Located about five miles north of Westcliffe in the Wet Mountain Valley, Beckwith Ranch was established in 1870 by brothers Edwin and Elton Beckwith and grew to be one of the largest cattle operations in south-central Colorado. In the 1880s and 1890s the Beckwiths built an elaborate headquarters complex consisting of a white Victorian house and other white ranch buildings facing a central courtyard. Today the historic ranch headquarters buildings have been restored by Friends of Beckwith Ranch and can be rented for weddings and other events.
Originally from Mount Desert Island, Maine, Edwin and Elton Beckwith started raising cattle in the Wet Mountain Valley around 1870. Edwin had come to Colorado at least as early as 1869, when he joined Charles Goodnight and others in driving several thousand cattle north from Texas. In about 1870 Elton left his Philadelphia flour and grain business to join his brother in Colorado.
The Beckwiths quickly built one of the largest cattle ranches in the area. They eventually acquired more than 3,000 acres of land. By 1880 they had about 200 horses and 7,000 head of cattle—roughly half of all the cattle in the Wet Mountain Valley at the time. In the 1880s they became active in the cattle industry and in politics. In 1883 they helped establish the United Rocky Mountain Cattlemen’s Association to fight cattle rustling, and from 1886 to 1888 Elton served one term in the Colorado state senate. By 1898 the brothers were worth an estimated $5 million.
As the ranch prospered, the brothers expanded their ranch headquarters, especially after Elton married Elsie Davis in 1875 and started a family. The original hewn-log cabin at the core of the main house was built at least by 1876 and perhaps as early as 1870. In the 1880s and 1890s the cabin was expanded significantly into the irregular Victorian house that exists today. In the 1880s the roof was raised to make the structure two stories and siding was added to cover the log walls. A variety of additions were built in the 1890s, including a kitchen wing, a pantry, and the building’s striking porte cochere or covered entry. By the 1890s the Beckwiths also spent part of the year in a mansion in Denver.
In addition to the main ranch house, the Beckwiths developed a cluster of nearby buildings that all faced a central courtyard or entryway. In the 1890s they built a bunkhouse, ice house, garage, cattle barn, horse barn, and servants’ quarters. The complex was unified by a common color scheme of white walls and red roofs. The headquarters once included a second house, a gazebo, and livestock sheds, but they were removed sometime in the twentieth century.
No further additions were made to the property after 1899; development seems to have ceased soon after Edwin Beckwith’s death in 1898. In 1907 Elton Beckwith died in a fall that may have been a suicide. After Elton’s death, his wife sold the ranch to the Baker and Biggs Company and moved to Denver. The ranch was later split into smaller parcels, but in 1942 the ranch headquarters was acquired by Mac Clevenger of Pueblo, who repaired and renovated the buildings and also gradually accumulated most of the former Beckwith Ranch lands.
Wedding and Events Center
By the 1990s, the ranch was owned by Paul and Phyllis Seegers. In 1996 they donated the headquarters buildings and three and a half acres of land to the nonprofit Friends of Beckwith Ranch. In 1998 the group got Beckwith Ranch listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With funding from the State Historical Fund, other grants, and private donations, the group also began a long-term restoration of the ranch buildings. Restoration of exteriors was completed in 2009, and restoration of the ranch house interior followed in 2011. Friends of Beckwith Ranch now operates the property as a wedding and events center.