Sunday, September 13, 2009


The Rowleys came to the Grand County area in 1919. Fred and Martha and three children homesteaded 160 acres which are now part of the YMCA property
Fred Rowley picked his location well. On most winter days the sun would be shining down on the entrance to his house and barn. Fred did not have water rights but his neighbors the Just's were good to share their Pole Creek rights with him.

Logging Cabin

Like most homesteaders, Fred Rowley could not make a living on his homestead so he worked part time at the railroad round house in Tabernash and also did some timbering.

Martha returned to the Denver area and would not stay at the homestead but after the first year Fred lived there year round. The children would spend summers there with him.

Corn Shucking Machine

Old Printing Press

Collection of Branding Irons

Fred had a team of horses, a few cows, some goats and chickens. Because all water had to be carried from Pole Creek it was impossible to keep a large number of livestock

Inside of Barn

Real Hay Stacker

Model of Hay Stacker for children to use

Cow barn-- had stalls for 5 cows and each cow knew it's place.

Entrance to Root Cellar

Smoke House


Butter Churn and Mold

Active Wasp Nest built between shutters and window.

Bedroom of Cabin

Kitchen of Cabin

I mentioned this to several history buffs in Grand Lake and none of them had heard about it. The YMCA doesn't publicize it but it is open to everyone.


The property that is the site of the YMCA of the Rockies was originally home to Carl and Della Just and their family for nearly 100 years. Carl and his father emigrated from Austria in 1885 and established their separate homesteads of 320 acres. The ranch expanded to include nearly 3,000 acres. Della was one of five children of the Grand County pioneer Lehman family. As a two year old they traveled to Middle Park over Rollins Pass in 1880. They settled on the South Fork of the Grand River (now the Colorado River) and operated one of the first guest ranches in the area. Della met Carl when he was breaking horses for her father and they married in 1898. They moved into their newly built ranch house in 1899 and expansions were added to the house as the children arrived. There were eight children, six boys and two girls, the last being born in 1918. Seven were born at home without a doctor in attendance. Carl died during the deadly flu epidemic in June 1918 and Della was left to raise and provide for eight children and manage the ranch on her own. After their father’s death, all the Just children had increased responsibilities for chores in order to keep the ranch in operation. There was a set work schedule each week from which there was little deviation:Monday – Wash day. Buckets of water were carried from the spring below the house to be heated on the stove. The washing was done by hand in the kitchen, using washboards and big washtubs. Clothes were then hung out on the clothesline to dry in winter and summer weather.Tuesday – Ironing Day. A hot wood fire was kept going in the stove so the flat irons could be heated. Ironing usually took 3-4 hours each week to complete.Wednesday – Churning Day. 50 pounds of butter was churned by hand in a wooden barrel, then molded, printed and individually wrapped in one pound bars for sale in town.Thursday – Town Day. Della went to Tabernash to sell butter, cream, cottage cheese and eggs. This trip was made without fail, winter and summer. She would sell door-to-door from a buggy or sled and a team of horses. The railroad roundhouse was located in Tabernash at this time and it was a bustling town of about 600 people. Friday, Saturday and Sunday – Although there were no specifically designated activities for these days there was more than enough work to keep everyone busy: cleaning barns, mending fences, repairing equipment, feeding stock and milking cows. Other chores were carrying water from spring for drinking, cooking and bathing, chopping and bringing in firewood as well as cooking, baking and cleaning. The Just Ranch had approximately 250 acres in hay which produced about 200 tons per season. Haying began in mid-August and there were no days off. Until 1939 they used teams of horses to pull the hay rakes and mowers. In the winter the hay would be hauled on long sleds out to the horses and cattle. In the spring the new calves and lambs would take many hours. The Justs kept an average of 80 head of Herford cattle and about 20 horses. The Just brand was Y/V. In the fall the cattle were brought in from the summer range. Generally it took 2-3 weeks to find all the cattle and move them into nearer pastures. After the roundup, part of the heard was driven into Fraser to be shipped by train and sold at the Denver stockyards. Money earned from the sale of stock each fall was used to buy necessities and if feasible, to acquire more land. The Just children were educated at the Skunk Creek School between the ranch and Tabernash. The school which housed first through eighth grades was in session from April to November. Students didn’t attend school during the winter months because the snow was too deep. The teachers were single women who boarded with families. The highest attendance in a year during this time was 12 students. Many years the Just siblings made up the entire student body. Few days were missed because Mrs. Just thought it very important that her children get an education. Every summer a big garden was planted that provide fresh produce and was then stored in a large root cellar. All of their meat came from their own ranch. There was a large smokehouse for preserving the meat. In 1966 Della Just sold the ranch to YMCA of the Rockies with the provision she could live on the ranch until her death. She died in 1969 at the age of 90. She had lived on the Pole Creek homestead for 70 years.
She never remarried after Carl’s death.

(Information from granddaughter Cherie Lowenberg in 1993)

JUST HOME Entrance

Overlooking Valley

Bunk House

Huge Barn with sections for Cows, Pigs, and Sheep

Inside of Barn

Bull Barn
I find it amazing that YMCA is doing nothing to preserve this historic site.


A partnership between the town of Fraser and art/historian Jim Hoy who donated his labor. It began in 1989 and hopefully will include 20 sculptures when finished. The first 10 sculptures were hand carved by Hoy from Engleman Spruce, but deterioration has occurred due to outdoor elements. These are being converted to bronze.

The first 10 include sculptures of Bill Cozens, the sheriff of Central City and later Fraser. His family owned a homestead that doubled as a stage stop and post office. The story goes that when the railroad planned to lay tracks through his meadow, Cozens sat on his front porch and shot out the surveyor’s stakes. Sure enough, the tracks were moved west, giving the ranch a wide berth on their way to Salt Lake City.

Another sculpture is of Dr. Susan Anderson, better known as Doc Susie. This tiny gutsy woman was one of the country’s earliest female physicians. She cared for the sick and injured of the Colorado mountain town in the early 1900’s. She often traveled by snowshoe through blinding snowstorms to treat lumberjacks, railroad men and women who needed emergency medical care. Her home still stands in Fraser.

A surprise sculpture was of Jeremiah Johnson. He was called “Liver Eater” by his peers. He waged a one man vendetta against the Crow for killing his wife and unborn child. His exploits are legendary. And here I thought he was just a figment of Robert Redford’s imagination. There are several other figures –all worth stopping and reading about.