Lyulph Gilchrist Stanley Ogilvy (1861–1947) was an influential irrigator, rancher, journalist, and soldier in early Colorado. An immigrant son of Scottish aristocrats, Ogilvy helped build and maintain irrigation ditches in Weld County and later became a successful agricultural journalist in Denver. The Ogilvy Ditch, northeast of Greeley, bears his name, and his family’s ranch is now part of the SLW Ranch in Weld County. Known in later years as “Lord” Ogilvy or “Honorable” Ogilvy, he was also a veteran of three wars, serving in both the US and British militaries.
Lyulph Ogilvy was born in 1861 as the second son of David Graham Drummond Ogilvy, Tenth Earl of Airlie (a Scottish Peerage), and Henrietta Blanche Stanley Ogilvy. Educated first by governesses, as was the custom among the Scottish aristocracy, Lyulph later attended Eton College. He left Eton early for military training, likely with an eye toward service in Queen Victoria’s British Empire. The British followed the system of primogeniture, in which only the first son inherits, so as a second son Lyulph had few opportunities outside of the armed forces, the church, or imperial service. His family’s overseas ambition, however, eventually took him to the American West.
Arrival in Colorado
After the American Civil War, interest in the American West grew both at home and abroad. Several English companies promoted land sales, including the English-owned Colorado Mortgage and Investment Company (known as the English Company) and XIT Corporation, which bought, sold, and leased ranch land from Texas to Montana. In 1874 the Earl of Airlie, along with his son Lyulph and daughter Maude, visited Colorado with Lord Dunraven when he negotiated the purchase of Estes Park. Like other members of the British aristocracy, Lord Airlie eventually had many holdings in the western United States. In 1879 he decided to tour them again with his son and daughter. The trip ranged from Texas to California and Oregon. At its end, Lyulph decided to stay in the United States, and in 1880 his father bought 3,500 acres of land in Weld County, northeast of Greeley on Crow Creek, where the family established a cattle ranch that Lyulph managed.
Lyulph’s father died in 1881 after getting sick while visiting New Mexico. The Earl had not yet legally conveyed the Crow Creek Ranch land to his son, and Lyulph waited seven years for the estates to be sorted out before he could acquire title. During that time, he and some partners established the Polled Angus and Swiss Company on June 6, 1883. The next year, on a visit to his mother in Scotland, Ogilvy arranged to bring the first Aberdeen Angus cattle to Weld County, a breed that is today one of the primary sources of beef cattle. He also brought in stallions—although not from abroad—to breed larger draft horses for farming and ditch building.
According to a biography written by his son, Jack Ogilvy, Lyulph would not confirm or discuss rumored youthful escapades, referring to them as “silly.” Over the years, Ogilvy acquired a reputation as a colorful and feisty man with an affinity for horse racing and pranks. Several legendary pranks occurred at the Windsor Hotel in Denver, at the time a new establishment frequented by cattlemen. One incident involved Ogilvy bringing in roosters to rouse the desk clerk after he failed to wake Ogilvy in time to catch a train. Another time he staged a rat hunt in the hotel, letting loose a pack of rats and then unleashing dogs to hunt them down. Perhaps his most famous prank was staging his own mock funeral, complete with an open casket viewing, in downtown Denver. Once the casket made the trip to Riverside Cemetery, Ogilvy emerged, Scotch bottle in hand, very much alive.
From 1880 to 1898, Lyulph Ogilvy did part-time contract work with local ditch builder Edward Baker, building portions of many ditches including the Ogilvy Ditch northeast of Greeley. The ditch that bears his name was built in 1881 to bring water to Crow Creek Ranch, which Ogilvy managed after his father’s death as he waited for legal title to the land. Originally known as the Baker and Ogilvy Canal, the ditch was engineered by Baker, one of the original Union colonists who also helped build the Greeley #2 Ditch.
The Ogilvy Ditch, along with others, was built in the wake of the Desert Land Act of 1877, which encouraged economic development in the arid western states. The Ogilvy Ditch’s first water right dates to 1881, and a second right dates to 1986. The Ogilvy Ditch is the last irrigation diversion on the Cache la Poudre River before its convergence with the South Platte River southeast of Greeley. Today the ditch is within the Cache la Poudre National Heritage Area and provides water for thirty-three shareholders of the Ogilvy Irrigating and Land Company, formed in 1883 with Lyulph Ogilvy as president.
Initially, the ditch brought some prosperity, and Ogilvy built a two-story ranch house at Crow Creek Ranch in February 1885. But he soon lost money on another ditch project (the Platte Ditch), as the natural springs in the area prevented the use of standard construction methods. These losses, coupled with a string of disastrous winters that killed the open-range cattle industry, forced Ogilvy to sell Crow Creek Ranch in 1888 to Franklin Murphy, secretary of the Percheron-Norman Horse Company. Ogilvy bought a smaller farm closer to Greeley. After the sale of his ranch, Ogilvy worked for a while as a ditch rider, controlling head gates and the release of water onto shareholders’ lands for one of the Greeley ditches.
Soldier and Journalist
In 1898 Ogilvy enlisted in Company D, First Colorado Infantry, during the Spanish-American War. He later served in the Boer War in South Africa as a British cavalry captain. In 1902 Ogilvy bought a ranch in LaSalle known as the Ogilvy LaSalle Ranch, which he owned for eight years. In 1902 he also married Edith Gertrude Boothroyd, whose English family had settled along the mouth of the Big Thompson River near Loveland. Edith died six years later, leaving her husband with a daughter, Blanche, and a son, Jack David Angus Ogilvy. Jack later became a professor at the University of Colorado and wrote a series of articles about his father.
After the death of his wife, Ogilvy left his children to be raised by their maternal grandparents on their farm in Loveland and moved to Denver, where he took a job as a night watchman for the Union Pacific Railroad in 1909. There he was reacquainted with Harry Tammen, a former bartender at the Windsor Hotel. Tammen co-owned The Denver Post and, wanting to attract rural readers, offered Ogilvy a job as an agricultural journalist. Ogilvy turned that into a thirty-six-year career, with a two-year break for an additional military enlistment, serving with the British army in World War I. Tammen introduced his new journalist to readers as “Lord” Ogilvy, which stuck with him, though coworkers called him Captain in recognition of his rank from the Boer War.
Ogilvy died in 1947 in Boulder and is buried at Fairmount Cemetery in Denver. A newspaper clipping of April 4, 1947, titled “Captain the Honorable,” remembered Ogilvy as a “Veteran of three wars, Colorado pioneer, one-time bon vivant, in his youth daredevil and roguish prankster, agriculturalist and an expert writer on agriculture.” The article also noted that Ogilvy was an ardent promoter of the National Western Stock Show.
Today, Ogilvy’s Crow Creek Ranch, originally 3,500 acres, is part of the SLW Ranch. In 1889, one year after Ogilvy sold Crow Creek, new owner Frank Murphy deeded the property to John M. Studebaker of the Studebaker Wagon Company and Lafayette Lamb, a director of the Weyerhaeuser Lumber Company. Together they expanded the Crow Creek Land Company to 22,000 acres and built an enormous barn to service 2,400 head of brood mares.
The same year, Studebaker, Lamb, and Harvey Witwer incorporated the SLW Ranch Company. Witwer was John Studebaker’s nephew and a salesman for the Studebaker Wagon Company. Witwer was responsible for selling and leasing 80- and 160-acre parcels with water rights to the Ogilvy Ditch. He also worked to establish a Hereford cattle herd, making SLW one of the oldest continuously operating Hereford ranches in the country. Eventually Harvey Witwer acquired sole ownership of the ranch, which remains in the Witwer family today.