: The History of the William Converse Ranch

Hidden Mesa Open Space stands out as a modern remnant of Douglas County's proud western heritage. Today Parker Road (State Highway 83) runs along the eastern boundary and is a heavily used modern route, as in the 19th century, when wagons cut ruts and swales on the Cherokee Trail. The 1500-acre site includes an1870s homestead; a portion of cottonwood-lined Cherry Creek; a stand of native grasses and plants complete with some true western inhabitants - prairie dogs and rattlesnakes; along with picturesque vistas of mesas and shrub lands.

Irish settler, William Brian's, homestead house still stands as a wing to the property's main structure, a larger farmhouse. The Brian's homesteaded 160 acres in 1872 and successfully grew alfalfa along with other crops on the flat, fertile land adjacent to Cherry Creek. Neighbor, William Converse, purchased the property in 1884. He married a local girl, Ida Kracaw, the following year. They built a larger three-gabled house addition to the Brian house and began establishing the TIZ brand ranch. For several decades the Converses became a key pioneer family. Their three children, Mary, Charles and Roger grew up on the farm/ranch and attended Douglas County High School in Castle Rock. Shorthorn cattle, a prominent local breed, became their signature stock. Cherry Creek's well-watered pastures provided abundance for settlers up and down the valley. Sometimes the water became devastating. The worst was when Castlewood Canyon Dam burst in 1933 sending a wall of water down to Denver. Ida Kracaw reminisced for the Record Journal of Douglas County in 1949 ´┐ŻOur creek borders have never been so beautiful as they were before the big flood of 1933. Before that the cattle had good shelter among the trees, even during a hard blizzard. William also served on the Franktown District #2 School Board. In 1908 the Converse's donated land for Pikes Peak Grange #103. This important building was soon built and dedicated within a year. Today the Pikes Peak Grange serves as an historic property and hall.

William Converse passed away in 1940 and Ida May in 1956. The Converse children kept the ranch until they sold to Carlos Everett in 1951. Carlos also grew alfalfa and raised Hereford cattle until 1972. Douglas County purchased the land in 2002 and preserved it as open space. Several cedar and willow trees along with lilac bushes and a large cottonwood grace the homestead. At least four working wells provide water. This allows Douglas County to run an experimental orchard nearby. Along with the large ranch house, other historic buildings on site include a one-story cottage, a cabin that once served as a stable, a pump house, a granary shed and chicken coop. The County has added parking spaces for passenger vehicles and horse trailers, a corral, a covered picnic shelter and an information kiosk. There are several miles of trails open to hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders. They just have to share the property with fellow outdoorsmen/women, a few prairie dogs, rattlesnakes and Cherry Creek Valley birds.

This virtual exhibit includes pre-historic artifacts once made with the region's plentiful petrified wood and rhyolite. A sample of Burnell hooked "4-point" barbed wire that dates to 1877. Also various household items such as fruit jars, ceramics etc. attest to the daily life of a pioneer ranch.

Bibliography: Darden, Barbara and Tafaro, Melanie, "Douglas County Register of Landmark Properties - Nomination Form, February, 2015, 9-11. "Grandma Converse Does A Little Reminiscing," Douglas County News Press, January 29, 1976, 12. (reprinted from an earlier article in the 1949 Record Journal of Douglas County.) Ibid., February 5, 1976, (part 2). Ibid., February 12, 1976, (part 3). Meyer, Susan and Book Committee et. al., Our Heritage: People of Douglas County (Ida May Converse), Shawnee Mission, KS., Inter-Collegiate Press, 57-58.

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