Race, violence touch the Doll family ranch | VailDaily.com

Race, violence touch the Doll family ranch

Shirley Welch
Vail, CO Colroado
Eagle County Historical SocietySpecial to the Daily/Frank Doll Collection

Despite his success as a rancher, Frank remained a businessman at heart. In Leadville, he met yet another Frank, Frank Zaits Sr., a businessman from Austria.

Frank Doll bought into the business and was active until the depression of 1929. Combining his love of horses with his business sense, Frank established a livery stable there, which added to his ability to buy and sell equine animals.

Not to have his passion for horse racing fade away, Sam went to work on the glacial basin of the valley floor along Gypsum Creek and hired men to come in and clear the rocks from the ground, a task worthy of strong men with a lot of stamina.

Eventually the men cleared enough land to stake out a race track, and thus began the great races that took place in Gypsum at the Doll brothers race track. On any given Sunday, spectators would arrive in horse and buggy with picnic lunch in tow to spread a blanket and enjoy the races of fine horseflesh from Glenwood Springs and Denver.

When Frank came to Gypsum, he and Lucy already had two children: Susan and Sam. Gretchen, Frank, and Dorothy were born in Colorado.

Unfortunately, Sammy would die at the tender age of 16 from a bout of pneumonia, and Gretchen passed away at age 32, struck down by a brain tumor.

Frank Doll was 43 years old when Frankie, or Frank Jr., was born, and as a young boy he overheard his father and Uncle Sam argue on a daily basis. Both men were of German stock and stubborn to a fault.

There was much to argue over as the ranch had grown and there were many decisions to be made. To carve a huge ranch out of raw land took a man of extraordinary temperament and resolve.

A good businessman developed some enemies, and Frank was no different, but as the years rolled along, Frank Doll believed his brother was not making good business decisions and that left hard feelings between the two.

Frank, however, became an expert horseman. He knew more about horses than any other man in Eagle County and was still buying and selling horses will into his advanced age. He supplied draft horses all over the county. Frank busied himself selling horses and expanding the ranch properties and continuing his business interests in Leadville.

Lucy Doll took over the task of managing the cook house and hired hands and she was a woman to be reckoned with. As the ranch grew, the need for more help increased. Frank Doll hired two African American grooms to help with the horses.

These men were robust and looked as though they could carry the world on strong shoulders. The first morning the new grooms appeared at the cook house for breakfast with the hearty smell of cook smoke, coffee, and bacon in the air, all heads turned in their direction.

Men with black skin were scarce in the Rocky Mountains and hard feelings still prevailed from the Civil War.

Dead silence filled the room. Then came the squeak and scrap of stools and chairs. The other grooms and ranch help got up from the tables, gave the black grooms a sidelong glance, and left the room.

Right about that time, Lucy Doll came into the cook house, took one look at the situation, put her hands on her hips, and followed the last man out the door. “You fellows stop in your tracks right now,” she told them in that voice that meant business.

“Everyone hired on this ranch is invited to eat in our cook house. If you gents don’t like it then I guess you don’t have to eat. I guess my coffee and bacon and biscuits are about to go to waste. That’s all I have to say about it.”

With that, Lucy lifted her chin in the air and turned back into the cook house. That was the last time the help went without a meal.

In the summer of 1915, at the heart of the harvest, the Doll Ranch had a total of 82 employees on the payroll. The cook house was busy every morning, feeding the help. Not all of the employees got along, as was the case of James Jenkins who was killed by Fritz Mench one morning outside the cook house.

Upstairs in the house Frank, Jr. ” at the tender age of 4 ” looked down on the scene from his bedroom window with his 2-year old cousin, Dorothy, by his side. A feud had been brewing between these two men for several days and it came to a head before breakfast on this morning.

A vicious fight ensued, which turned into a bloody battle with knives. In the end, Jenkins lay dead. Mench eventually gave himself up and was jailed.

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