A place where things could grow | VailDaily.com

A place where things could grow

Shirley Welch
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/Frank Doll CollectionFranklin Doll, grandfather to Avon's Frank Doll, brought these horses to Colorado from Ohio by train. A one-room cabin pictured in the background was located at Dotsero. It was occupied by the Doll's grandparents and their children, Sam and Susan, during the fall and winter of 1887.

EAGLE COUNTY ” To write about Frank Doll is a complex task because Frank is a remarkable man, a man who has worn many hats, a man who has devoted himself to family, military, land, history, and his quiet gift for expressing himself, both in the written word and verbal communication.

To understand Frank Doll, one must start way back at the beginning to when Eagle County was a vacant splash of land dominated by elk, deer, eagles, bear, and mountain lions.

As far back as 8,000 years, Archaic men ” called hunter-gatherers ” roamed this area, but those first archaic men who tramped the Eagle Valley were scarce: only a few cave sights and one or two open lithic-scatter sights have been found.

While it is known that some archaic people habituated Eagle Country, very little is known about those folks, and when they disappeared, a new people moved into the Colorado Rockies.

They were Native Americans, those who wandered the mountains and steered clear of the plains. They came to be known as the Ute Indians, and they called their new homeland pana-qa-ri kaa-vi, The Shining Mountains.

At first they traveled the Shining Mountains on foot, but eventually horses became a part of their existence, and once they mastered riding the long-legged dogs, they quickly became expert horsemen, and this talent allowed them the luxury of moving greater distances, roaming the mountain tops and valleys, hunting bison and stealing horses from other Indian tribes.

The first European presence in the Eagle River Valley was in 1840 when Kit Carson guided the Fremont Party through the region.

Surely, Fremont’s group encountered the Ute Indians, but more likely the first white men the Utes met where mountain men, those rugged individuals who made their livelihood first trapping beavers for the manufacture of fashionable top hats, which was in high fashion on the Eastern seaboard, and then when that fad disappeared the mountain men switched to making their way as hunters and guides for those robust few who ventured into the mountains.

The mountain men took shelter in bucolic valleys, and one of these valleys lay on the Western Slope; that side of the Continental Divide where all the streams ran to the Pacific Ocean. One of those streams was named the Eagle River by the Ute Indians for the great birds of prey that roamed swirling air thermals over the water, searching for a tasty meal.

These birds nested in the stately lone evergreen trees that were securely rooted in the sandstone cliffs on the south side of the river, giving the birds a handsome view of the river and valley. Some 130 miles from the plains and on the south side of the Eagle River lay one of the offshoot valleys common to mountain rivers.

There on the north side were dry hills studded with juniper and sage and was a fine place to hunt lion. However, the hills were composed of a whitish clay material called calcium sulphate, the chemical name for gypsum, which made the soil poor for planting or grazing.

While to the south of the river, a gurgling stream splashed its way from the high mountain peaks and joined the Eagle River, which in turn joined the mighty Colorado. The mountain men named this stream Gypsum Creek and the name stuck.

So our story starts here on Gypsum Creek where the bottom land holds soil so fertile those first homesteaders could grow anything a man decided to plant or graze animals that grew fat. However, neither farming nor ranching was what brought men to this area; instead it was the mining boom of the 1860s and 1870s.

Jake Borah and his brother were mountain men who plied their trade between the Eagle River and the Roaring Fork, supplying meat to the mining towns. As the gold strikes petered out, Jake’s brother switched to farming, and Jake added guiding services to his list of jobs.

Jake was hired to guide customers with the names of Goodyear, Coleman, and the like, and it was Jake whom Sam Doll ” brother of Frank Doll’s grandfather, who also was named Frank ” met in 1884, when Sam wandered into the Eagle Valley. Some years later, Jake Borah would be a guide for Theodore Roosevelt in the Roosevelt Hunt in the spring of 1905, a hunt that lasted two weeks.

The beginning of this story finds the Doll family in Canton, Ohio. Frank Doll, known then as Franklin, was the youngest of four sons born to George and Susan Doll in 1851 in Osnaburg, Ohio. George Doll, being a farrier, was called to federal service with the Union Army along with sons, Hiram and Zach in the spring of 1861. Once in the Union Army, George was given the job as a veterinarian.

The third Doll brother, Sam, at the tender age of 14, was not going to be left behind, so he ran away and joined the Union Army as well, joining the Cumberland 19 regiment, Ohio infantry. Nobody noticed that he was hardly of age to fight grown men, yet he helped the Union forces win the war.

Sam found himself active in the battles of Shilo, Nashville, and other battles. Many times he evaded capture and because of his daring, he was often sent to forage for food for the company. It was such adventures that prepared Sam for the life that was to follow.

Back in Ohio, at 10 years of age and now having his father and three brothers gone to fight in the war, Frank was left behind to help his mother keep the family business together, and he quickly learned much about the world of enterprise. We must leave Frank for a little while, back there in Canton, Ohio and focus on Sam, for it was this brother that first set foot in Gypsum Valley.

In the year 1865 in San Antonio, Sam was discharged from the army when the Civil War had come to an end. All grown up now at age 18, with his pay-out pay, Sam bought himself a new outfit: a pair of wool pants, white shirt, and fancy brocade vest.

He found a horse that would do and bought it, too. Having a wandering spirit, Sam decided he was going to be a professional gambler and began his career tramping from mining town to mining town.

Going by way of San Antonio, Texas, to the mining camps of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, and finally landing in Chicago in 1873, where he discovered horse racing. Still on the move, Sam left Chicago and the race tracks and made his way to Colorado, landing in Leadville in 1878.

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