Sam Doll: ‘I’ve finally found it’ |

Sam Doll: ‘I’ve finally found it’

Shirley Welch
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily / Frank Doll CollectionAda Slusser, left, and Lucy Doll, grandmother to Frank Doll, standing on the porch of ranch house in Gypsum.

During these wandering years of gambling, Sam would have a streak of luck and find himself flush. From time to time, Sam would send money home.

At the Doll home in Ohio, a stranger would knock at the door and hand George or Susan Doll a bag of money and told them that Sam sent it. George then stored the gold under his bed for when Sam might need it.

Well, Sam did need the winnings from time to time because a gambler’s life was left with uncertainties.

When Sam arrived in Leadville, he found a city swarming with miners because the huge strike of lead carbonate was in full swing. Sam decided to take a look at the area and drifted down the Eagle Valley.

He arrived in Gypsum and passed by O.W. Daggett’s tent, Daggett being the first man to settle in the valley. In 1883 he met mountain man Jake Borah. The two men hit it off, having many of the same traits in common.

Jake showed Sam the fertile valley that lay south of the gyp hills. There Sam saw tall grass so high it tickled his horse’s stomach, sage brush so tall he couldn’t peek over it. He saw snow-capped mountains and streams rife with trout.

When he inhaled, he smelled air sweet and pure and overhead stark white thunder head clouds reared into the sky. From Jake, Sam learned that this was country not hindered by tornados nor hurricanes and did not have the sticky humidity common to Ohio. With altitude and dry air, winters seemed not so cold.

The most dangerous element a man had to contend with was a flash flood in mid-summer when a cloudburst let loose. It was a land of plenty and Sam took it all in.

For the next few years, Sam and Jake were partners and friends. Sam found the valley a place he could finally settle and believed his brother would feel the same. Sam wrote to his brother Franklin in Ohio. In the letter, Sam said, “I believe I’ve finally found it. You should come here and look.”

With the memory of that valley in Colorado still strongly instilled in him, Sam took the train to Leadville to follow the last of the silver strike that engulfed the town. Sam found the Pioneer Club in Leadville had everything the he needed, from fine food to fancy ladies, but it wasn’t Leadville or the Pioneer where Sam wanted to settle.

No, he was drawn back to that valley along the Eagle River, where the grass grew tall and the creek sparkled clear as gin.

Meanwhile, back in Ohio, Franklin continued to share the load of the family business and increased his holdings along with his share of the profits. A beautiful young lady from another prominent family in the area caught Franklin’s attention, and in 1882 Lucy Ellen Slusser married Franklin Doll. In 1885, Frank received the letter his brother wrote about the valley adjacent to the gyp hills where you could grow anything.

Deciding to take a chance on his brother’s discovery, Franklin took the train to Leadville, rented a horse, and rode to Gypsum Creek.

There he met with Sam and Jake as was shown the area. It was spring and the lush grass was deep green and waist high with deer and elk browsing the lowlands, and fat trout rose in the creek to take a fresh hatch of blue flies, and silver-tinged clouds floated across the aquamarine sky, so big and tall and white a man got a crooked neck just looking at them.

All his life Franklin’s passion steered toward purebred horses and livestock, and in those earlier years in Canton, Franklin already had developed a stable of fine horses of his own. Now as Franklin looked upon the verdant meadows and clear mountain streams, he saw a place he would pursue his passion, so he and Sam decided to stake a claim.

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