plans for a summer home modeled on the colonial style, to cost approximately $100,000. This building will be situated on the highest portion of the estate and is prophesied to become the nucleus of a colony of summer retreats for millionaires.”
The Manor House, as it was called, was and is magnificent. With 8,000 square feet of living area, it had 20 rooms and six baths. Although it has since been modified, the living room was 80 feet long, with fireplaces at either end. The dining room featured an enormous picture window overlooking a view so spectacular it was treated as a painting. Special draperies were designed to frame the view without obscuring it.
Sunrooms at either end of the house completed the floor plan and the housekeeper insists she counted 512 window panes on the main floor alone. The veranda is deep and cool, with columns two stories high. An unidentified newspaper account, probably written in the mid-1920’s, describes, “From the broad piazzas and thru the copious window spaces, the inmates have scenic spectacles that fill the eye and satisfy the soul. Traversing the valley are roads that Mr. Shaffer built, and skirting the splendid vista of farm greenery is a range of upturned crags of brown and yellow sandstone that glimmers in the sunlight.” Shaffer’s granddaughter, Mrs. Charles Tutt of Flint, Michigan, remembers that he loved to build roads. “He would put on his plus-fours and walk ahead of the earthmovers to point the way.”
Robert L. Perkin, in The First Hundred Years, a history of the Rocky Mountain News, reports that “one room in the house was fitted out with news tickers and a direct wire to the Chicago grain pit.” Neither Mrs. Tutt, nor another granddaughter, Mrs. Carolyn Allers of Santa Fe, New Mexico, remembers this room. However, they admit the grandchildren weren’t allowed in the house except for Sunday dinner and the weekly lesson in manners. “And that was a command performance.” Perkin also says that Shaffer “spent five months of the year at Ken-Caryl, seldom coming into the city except for issues of great moment,” but Mrs. Tutt remembers that he was driven into town almost every day. He was driven, she says, because “although he had a passion for automobiles and owned 17 of the finest at one time, he never learned to drive.”
As time went on Shaffer added other buildings. There were homes for his sons and their families. The Kent house is almost immediately adjacent to the Manor House. It was occupied by ranch foreman Jim Fickel and his wife, but Kent once lived there with his wife Helen and their daughters Virginia and Marjorie.
The Carroll house is gone now, but Mrs. Allers remembers that it was a beautiful two-story building with a gazebo and stone walls 18 inches thick. The Carroll house was actually used primarily as a guest house while Carroll and his wife, Pauline, lived in a frame house behind it. Beyond that was the “Cheerful Cherubs’ Inn” where their four children, Carolyn, Barbara, John C. II and Robert, lived with their Swiss nurse.
Mrs. Allers remembers that Shaffer built all the houses of wood and some of them were pretty insubstantial. Except for the Manor House and the Carroll house, all had grass mats tacked to the floor and they smelled marvelous.
She remembers that at the foot of the hill below the big house there was a garage with a bunk house over it that slept six men. One of them was the blacksmith who shod the animals, mended the machinery and took care of the stallions that were temporarily stalled in the milk house. One of the stallions, she recalls, almost chewed his way out of the stable and was a terror to everybody on the Ranch except the blacksmith “who was almost as big as the horse.” Below the garage was a house for the Ranch manager and one for the cowboy who rode the fences.
Shaffer built new barns and a corral almost immediately and four years later added the huge Dutch style barn that is still central to the Ranch complex. The barn was built to stall the purebred cattle that were to come. There were burros for all the children to ride, and new calves were named after the family and their friends.
On the south side of the big house, near the brook, were servants’ houses and across the stream there was a large laundry and pump house. West of the big house, in the foothills, atop Beacon Hill, Shaffer built a log chalet. It had dormitories at each end, one for women and one for men. Each had a huge fireplace and the fireplaces also opened into the living room between them. There was a kitchen behind the men’s quarters, and a maid’s room behind the women’s. Shaffer could signal to the Manor House for the replenishing of supplies. The chalet burned not long after it was built and only a chimney and a flagpole stand today. These are protected by fencing put up by local Boy Scouts and the ranger staff and signage was done by the Historical Society. It is now referred to as “Little John’s Cabin.”
In 1926 John Shaffer bought the Bradford Perley house from the family of James Adams Perley. He put a hardwood floor in the second floor and held dances there for his guests, such as Will Rogers, Princess Tsinania and U.S. Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Over the years, Shaffer bought and sold adjacent properties until the Ranch was reported to contain some 10,000 acres at one time.
An undated news story by-lined by William Simms tells that Shaffer “sent his money streaming into the breeding world. He bought generously of recommended Hereford sires and dams. Among them was the Fairfax strain that is said to have come to Ken-Caryl through the influence of W. T. McCray.” McCray was a Hereford breeder and later governor of Indiana. Shaffer explained that he chose to raise Herefords “because the best beef is Hereford. And I decided to develop the best.”
In addition to the Fairfax, which was considered to be the most important strain in the Hereford world in the decade between 1910 and 1920, Shaffer acquired Panama 167th, son of Cuba’s Panama (head of another important Hereford family) as well as offspring of other great herd sires and dams.
In 1917 Shaffer hired Frank Jay Smith, just out of school in Fort Collins, to manage his livestock operation. Smith, who had his own ideas about cattle breeding, was given a free hand and managed well. Ken-Caryl began making a name for itself in 1918 and after that reaped more than its share of ribbons and trophies.
In 1924 Deacon, an 11-month-old Hereford calf, walked away with the highest honor, a grand championship, at the International Livestock Show in Chicago. According to a news service story, “The distinction lies not so much in the fact that this young steer won the grand championship as it does in the more remarkable fact that it was a Hereford that triumphed over the other breeds. Most grand championships have been taken by a member of the Angus breed.” President and Mrs. Coolidge attended that show and sent personal congratulations to Shaffer.
In an interview about the victory, Shaffer said, “I had bought the Ranch ten years ago. It was three years ago that I started with purebreds. We started with 50. Now we have about 250 purebreds, besides some grade cattle. So far as our herd showing is concerned, we have been beaten only once in our three years of raising purebreds.”
Deacon ended his career as roast beef in the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit. He sold, all 950 pounds of him, for $1.50 per pound on the hoof. The best was yet to come.
Nineteen hundred and twenty-four was also the year Ken-Caryl acquired a half interest in Prince Domino; the other half interest was owned by Otto Fulscher, noted rancher and breeder. He had been declared “the best living Hereford bull” by a vote of Hereford Journal readers. The half interest cost Ken-Caryl $10,000, a staggering sum for a bull that age.
Donald R. Ornduff in his history “The Hereford in America” (1969) says, “Under the guidance of Frank J. Smith was thus made a master stroke in the fortunes of the Shaffer Hereford herd. Ken-Caryl leaped at once to a top flight rank in the national Hereford picture, and its showing representatives, predominately of Prince Domino extraction, from 1925 on performed sensationally until the herd’s dissolution some eight or nine years later.”
Although Prince Domino himself was never exhibited, his offspring won top prizes in county fairs and national shows from the very beginning. Ken-Caryl brought back trophies and ribbons from Denver’s National Western every year through 1933 and almost as consistently from the International, American Royal, Southwestern and Great Western Livestock shows. At the American Royal 50th Anniversary Show in 1932, Ken-Caryl cattle received five first, seven second and one third place awards. Ornduff says, “Ken-Caryl Ranch therefore must be credited with Prince Domino’s rise to leadership in the Hereford Regis¬ter of Merit, a place he held uninterruptedly from 1927 until he was replaced by a great-grandson in 1948. The reason, obviously, is that Ken-Caryl’s showing activity gave the Prince Dominos their opportunity, since the Register’s ratings are based upon the performance of the bull’s sons and daughters at the country’s top shows.”
In 1969, Prince Domino still ranked 11th in the Permanent Register of Merit, even though by then he had been dead for nearly 20 years. Ornduff says, “It is of further interest to note that approximately one half of all the bulls on the permanent register are his direct lineal descendants through their sires, and that many of the others received his bloodlines through their dams.”
When Prince Domino died he was accorded the honors and tributes of a senator. He was buried in Cheyenne on the Wyoming Hereford Ranch under a monument inscribed: “He lived and died and won a lasting name.”
The present Ranch buildings known as the Equestrian Center were awarded Landmark Designation in 2006 by the Jefferson County Historical Commission.
Lavish Entertainment at the Manor House
John C. Shaffer was an avowed prohibitionist. He supported the cause both publicly and privately and Carolyn Allers, his granddaughter, remembered hearing that during elaborate dinner parties at their winter home in Evanston, Illinois, he would tap his glass for attention and say, “Isn’t this a lovely party – and no liquor served.” She also remembers hearing that most of the guests had stopped at their favorite speakeasies and fortified themselves for the evening.
There was no liquor in the Manor House, but Paul Pattridge, who managed the neighboring Willow Springs Ranch for Arthur Ponsford, says he was invited to parties at Ken-Caryl and they were complete with bootleg booze.
Shaffer was almost as opposed to smoking, especially by women. He was very allergic to cigarette smoke. Mrs. Allers quotes him, “Every bad woman smokes, though maybe every woman who smokes is not bad.” Lelah Smith, wife of the Ranch manager, is sure there was a cache of cigarettes in the guest house, and probably elsewhere on the Ranch: “There was a lot of traffic between the big house and some of the other buildings.”
Except for that, Shaffer entertained with a lavish hand. He truly enjoyed spending money and was described as a great gift-giver by family, friends and guests. Mrs. Shaffer was deluged with the best, but she didn’t enjoy all of it. Daughter of a fundamentalist Methodist preacher, she may well have thought that extravagance was immoral as well as distasteful. Some said she wore a wool union suit under her elegant gowns so that the finery would not touch her skin. “As to that,” says Mrs. Allers, “she probably wore the union suit to keep her warm, but it did actually hurt her to spend money needlessly.”
Bill Sapetti, a gardener at Ken-Caryl, recalled that Mrs. Shaffer hated snakes and offered him twenty-five cents per rattle for every rattlesnake he killed. Once he routed two from the coal bin next to the kitchen, but “Mrs. Shaffer never seemed to have any change. Mr. Shaffer always did, though.”
According to a news story, the gentlemen hosted the ladies of the Ranch to tea in the plum grove. They made a clearing and cut passageways through the trees. They even fashioned an al fresco ladies’ room complete with maid and mirror and baskets full of powder puffs and other necessities hanging from the twigs of the scrub oak trees.
“About the chokecherries,” Mrs. Tutt tells, “Teetotaler that she was, Virgie always asked Sadie, our Swedish nurse, to make chokecherry wine to take back to our friends in Evanston. Once, I remember, we were in our compart¬ment on the train going home. It was hot and the train was pretty rough. The wine was in the luggage racks overhead, and all of a sudden the bottles started exploding. Before it was over, the whole car looked like there had been a massacre.”
As was often the case with self-made men in that period, John Shaffer had limited formal education. There is no record that he finished high school, though he may have done so. It is unlikely that he had any college. It is also typical that he had an almost excessive admiration for educated men.
Constant guests at Ken-Caryl were Walter Dill Scott, president of Northwestern University, and his brother, John, chairman of the Greek Department. John Scott may have been the highest paid Greek professor in history, since Shaffer subsidized his chair.
President William Howard Taft and President Theodore Roosevelt were guests at the Manor House. Shaffer’s relationship to President Roosevelt was so close in 1917 that he carried a letter granting him immediate admittance to the president at any time.
Other famous guests included advice to the lovelorn columnist Dorothy Dix, Will Rogers, Amos and Andy, Indian Princess Tsianina, and Mary Garden, who appeared with the Chicago Opera Company in Denver.
The Talented Shaffers
There was a lot of talent among the Shaffer family. Virgie (Mrs. J. C.) wrote poetry, plays and adventure stories. The plays were staged in little theaters in many cities. Among them were, “The Camouflage Luncheon,” a satire on World War I food shortages and substitutes, “The Beauty Editor,” and “The Burglar.” She marketed her adventure stories under her maiden name, Virginia Conser, and they were widely published.
Son Carroll brought his buddies from the Banjo Club of the University Club of Chicago to the Ranch in 1924. Son Kent was a talented composer of music. His ballad, “I Am Thinking, Dear, Of You,” was presented in a concert in City Park in 1917 and all proceeds went to the Red Cross for the purchase of Liberty Bonds.
Kent’s wife, Helen, was an accomplished violinist. It was their mutual interest in music that had attracted them and led to their marriage. They had two daughters.
Shaffer contented himself with patronizing arts and artists. In his wife’s name and his own he gave cash prizes to aspiring painters and sculptors. He bought art at home and abroad, sometimes entire collections, sometimes sight unseen. At one time he bought a collection of 15 old masters from a noble Danish family which had been impoverished by the war. He loaned it to Northwestern University where it was hung in time for commencement so the alumni could also enjoy it.
John C. Shaffer’s talent was in the field of journalism. In 1922, the French Government conferred upon John C. Shaffer the Medal of “The Legion of Honor” for his international services to decent journalism, maintaining a high moral tone in his newspaper work.
In 1926, Shaffer sold his Denver newspapers to the Scripps-Howard news chain. In the early 30’s, he retired as publisher of the Chicago Evening News, and Ken-Caryl Ranch was taken over by the banks. The $150,000 home in Evanston, Illinois was deeded to Northwestern University with the agreement he could live there until his death. Son Kent died in 1925, Virgie died in 1932, and Shaffer died October 5, 1943.
U.S. Steel industrialist William L. Allen bought the Ranch in 1937. He tried to rebuild the Ranch to its former grandeur, evicting some of the tenant farmers, including a family living with their pigs in the old Bradford house. Allen made no money raising cattle, and then World War II forced him to focus most of his attention on the steel business.
In 1944 the Ranch was bought by an Italian real estate tycoon, Joseph Minissale, to give his children the experience of living on an American ranch. Minissale raised turkeys as well as cattle. Before he sold the Ranch, almost 25 thousand of the turkeys escaped and reverted to the wild. Some descendants of these birds can still be found on the Ranch today.
A.T. “Cap” McDannald, an oil man and cattleman from Texas, bought the Ranch in 1949. His grandchildren Milly and John J. Holmes, Jr., spent their summers here on the Ranch.
In 1971 the Johns-Manville Corporation purchased the property to develop a master-planned community and build their world headquarters. Their headquarters building, designed to blend into the landscape, won prestigious architectural awards. It was sold to the Martin Marietta Astronautics Group in 1987. The Manor House was subsequently sold to the Peterson family and was operated as a restaurant. The remaining housing lots were sold to individual developers and home building was almost complete by 1997. The community is designed to maintain open space for the habitat of native animals and the recreational use of residents.
Today approximately 6,000 acres are dedicated as open space for Ken-Caryl residents. In 1993, the South Hogback was purchased by the Ken-Caryl Ranch Foundation for open space and in 1997, 895 acres in the South Valley and 14 acres at the intersection of South Valley Road and Valley Parkway were purchased by Jefferson County Open Space.
The Ken-Caryl area has been a superb place to live and raise families ever since the first hunter-gatherers found bison grazing on the lush grasses of the unique valley and the surrounding high plains. This rare region is a legacy of the Indians who found it, the tribes who fought for it, pioneers who explored it, and those who planned the present community with its wide greenbelts and vast open spaces to maintain that heritage.
Dolores and Don Ebner
Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society
Additions and Editing by the
1997 Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society
Original Publication Written and Edited by the
1990 – 1991 Ken-Caryl Ranch History Club
Steve Roalstad (KCRMA)
Artwork by Cathy Johnson
Copyright 1991 and 1997
Ken-Caryl Ranch Master Association
All Rights Reserved
Bibliography available on request from
The Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society