Surrounded by prairie grass and juniper, the Petticrew Stage Stop stands approximately twenty-five miles south of Lamar in Prowers County. Built in the early 1890s by John L. Petticrew, the building served as a stop between Lamar and Springfield, providing travelers with a place to eat and receive fresh horses. Today, the stage stop’s sandstone house and barn are part of Cedar Cliff Ranch.
In 1892 John L. Petticrew and his wife, Olive, purchased a 160-acre ranch from Horace C. Abbott and began making improvements to the property. Petticrew also expanded the ranch, acquiring an additional 320 acres by 1895 and another 160 acres by 1907. Lacking timber and finding the cost of importing more traditional building materials too steep, Petticrew chose instead to use a more readily available resource to build his ranch. He used sandstone quarried from a local site for his house, barn, and walls. Although the quality of the construction varies around the property, the Petticrew Ranch is the most intact example of owner-built, stone dwellings in southeastern Colorado.
The Petticrew family successfully raised cattle and sheep on their land. According to Petticrew’s daughter, Rose Schuler, the family lived in the barn when they first homesteaded the land. The house was constructed in sections, starting with the dining room and west bedroom. Two other bedrooms, a living room, and a parlor were added later. Based on the large size of stones used in constructions and the horse-powered transportation available in the late 1890s and early 1900s, construction must have taken place over several years.
The barn was built to accommodate the feeding of horses for stagecoaches and freight wagons. It is a rare example of stone bank barn design, meaning it is accessible at ground level from two separate levels because it is perched on a slight hill. The three-level barn has seven stalls, a blacksmith area, and tack and feed rooms. The Petticrew property also included a smokehouse, a privy, and a wooden windmill complete with a concrete water storage tank.
Starting in the late 1880s, wagon freighters, stagecoach lines, and the Santa Fe Railroad all operated out of Lamar, making it a regional economic hub. Travelers coming through the area that would later become the Petticrew holdings frequented a nearby hotel. But after it burned to the ground, folks on the trail found themselves without a place to sleep and refuel. Capitalizing on his location twenty-five miles south of Lamar, Petticrew realized that he had an opportunity to supplement his income by accommodating travelers.
The Petticrew house became the headquarters for the family’s stage stop. Petticrew raised Percheron horses and Olive cooked meals for weary travelers. The family even offered overnight lodging. Serving both local stage and freight routes between Lamar and Springfield, Petticrew operated the stage stop and ran a mail route, making himself an important node on the long overland journey.
Cedar Cliff Ranch
In 1925 Petticrew lost his ranch after a cattle deal went sour. Later that year, Clark and Naomi Fowler purchased the Petticrew holdings from the Lamar National Bank for $6 an acre. John and Olive Petticrew continued to live on the property in a small stone house north of ranch headquarters.
The Fowlers incorporated the Petticrew holdings into their own property, known as Cedar Cliff Ranch. What was once the Petticrew property is still run and operated by the Fowler family, who have maintained and repaired the ranch’s original sandstone structures over the years. The buildings remain functional, which is a testament to the quality of Petticrew’s masonry. The smokehouse, for example, is still used to smoke and cure meats. The site was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. In 2015 the State Historical Fund issued the property a $9,500 grant for a historic structure assessment.