George Boyer Young came to the Telluride area for silver and gold mining at the turn of the 19th century, but discovered the mines were “not conducive to his health.” With lung problems, the surveyor began work in Dry Creek Basin and established a homestead there in 1906.
For medical care, Young traveled to Colorado Springs, where he met his future wife, the granddaughter of Jefferson Davis, whose parents had established the first bank in the city.
Married in 1910, the new Mrs. Young — Mrs. Lucy White Hayes Young — left her maids and pampered lifestyle and headed for Dry Creek Basin.
Some who knew her predicted she wouldn’t last six months on the wild Western Slope of the Rockies. She didn’t grow up cooking and would need to get help.
To the surprise of many, she remained, raised five children and, with her husband, left a legacy that’s still cherished.
George and Lucy’s son, George Mike Young, took over the family’s homestead when he was roughly 18 years old. With 200 hundred cows and 3,500 ewes, the ranch work was extensive. The Youngs winter ranged in Dry Creek Basin and summer ranged in upper Disappointment or the Lone Cone area. They ran a dude ranch for a while, too.
George Mike Young and his wife Margaret “Babe” Morris Young raised four children — Jacque, Carolynn, Jim and Bill. Those siblings will be honored at the 2020 Pioneer Day festivities in Norwood this year. Among them, they have many memories of a Western life they’re proud to have lived.
The girls like to joke that as infants they were placed in panniers, the baskets put on the backs of packhorses — but they’re also serious, because it’s true.
All of the Young children were expected to work livestock, brand calves, raise bum lambs and more. They grew up on their horses, learned to swim in chilly high-alpine ponds and used lanterns, since they had no electricity on their summer range.
The girls learned to cook on a woodstove, and preserved all of their own food, making most everything from scratch — something Jacque still enjoys.
The family went to town only once a month or so for necessary groceries.
The Young family also established the old school in the basin, which closed in 1958. Carolynn Young said she remembers 35 kids from first grade to senior year in the school, with just two rooms — the big room and the little one.
“When we got our work done, we had to help the little kids,” she said. “We never forgot anything. We only had two teachers for all the grades.”
Many of the original homesteaders have left the basin over the years. The Young family has since sold their homestead, now managed by Fish and Game (Colorado Parks and Wildlife), with the agreement it could never be subdivided, but remain preserved. They’re proud it’s a place they can still gather as a family and appreciate the land.
To this day, Jim and Bill are avid hunters, something Carolynn also enjoyed for years.
Looking back at their old Western heritage, Jacque said, “It’s a wonder any of us even survived.”
Still, Carolynn said she and her siblings “wouldn’t trade it for nothin’.”
Carolynn laughs remembering her grandmother doing the butterfly stroke in the waters up at the Cone and then towel drying her beloved grandchildren while salting the leeches off their little bodies.
She also recalls the old horses, especially “Suzie Q” — the Welch mare she broke by herself as a nine-year-old girl.
Jim told the Norwood Post when he looks back on his life he’s grateful for the childhood he had in rural Colorado.
“We were so blessed,” he said. “We were so remote and so blessed to be raised like that.”
Bill, who cannot attend the ceremony, will remain in Oregon this weekend. He said his siblings have the history down and tell the old stories right.
His 8-by-10-inch photograph will be present for the coronation, and it will ride in the historic coach led by Roudy Roudebush and the team of draft horses down Grand Avenue.