he Sylvan Dale Story
Horses, Cattle, Ranching.
Hospitality, Relaxation, Recreation.
Home, Family, Friends.
These are the words that best summarize the heritage of Sylvan Dale Ranch.
For over a thousand years, native people found shelter in the valley. Their stone tipi rings are still embedded in the bluff above the river.
Homesteaders arrived in 1864. William Alexander harvested trees from the mountain that now bears his name. He also took in guests, including the famous Isabella Bird, who recounted her 1873 visit to the valley in A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains
, an English classic. Not long after, the ranch was named "Sylvan Dale," meaning
Cattle ranching came next, started by Frend Neville. In the 1920s wealthy doctors from St. Louis began visiting the area to fish and hunt. They liked the ranch so much they wanted to bring their families. To accommodate them, the Nevilles built some cabins and a lodge along the river, planted some apple trees, and started a dude ranch.
Frend Neville (see circle around head)
After the ranch was sold to a small Christian college in Nebraska, it came to the attention of young college student named Maurice Jessup. When he arrived to work at the ranch in 1934, he was so taken with its beauty he said, "Someday I'm going to own Sylvan Dale," a bold statement for a penniless student during the Great Depression.
But in 1946, after marrying Mayme "Tillie" Tomlinson, the secretary at Ault High School where he taught, Maurice purchased the run-down property in a suspense-filled secret bid while on leave from the military.
Tillie and Maurice
The young couple vowed they'd rather try and fail than not try at all. That determination served to build Sylvan Dale's reputation as a prime Colorado dude ranch during the next 30 years and increase its size from 120 to over 5000 acres.
Then calamity struck. Colorado's worst natural disaster, the Big Thompson Flood of
1976, killed 144 people between Loveland and Drake, and left much of the Ranch in ruins. To finance reconstruction, Maurice and Tillie sold off 2000 acres and worked hard to make improvements. After a year, with some miraculous help from the Mennonite Disaster Relief Agency, the Ranch was reborn,
better than ever.
The aftermath at the picnic grounds
The Jessup children, Susan and David, are working hard to continue the traditions of the Ranch. Their own children and grandchildren are also committed to preserving the Ranch and its legacy.
It all adds up to a deep-rooted sense of belonging. You can taste it in the hot buttered biscuits, hear it in the distant cry of the coyote and the soft sound of the wind in the pines, and feel it in the warm Western welcome that still rings true: "Pull up a chair, join our family table. Rest...Relax...Enjoy."
This is what life is all about...
The history of the Ranch is as old as the stones in the river. But for Members of the Sylvan Dale Ranch Preservation Community, it is just beginning as you become part of the legacy unfolding for future generations.