One of Gypsum’s first residents |

One of Gypsum’s first residents

Shirley Welch
Vail, CO Colorado
Shirley Welch/Special to the DailyFrank Doll stands by the ice house on the land where his grandparents lived in Dotsero in 1888.

In 1862, President Lincoln signed a law creating the Homestead Act. It allowed a person to claim 160 acres of land by filing a $10 claim and $2 fee to the land agent.

At the end of five years, if the applicant “proved” his property, he could then find two witnesses to sign the “proof” agreement that stated the applicant had fulfilled all the requirements, which were: live on the land, build a home, make improvements, and live there five years. Once the proof agreement was filed, the homesteader then received the patent for the land signed by the United States president.

Franklin’s intent was to return to Gypsum Creek the following summer and with Sam file the claim, but Lucy Doll was pregnant with Susan, so Franklin had to put his plans aside for a while.

When Franklin returned to Gypsum Creek, he and Sam decided to file their claim. However, most of the prime property was already claimed and homesteaders were already working on proving their claims.

In fact by 1884, 31 such homesteaded ranches existed. Not to be defeated, Sam and Franklin rode deeper into Gypsum Valley and about five miles south of the junction of Gypsum Creek and the Eagle River against the side of a mountain, they found a spring with yet another spring not far away, the water bubbling out of the ground and over a large flint pile.

Sam picked up a piece of flint and examined it. It had chip marks on it, as did other pieces of flint. The flint pile displayed markings of Indian presence where the Utes came to make their arrowheads.

Still, the dirt was rich and loamy and there was plenty of water. Sam and Franklin found out that most folks who had wandered into the valley were superstitious when it came to Indian presence, and this place was believed to be protected by Ute Indian spirits.

Thus, earlier homesteaders had refused to claim the land by the flint pile and springs. Sam and Franklin didn’t hold any of those superstitions, so they made their way to the court house and paid their $10 fee. Now they had their piece of land, all 160 acres of the Gypsum Valley with stream frontage and a couple of springs on the property.

Sam and Franklin began to prove their claim. As the two brothers began to make improvements on the land, railroad tracks were being laid from the east, through Leadville and down Tennessee Pass.

It took several years for the impact of the railroad tracks coming down the expanse of the Eagle Valley to be felt, but in 1888 the rest of the Doll family made their way west from Canton, Ohio, namely Franklin’s wife Lucy and his two children, Samuel and Susan, arriving in Dotsero on an immigrant train in September 1887. They spent that winter in a one-room cabin in Dotsero and the following summer, the family moved to the Gypsum Valley.

Once Franklin arrived in Colorado, he went by the name Frank and was no longer called Franklin, and son Hiram Frank would be called Frankie or Frank. With a sound business background, Frank took on the responsibility of day-to-day operations of the ranch, while Sam continued with his wandering spirit and did not participate in the everyday grind.

However, Frank’s keen sense of business paid off and by 1900 the Doll Ranch encompassed some 1,600 acres and the entire Gypsum Valley was compromised of two ranches: the Doll Ranch in the south, and the Grundel brothers in the north.

The valley was split in half by Daggert Lane ” named for that same man who first put first erected his tent in 1881. If one were to look at the heritage of those early settlers in Gypsum Valley, one would see they were made up of Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes, some of hardiest folks ever born.

Horse flesh was in Frank’s blood and horse racing became Sam’s dream, so between the two brothers, they built a ranch that soon became known throughout the West as the breeding place of both standard and thoroughbred horses and later draft horses.

During the boom years of the mining and logging camps of the mountain sections, Frank furnished hundreds of the best draft horses used by the freighters and ore hailers of these camps.

Along the way, Frank introduced the first herd of purebred Hereford cattle on the Western slope, and he began to acquire land over on the Colorado River near Deep Creek and Sweetwater Creek.

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