A collaboration since 1986 among History Colorado, the Colorado Department of Agriculture, and the Colorado State Fair, the Colorado Centennial Farms program honors working farms and ranches that have remained in the same family for a century or more despite economic, environmental, and societal pressures and hardships.
We’re thrilled to introduce twenty-two new farms that join this esteemed list (now nearly 500 farms!) this August 2015. From Huerfano County to Washington County, these farms and ranches represent the diverse, hard working agricultural past that has shaped Colorado’s future.
ALLEN FAMILY HOMESTEAD–1915
Dove Creek, Dolores County
In 1915 Leslie V. Allen filed a homestead in Dove Creek with the Department of the Interior. At the time, the farm was just 160 acres. Three years later, Allen applied for an additional 80 acres of land. Allen farmed his land with the help of horses. He grew wheat, cane, corn and pinto beans. Other than horses, the Allen family also raised chickens, hogs and cows. As a way of making an income, Allen sold eggs, wheat, cane, beans and wood to the local store. Today the farm has two historic structures no longer in use; one is the log cabin built in 1915, and the other is the granary built in 1935.
ANTON BREKEL FARM–1913
Haxtun, Logan County
Born in Austria in 1875, Anton Brekel moved to America with his family when he was just a year old. His family arrived in New York City with the intention of walking to Minnesota to meet relatives, but when the Brekels realized how far the walk would be, they instead took a train to Lake Heron. Upon arriving in Minnesota to limited homestead land, the family packed up again and moved to Texas, where Anton met his future wife, Stefanie Teply. Stefanie, Anton, and two of his brothers moved to the area around Fleming, Colorado, to start their own farms in July of 1914. Anton Brekel purchased the original 160-acre plot in 1913, and four years later he purchased another 160 acres just across the road. Brekel’s great granddaughters, Dona Scott Willmeth and Julie Kay Scott McGrath, currently own the farmstead. Until recently the farm produced wheat, but as a result of drought, the farm has been converted to the USDA Conservation Reserve Program.
ARLA AND HERMAN COOK RANCH–1915
Brush, Morgan County
Arla and Herman Cook purchased the Peterson Ranch twelve miles south of Brush, Colorado, from Arla’s family in 1973. Arla’s grandparents, immigrants from Denmark in 1873, settled and farmed in Morocco, Indiana. The oldest son moved to Nebraska, and the younger four sons convinced their parents and sister, Marie, to move to Colorado in 1902. Marie, a professional stenographer in Chicago, quit her job to help her parents move.
In 1915, Marie purchased the original 320 acres of the Peterson Ranch, which her brothers used for their Hereford cattle business. Arla’s parents, Lewis and Mary Peterson, raised seven children on their Beaver Creek farm and expanded the Peterson Ranch to 2,280 acres. After Lewis died, Mary maintained ranch ownership for twenty-one years with help from Arla and her oldest sister, Dorothy. Arla and Herman’s six children were raised on the family farm two miles south of Brush and everyone contributed to growing crops and raising cattle.
Arla died in 2012, but would have been thrilled with the recognition since she was very proud of her family’s accomplishments. Herman leases the 2,280-acre Cook Ranch to sons Jeff and Mike. The ranch supports 120 Red Angus cow and calf pairs from May to October.
Briggsdale, Weld County
William Soloman Freeman bought a 320-acre homestead in 1909. Originally, he raised feed and cattle. He custom plowed the ranch with a steam engine. The bunkhouse was pulled on skids for the steam engine driver and family to live in. Today the fourth generation resides on the ranch and still raises cattle and horses. Five historic buildings are still in use on the ranch: the 1909 barn, the 1910 house and shop, the 1920 garage and bunkhouse, and the 1922 smokehouse.
CONRAD AND HAZEL SCHMIDT FAMILY TRUST–1909
Akron, Washington County
The Schmidt Farm is a collaboration of properties owned by three brothers: Jake, George, and Conrad. Jake Schmidt bought the first plot of land in 1909 from a man named Whittney. George Schmidt bought the next portion in 1914, and Conrad Schmidt united the whole property when he bought both lots from his brothers in 1917. The property’s structures were remodeled and rebuilt in 1954. Conrad’s son, Dale, and his wife, Ethel, bought the farm in 1976. Currently the Schmidts produce corn and wheat and raise cattle on their property. The family still owns the 1918 house and the old barn, chicken coop, and storage shed, although the property is currently being rented.
ELDON GERBER FAMILY RANCH, LLC–1915
Craig, Moffat County
In 1915 Ernest and Mary Gerber, along with Ernest’s mother Sophia, homesteaded land northwest of Craig. During their first year, the Gerbers cultivated and planted 160 acres of wheat, hay, and potatoes. They had two children John and Sophie. John continued farming and ranching and married Goldie Eckterncamp, together raising 14 children. John, Goldie, and their children grew large gardens and often sold potatoes to the school district. In the 1970s sons Ervin, Eldon, and James continued cultivating dryland hay and raising cattle under the original family brand reverse G lazy V.
The ranch is currently owned by Eldon’s family, the fifth and sixth generations of the Gerbers in Moffat County. Aric Gerber and Stacy, Adrian, and Torin Gray operate 5 Bar Angus, raising registered Angus cattle, hay, and wheat on the original homestead and surrounding properties.
FRANK E. CARNES AND EVELYN C. BRICKER CARNES FARM–1915
Haxtun, Phillips County
In 1915 with all his belongings and livestock, Frank E. Carnes traveled by train from Nebraska to Haxtun, Colorado, where he purchased a 160-acre farm for $4,800. He soon met Evelyn Bricker, and the two were married in 1918. The couple built a two-story, five-bedroom home on the property, raised cattle, and farmed wheat, oats, millet, and alfalfa. The Carnes farmed for 50 years before their daughter, Lois Kipp, and her husband, Wilbur Kipp, took over. In 1985 Lois’s two sons, Brian and Darin, began to farm the land. The original buildings built by Frank Carnes in the early 20th century, including the two-story house, no longer exist on the property. Today the land has been set aside in the USDA Conservation Reserve Program.
Brush, Morgan County
In 1887 the Hansen family immigrated to America from Denmark and settled in Colorado. In 1900 Mads Hansen purchased what is now the Hansen Farm. After moving onto the property, the family built a new brick home, which is still lived in today. Mads sold the farm to his brother, Hans Hansen, in 1911. Hans’s four sons — Chris, Walter, Henry, and Albert — began farming corn, alfalfa, beans, beets, oats, and barley and had their own orchards. The Hansens also had sheep and cattle on the farm. Two of Albert’s sons, Harold and Lawrence, eventually took over the farm and ran it together for 60 years. When Harold died, his brother Lawrence and Lawrence’s wife June bought Harold’s half from his widow, Judy. Lawrence and June currently own the property, which is farmed by their son Kevin and his wife Jessica, who also live on the farm with their two children.
Hotchkiss, Delta County
In 1898 doctors told 24-year-old Oran Charles Houseweart he should move to Colorado to alleviate his asthma so he left his family’s farm in Kansas and ended up in Hotchkiss where he worked for several ranchers. Eventually Oran sent for his sweetheart, Mabel Grove, and in 1915 they bought 20 acres outside of Hotchkiss. They pulled out the existing fruit trees and planted a grazing pasture for milk cows and 500 chickens. In time they expanded into beef cattle and acquired 60 more acres along with a U.S. Forest Service permit for grazing.
Oran and Mabel had two children. Oran, Sr. died in 1936, and his son Oran Grove took over the family ranch and continued acquiring land and increasing the cow herd. Today Oran Grove’s grandson Ira operates a blacksmith business, and along with that, Ira and his wife Cynthia, and their daughters live on the original portion of the Houseweart Ranch. Along with Ira’s blacksmith business, they run a holistic 100 percent grass-fed beef operation. Some of their mother cows descend from the original Houseweart herd. Cody and his wife Gale, along with their 9 year old son Tucker, also have their home on the ranch which now encompasses 265 acres.
THE JOHNSON FAMILY FARM–1914
Sterling, Logan County
In 1914 Benjamin and Claudia Johnson traveled in a boxcar from Mountain Home, Arkansas, to homestead in Washington County, Colorado. Their son Orville brought his wife Catherine Norman to the farm in 1946 when they expanded to include a ranch in Logan County. Their son, the late Russell Johnson, and his wife Cinthia Kleis took over in 1974. Today, Cinthia, her youngest son Matt, and Matt’s wife, Cynthia Wright, own and operate the farm.
What incredible changes this farm has seen, growing from 160 to more than 9,500 acres from great-great-grandpa Ben’s horse-drawn plow to Matt’s auto-steer tractor. Along with modernization of farm equipment, the family has made major advances in farm management, taking pride in the adoption of innovative and conservation-minded approaches to farming. At a time when most farmers were clean-tilling their land, great-grandpa Orville practiced minimum tillage. Grandpa Russ initiated crop rotation and no-tillage management, and Matt now employs precision farming technologies.
The lifework of four generations of farmers has come together to build a family heritage that now extends to a fifth generation on the Johnson Family Farm of three little girls: Madilyn, Lillian, and Emory.
JOSE ANTONIO LUJAN HOMESTEAD–1884
Gardner, Huerfano County
Jose Antonio Lujan was born in Capilla, New Mexico, in 1833. As an adult, Lujan traveled north to Oglala Lakota territory, and there, he met an Oglala girl, Makigle, whom he married. The newlyweds lived among the tribe and had their first of five children in 1856. Lujan did business at the local post trader’s store at Fort Laramie, but he soon began to worry for the safety of his wife and children when tension grew between the Lakota and the US soldiers. In 1870 he moved his family to a homestead in Maes Creek, Colorado.
On their ranch, they had a sheep herd, which Lujan used to provide livestock breeding services to other ranchers in the area. In 1884 Lujan received a land patent from the government for his 160-acre homestead. The first buildings on the property included a tepee, corrals, and a log cabin. When Lujan passed away in 1902, the family continued to reside on the homestead. Today four descendent families live and work on the homestead. Although the farm no longer has sheep, its crops and animals have grown to include, cows, goats, pigs, alfalfa, oats, vegetables, and herbs.
KIRKENDALL FARM AND RANCH–1915
Pritchett, Baca County
When the Kirkendall Family moved to Colorado from near Emporia, Kansas, to live on the land they bought, they had to start from scratch. George and his son Floyd homesteaded two adjoining acreages for their families. The family went from living in a nice home in Kansas to living in a dugout with no barn for their animals. They had to haul all their water in wooden barrels from a well three miles away.
Despite the hardships of life on the plains, the family still took time to celebrate life. In fact, the family lived there in 1929 when the town of Pritchett was founded. The Kirkendall children attended Fairview School, southwest of their home, and graduated from Pritchett High School. Despite years of drought, blizzards, illnesses, and dust storms, the family endured. As other homesteaders left in response to hardships, the Kirkendall Farm expanded and additional acres were acquired and farmed. Love of the land flowed into several generations. The Kirkendall ancestral land continues to produce various crops and beef.
MORTENSEN FAMILY FARM–1915
Brush, Morgan County
Milo and Clara Mortensen purchased what would become the Mortensen Farm in 1915 from Sam Jensen. The Mortensens soon built a house with modern amenities, such as running water provided by a windmill-pumped cistern and electric lights powered by a generator in the basement. The Mortensens have grown hay, corn, sugar beets, wheat, and pinto beans on their 160-acre farm over the years. The farm has also been home to sheep, hogs, horses, and cattle. Today the third generation, Phil Mortensen, owns the farm. Phil and his wife Judy’s children and grandchildren, the fifth generation of Mortensens on the land, often come to help them on the farm.
PETERS 313 RANCH, INC–1914
Hereford, Weld County
Johann Peters immigrated to Colorado from northern Germany in 1910 with his wife Emma and four children (including son, Hans, who later purchased the ranch). The Peters family began homesteading what would become Peters 313 Ranch, which was founded in 1914. They grew wheat, oats, and hay and raised cattle, and by 1939 the final parcel of land was purchased. The end of the original barn was the residence. Four historic structures still stand on the property today: the house, built in 1918; the Kohler/Well House, built in 1941; the calving shed, built in 1938; and the windmills, built in 1940. All these structures but the Kohler/Well House are still in use.
Cotopaxi, Fremont County
Ross Ranch was homesteaded in 1908 by Francis and Virginia Cooper. Currently the farm is run by their great-grandson, Rusty Ross, and his wife, Glennda. Two of the oldest structures on the property are the old barn and corral from 1920 and the old cabin from 1914, both of which are currently not in use, but the ranch house, built in 1941, is still used today. Throughout the years, the Ross Ranch has produced beef and hay. Today the major product is still beef. The Ross family includes six children, 15 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
Strasburg, Adams County
The Schmidt Farm dates back more than 100 years to 1908. William E. Schmidt began with just a simple sod shack, where he and his wife, Charlotte “Lottie” Thaden, lived while building the barn and house from 1912 to 1915. They originally grew winter wheat, corn, millet, barley, cane, and pinto beans. In fact, the pinto bean crop of 1929 saved the farm, as Mr. Schmidt was deeply in debt and had convinced the bank to give him this last crop for recovery. It produced a ton per acre, the most ever, and he paid off the farm, never to be in debt again.
Today, his son Ray “Stubby” Schmidt, has owned the farm for more than 50 years and has raised everything from sheep and cattle to winter wheat, millet, sunflowers, and corn. In the 1960s, Stubby had 5,500 ewes. Many historic buildings remain on the farm: the 1912 house (which is still lived in) and barn, 1929 grain bins, and 1930s to 1940s outhouse, chicken coop, brood house, and garage. Additionally, there are several other historic structures dating from between the 1920s and 1960s.
Eckley, Yuma County
Andras and Francis Herman moved from Kansas to Yuma County in the fall of 1914. A year later, the couple was able to buy a lot of 640 acres. The Hermans raised cattle, hogs, horses, mules, corn, and hay. They steadily added more acres over the years, but after the Hermans were killed in a tragic butane explosion in 1942, their daughter Francisco and her husband took over the farm. In the early 1950s Francisco began a partnership with her daughter Hazel, and her husband, Merle Gardner. For 16 years they operated a dairy and grew alfalfa, corn, beans, and hay. Later the dairy was sold, and Larry, Hazel’s son, began buying yearling heifers. Now the farm produces corn, beans, hay, and rye for cattle. Today Hazel runs the farm in partnership with Larry and his wife Cindy.
Ramah, Elbert County
Spool Ranch was founded in 1896 by John Sakala. He applied for a 160-acre homestead, and as soon as he received the land, Sakala dug a well that was 17 feet deep and lined with stones from the fields. This well is still used today. Sakala cultivated 45 acres for growing corn, beans, oats, wheat and hay. The family found sandstone rocks on their farm and hauled these rocks off the field to build a house, summer kitchen and barn. In 1945 the barn was taken by a tornado. Sakala and his family also raised rabbits, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and dairy cows on the property. Today the family still raises sheep and produces beef, grass, hay, Alfalfa hay, and feed. They even use the same brand from 1900!
SPRING CREEK RANCH–1905
Chromo, Archuleta County
The Crowley family acquired Spring Creek Ranch in 1905. Pet Crowley and his wife, Sara, used the land for pasture and hay and raised cattle. Crowley later sold the ranch to his son, Olen “Dutch” Crowley, who began crossbreeding beef cattle and continued to do so until the early 1960s. He primarily bred Hereford cows during his career. Today, Olen’s nephew, Donald Shahan, and his wife, Fern, own the property. The ranch is 2,561 acres and is still used as pasture land for the Shahan’s cattle.
Walsenburg, Huerfano County
Founded by Pedro J. Gomez in 1886, the ranch later sold to Pedro’s nephew, Juan C. Vallejos in 1908. Today, Vallejos’ grandson, Juan B. Vallejos, and great-grandson, John B. Vallejos III (also known as JB) own the ranch. Since its beginning, the ranch has produced grass and alfalfa hay. The three oldest structures on the ranch, which are still in use today, are the adobe garage, the garage made from old railroad timbers, and Uncle Claude’s house, commonly known as the white house. A log house built in 1973 and a stucco house built in 1997 are used as homes for the family.
Meeker, Rio Blanco County
Mathias and Sigrid Villa homesteaded on Strawberry Creek near Meeker in 1915. They built a cabin that still stands today. Over the next 30 years they acquired five adjoining properties.
The Villas and their five children grew grain and hay and raised livestock. Sigrid sold butter and eggs, and Matt was a carpenter. Later their son Martin and his wife Mary operated the ranch for several years before purchasing the property and adding yet another adjoining farm. Today, their daughter Mary K. and husband Albert Krueger, along with children Hanna, Martin and Elly, continue the ranching and outfitting operations.
WESTESEN FARM AND RANCH–1903
Olathe, Montrose County
Carl Westesen emigrated from Denmark in 1888. He and his wife, Maude Bishop, owned a feed store in Denver. In 1903, he traded the store and $1600 for 160-acres near Olathe. The farm grew to 242-acres. Carl kept 6,000 sheep and other livestock, grew standard crops, and planted a fruit orchard. Maude, widowed at age 42, continued farm operations. Later when Harold, their son, served during World War II, Maude persevered on the farm, despite physical and financial challenges, working alongside hired help.
In 1945 Harold began operating the farm. He used horses, but soon invested in tractors. Harold built concrete irrigation ditches and built the largest onion cellar in the state. Harold and wife, Dorothy, added onion seed to their crops and grew Moravian barley for Adolph Coors. Dan, Harold’s son, remembers his father extending pedals of the Allis-Chalmers tractor so he could drive while sacks were loaded. Dan and his wife Diane currently manage the farm. The farm produces “Olathe Sweet” Sweet Corn and other crops. The orchard was replanted to include heirloom trees matching what Carl originally planted. Dan maintains 15 hives of bees. Five generations have enjoyed the tales, troubles, work, and fun of the farm.
Learn more about the Centennial Farms program and get a full list of honorees since 1986 at ColoradoCentennialFarms.org.