Jack Oleson – local boy makes good
Oleson was born of modest circumstances in Gypsum, married a prominent Eagle River Valley rancher’s daughter, Charlotte Nottingham, and became successful from multi-faceted careers. He got along very well with his in-laws, who owned thousands of acres in what is now Eagle-Vail, Avon, and Beaver Creek.
Being ambitious and not seeing any real future working for them, he moved in 1952 to Sterling in northeastern Colorado. There he took a job with a crude-oil trucking company. It wasn’t long before Courtland Dietler of Denver made him a partner in the firm – Western Crude Marketers. In 1961, after many prosperous years, they sold the company to the Permian Corporation of Midland, Texas.
Feeling financially comfortable, Jack and Charlotte Oleson returned to Minturn, where they bought two ranches. Jack always wanted to have cattle, so he started raising horned Herefords in 1963, and then later polled Herefords. He owned most of the land along U.S. Highway 6 that is now Eagle-Vail.
I met Jack Oleson in the fall of 1962, when I rented a hunting cabin that he and Willis Nottingham owned at the entrance to Red Sandstone Creek Road.
Later, Jack was a partner of mine in the Plaza Building. With some friends from downvalley, he built Meadow Mountain, the beginners’ ski area behind his house in Minturn. It never did well financially, but Jack sold it to Vail Associates for a handsome sum.
In 1967 and 1968, Jack became a partner of mine again when he put up 25 acres of his land for the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy. In 1969, he sold much of his property to the developers of Eagle-Vail.
“I had to find a place for the Herefords when Eagle-Vail started to develop,” Oleson said. “I found an aristocrat Angus farm near Longmont, Colorado – a good spot. I bought it in 1971 and sold it in 1984. When I had my cattle dispersion (selling at auction) in 1978, we sold about 11,000 head in three days.”
Soon after that, he sent thousands of cattle to southern Chile. The Chilean government had the need, and Jack had the cattle. The first two boatloads – at 1,500 head per ship – failed because they had a 30-percent loss. Jack then figured out a better way – fly the cattle to Chile. He found the answer in DC-8 stretch planes. Each had to be modified with corals and super air-conditioning. For several years, Jack Oleson even raised cattle in Taiwan. You might call him a cattle baron.
Oleson’s interest in race horses started in 1958, but it wasn’t until 1985 that he started a first-class horse farm in Belen, N.M. It was beautiful – it looked like Kentucky with its green, fenced-in fields. The horses ran in races all over the country, and some were winners.
Finally, Oleson decided to return home to be with Charlotte, who would not move to Belen – she didn’t like New Mexico. Today, Jack is ranch manager on a 10,000-acre development about three miles east of Eagle – the Diamond S Ranch. It is going to be an exclusive development with major equestrian facilities.
Jack Oleson is another example of local boy makes good.
Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 68th installment, an excerpt from chapter 10, “The VIPs and the Notables.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.
Support Local Journalism
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Case numbers for COVID-19 are rising in Eagle County, and just about everywhere else. To save the new ski season, Vail officials are taking new measures to slow the spread, limiting virtually all gatherings to…