A family, and a ranch, divided | VailDaily.com

A family, and a ranch, divided

Shirley Welch
Vail, CO Colorado
Eagle County Historical SocietyFrank and Lucy Doll's house in Gypsum, about 1890.

In the year 1910, Frank decided to build a new house for his wife and family, a grand house big enough to hold his brood of children. Construction began on the house and all went as planned.

By winter of 1912, the family was ready to move their furniture into the house. One of the last pieces to be moved was a piano. This was no ordinary piano: it was a baby grand constructed from blond oak with a matching stool and beautiful music stand.

To move such a piano required the use of draft horses, a sled, and several strong men. Frank brought up a team of draft horses and angled the sled into position to load the piano.

Several heaving, straining, groaning men had to load the piano on to the sled, and then Frank would slap the reins over the horses backs and the sled would jerk forward. The wonderful oak piano began its journey to the new house.

The air was crisp, the sky a deep mid-winter blue, and Frank’s breath formed crystals when he exhaled. With snorts and a whinny, the horses pulled the sled through the snow. Along about this time, Sam came riding up, saw the piano, and frowned.

“Say, brother,” he said, “where are you taking that piano?”

Frank pulled in the horses. “I’m taking it to the new house,” his said, his words tailing a line of moisture.

“No, you aren’t,” Sam countered. His horse stamped impatiently.

“Why, yes I am,” Frank said in a firm voice.

“No,” Sam said again and shook his head. “That piano belongs to the family.”

“I am the one with the family, Sam. You aren’t even married. I have three daughters who play the piano, and they will be living with me in the new house. So I am taking the piano.”

“That piano belongs to both of us and should stay at the old house,” Sam argued.

“I heard you the first time, Sam, and like I told you, this piano is on its way to the new house.”

The two brothers stared at one another.

One horse snorted.

Frank sniffed.

The air turned irrecoverably cold.

Sam slapped his thigh and said, “If you move that piano to the new house, brother, I will never speak to you again.”

Frank grunted, nodded his head, and slapped the reins over his team of horses. The sled slipped through the snow and headed toward the new house. Frank didn’t look back and neither did Sam.

From that day on, neither brother ever spoke to the other again.

After the Great Piano Argument, a surveyor was hired to mark the halfway line of the ranch, east to west. A barbed wire fence was built, a fence going east to west across the property.

Sam took the south end where the Brightwater development stands today, and Frank remained on the north section, from the fence to Daggert Lane and over and across Gypsum Creek to the mesa.

Sam had several cousins living in Gypsum: Charlie Doll, a bachelor, and Charlie’s sister, Nettie who was married to John Fry.

Sam moved in with Nettie and John, so Charlie built himself a house next door. Since Sam resolved never to speak to his brother again, he assigned Charlie and John to be his representative in all ranch matters.

Sam Doll continued to reside in the Fry home until the time of his death, which came at the age of 86 years.

In Gypsum, at the ranch which the family built and so loved, Frank passed away in June, 1940 at 89 years of age with Lucy preceding him in death by a year. The rest of the Doll family continued to live on the ranch.

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