Whether a longtime resident of Weld County or new to the area, you know Weld County is built on agriculture.
“The 70 Ranch: Colorado & the West” by Dana EchoHawk provides an in-depth history of one of Colorado’s most unique and perhaps unknown ranches that has contributed largely to the development of agriculture in West. Understanding the challenges faced by early settlers as well as their ingenuity and drive to survive goes a long way in better understanding the make-up of present-day Weld County.
Still in operation today, the 70 Ranch, located near Kersey, Colorado, along the South Platte River, has an interesting history. EchoHawk’s book begins by explaining the different Native American tribes who settled on the land before it was the 70 Ranch and before the arrival of trappers following the Homestead Act of 1862. Upon their arrival, settlers had difficulty learning how to adapt to the barren land, referred to by early explorers as “the Great American Desert.” Reading through the struggles, readers can learn how irrigation was developed, and how the land was later considered as a prime grazing opportunity for cattle, sheep and eventually hogs.
Learning what to do with the land was just one of the challenges for early settlers and owners of the 70 Ranch, as they were also exposed to the elements of living on the land in the “Old West.” Early in the book, readers are told stories about adventurous cattle roundups, cattle rustling and cowboy posses. Additionally, early owners had to find ways to protect the ranch and livestock. For example, in the late 1800’s, owner George Peasley, to eliminate the problem of wild wolves and coyotes eating livestock, organized a wolf-hunt which intrigued sportsmen throughout the country as well as local media. This is just one example of early challenges owners of the 70 Ranch had to deal with, but readers can find many more interesting stories tucked away in short and informative chapters.
Profiling ranch history from 1870 through 2015, EchoHawk not only provides intimate characteristics of the ranch’s many owners but also provides detailed histories of the towns that were brought to life along the ranch, thanks in large part to advancements that brought the railroad to the area. Chapters five, six, and seven profile the towns of Hardin, Orr — now Kersey — and Kuner and include quotes and information from people who lived in the towns and participated on the ranch.
The ranch has also seen its time in the limelight. In the 1970s, it served as the set for the NBC television mini-series “Centennial," based off author James Michener’s novel about the area. Most recently, former Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton purchased a part of the 70 Ranch and named it the 17 Ranch — after his jersey number for the Rockies.
The book also touches on more recent history and somewhat controversial topics such as the operation of a hog farm from 1988 to 2000. Additionally, the ranch’s exploration into oil and gas drilling, and numerous water rights issues are also highlighted.
EchoHawk’s book focused on the history of one of Weld County’s most significant ranches, provides unique insight on how developments in both benefitted the county and the state of Colorado. Full of interesting historical stories and engaging insight from those who’ve lived or worked on the ranch, “The 70 Ranch: Colorado & the West” is a read that will deepen understanding of the challenges of settlers owners and their families and explore how their advancements positively impacted Weld County and Colorado.
More information about the 70 Ranch can be found by visiting http://www.70ranch.com.