Talk about a property with history; it has housed a dairy farm, a school, a ranch and a fishing hole.
In 1885, brothers Christopher and Henry Blewitt were the first white settlers to claim the land, about three miles west of where Milner is now, as two 160-acre parcels via Abraham Lincoln's Homestead Act of 1862.
Just after the turn of the century, the ranch was sold to John Adair and Dr. John V. Solandt, after whom Hayden's Solandt Medical Center is named. They called it Tow Creek Ranch, but Adair and Solandt also were partners on the McKinley Ranch north of Hayden.
With the ranch work being spilt by its owners, a number of different people worked, lived and operated the ranch during the first part of the 20th century, including names such as Robson, Carson, Anderson, Carey and Covertson.
In the 1920s and 1930s, 50 cows were milked by hand twice a day. That was when U.S. Highway 40 was a dirt road on the north side of the ranch.
In was after the highway was moved to its current location on the south side of the ranch, in 1942, that Pat Bradley and his two sons, Melvin and Frank, bought 334 acres of Tow Creek Ranch from Adair's widow. It was Melvin who researched this history of the ranch and documented it in "History of Hayden and West Routt County 1876-1989."
The family still owns the ranch, which is now known at the Bradley Ranch. Melvin Bradley took over the ranch in 1946 after Pat Bradley died, and Melvin's wife, Mary, took over when Melvin Bradley died in 2000. She is offering it for sale at just less than $3 million.
The property stretches along more than a mile of the Yampa River, with about 174 acres north of the highway and 170 acres south of the highway. A small pond for irrigation and fishing, plus several historic buildings, are on the land.
"What I would like to see is a new owner coming in here and dumping some money in the ranch to preserve the historical significance," listing broker Troy Brookshire said. "I believe maintaining heritage is what's important in Routt County. It's important to all of us.
"We would all like to see a conservation easement for the riverside areas and a river restoration project. It would be a huge component to whoever buys it. With that much river going through this ranch, there is a need for enhancements. It would help the entire Yampa River system."
Even though the Bradley family has owned the ranch for more than 60 years, it only recently took on the name of the Bradley Ranch.
When Melvin and Mary lived there, they operated a summer reading school and camp for boys, for which they named the ranch
T~R Ranch, or T-ripple-R, a clever name which stands for their important Triple R: "Reading, Riding and Ranching."
The husband and wife were both avid students. Mary Bradley had worked her way through graduate school at University of Denver and spent several years as a social worker before going back to school to become a teacher.
Melvin Bradley graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in business. He also studied law and helped teach English at the summer school.
"Melvin was a perpetual student," Mary Bradley said. "We both had plenty of energy then, and we wanted to supplement our income to help the ranch and have fun, too."
Over the years, she taught school in Clark, Hayden and Steamboat Springs and in the Southside one-room schoolhouse on Routt County Road 33. She said teaching the summer school worked out well with her schedule, in which she had summers off.
The T~R Ranch Summer School mostly was for remedial reading, her speciality. The school advertised in Boys' Life and Redbook and attracted children from all over the continental United States and even Alaska. An average of 10 to 15 students came every summer to catch up on reading, ride horses and swim in the river.
The Bradleys had converted an old dairy farm bunkhouse to put up the boys. They kept the camp open from 1963 until 1973.
"With some of the students, we made life-long friends," she said. "For years, they came back with their wives. They thought it was a very good program we had."
Mary Bradley, now 80, said she would be coming back to Routt County this month to stay in her Hayden home for the summer.
She also hopes that someone will restore the historic buildings on the property.
"They're all in decent shape," Mary said. "That barn had to have been built in 1900. A horse kicked a side out of it, but its still standing and in good shape."
The Bradley Ranch is listed with Colorado Group Realty. Call Brookshire or Penny Fletcher at 870-8800.
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