The western United States is growing exponentially. Expanding communities, new buildings popping up, public transportation reaching further and faster from urban settings into the sprawl of suburbia life. Change is inevitable, and often seen as progress. Change can mean a way for conveniences and necessities to be accessed closer to populations of people, and in less time. It used to be we noticed when there was a Starbucks on every corner. In Colorado its a recreational dispensary on nearly every corner, and sidewalks lined with humans staring blankly at the news feed on the phone in their hand.
But across the expansive western landscapes, and even tucked away in many urban areas, there is evidence the west was once a very different place. It’s history is younger than that of the eastern United States, but as you drive or hike through the west you can see and feel the weathered ruggedness that once existed. And to some extent still does.
A few years ago I was hiking and came across this weathered, dilapidated homestead situated in Frazer Meadow. Frazer Meadow is located on the Front Range of Colorado in what is now Jefferson County.
My mind immediately took me back to the Gold Rush and an era very different from today. I was intrigued by this discovery, and did a little research to learn more about the property, which even by today’s standards is about an hour drive to the nearest grocery store. Long ago a man named John Frazer lived here. After reading more about him and his lifestyle, I could easily picture a man as weathered as these structures and the equipment he used to survive in these elements.
John Frazer was one of the earliest settlers in the Golden Gate Park area. He settled in what is now known as Frazer Meadow. Frazer left his job in the gold mines in 1868 and settled in the county. He built a wagon road from Golden Gate Canyon Road north across part of Tremont Mountain and into Frazer Meadow. He built a one-room cabin and hay barn. Frazer cleared 25 acres to grow hay for his horses and small herd of cattle.
Because of the short summers at Golden Gate, Frazer only planted hardy crops like potatoes and turnips, and grew oats for his animals. Like many homesteaders of the time, he also harvested timber from the area, supplying the mining camps and homesteaders of Central City and Black Hawk with much-needed building supplies. When he needed money for food, Frazer collected downed wood and branches, strapped the load to a horse-drawn wagon, and drove it to Black Hawk.
Frazer squatted on the land for 15 years before making a Homestead claim in 1883. In 1887 he applied for an additional 160 acres of adjoining land. He lived a simple life alone in the mountains; eating his meals at a small table, cooking and heating his cabin with a wood stove, and sleeping on a blanket roll on the floor.
In January 1896, while hauling a load of logs to Central City, Frazer was killed when the load came loose and crushed him. His land was sold to pay off debts after his death. The cabin burned down in 1980, but the remains of his log barn still stand at the top of Frazer Meadow. The barn was added to the State Register of Historical Properties in 1995.
I feel fortunate when I encounter these old, weathered homesteads and glimpses into what I know was a difficult life in many ways. I’d love to share a cup of coffee with John Frazer, listen to his stories of days past, and his insight into the progress that’s evolved over the Century.
To see other weathered images for this photo challenge, click here:
WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Weathered
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