THE BIG DRY CREEK CHEESE RANCH 1879-1943 : The Success Story of an Early Douglas County Pioneer Family

In 1879, pioneers John Welte and Plaziduo Gassner, Austrian immigrants purchased for $700.00 the land upon which the Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch would be built. In 1985 Mission Viejo commissioned Dr. Richard Carrillo and his staff of historical archaeologists to do an archaeological study of the Cheese Ranch prior to the demolition of the site. The history and the artifacts collected by Dr. Carrillo give us a window into a family and a business that contributed to the settlement of Douglas County and Colorado. The June 1880 census reveals a total of eleven persons residing at the Cheese Ranch. Plaziduo Gassner whose occupation is listed as stock grower, age undetermined, who was born in Austria; Mary, his wife, age 30, born in Austria and listed as housekeeper; and their two daughters. Emma who was five years old born in 1875, and Bertha, who was 2 months old. Also listed are John B. Welte, stock raiser, 36 years of age; Theresa 34 years old, his wife, listed as a housekeeper; and their daughter Emily who was one year old. Also living at the ranch were several boarders and/or ranch hands. In addition to the economic aspects of the Cheese Ranch it played an additional role as a popular social center for both the local residents and people from Denver. Young and old would ride to the ranch on occasion, drink their favorite beverages and enjoy the delicious cheeses made there. John Welte's unique dairying and farming techniques were recognized in a farming magazine entitled The Scientific Farmer. Two articles were written in 1906 about the Cheese Ranch describing the ranch during its peak period of production. The artifacts in this exhibit intend to tell the story of the events that occured as part of the normal functioning of the day-to-day lives of the residents who were associated with the ranch and its success. This history courtesy of Richard Carrillo, An Historical, Architectural and Archaeological Study of the Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch (5DA.221) at Highlands Ranch, Douglas county, Colorado. The exhibit story is told in five sections: 1) The household and ammunition used to feed the family, food preparation and serving items and the varied table setting dishes. A few artifacts show other aspects of the family life. 2) Evidence of the children in the families beginning with a photograph of the family. 3) Personal items of the adults. 4) Ranching beginning with a photograph of the large barn and the dairy cows. Artifacts include some from the cheese manufacture. 5) The fun times at the ranch beginning with a photograph of a large group of people, some of whom have musical instruments.

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