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THE KAYE FAMILY HISTORY: THE LA MESA RANCH
GULNARE, COLORADO, 1892-1918
Edward Percival (E.P.) Kaye and Kate Winifred (Payne) Kaye were the founders of this ranch. They were English gentry, refined people who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. E.P. born in 1868 in West Bretton, Wakefield, Yorkshire, as the only son of four children, to John Edward Kaye, who like his father John Kaye, served for many years as the Land Agent for Lord Allendale, managing his huge estate of farms and forest land, coal and lead mines spanning the counties of Yorkshire, North Umberland and Durham. E.P. graduated from Malborough College where he excelled in athletics and earned qualification as a civil engineer and land surveyor in preparation of one day continuing in the role as Land Agent. Kate was born in 1861 in London to George Payne, a prominent London analytical chemist and Catherine (Smalley) Payne. Kate was a professional musician and graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in voice and pianoforte. Kate taught singing and sang before the Prince of Wales and Edward VII at Albert Hall.
E.P. and Kate met at a tennis party in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1888, which led to romance, and marriage in 1890. Fed with tales from a relative who immigrated to the USA earlier and who was leading an exciting life as a rancher in Colorado, they elected to throw caution to the winds and follow suit thus departing their gentile life in structured England and embarking on a grand adventure to the wild and woolly frontier of Colorado. Bereft of any practical farm or ranch experience, both were ill prepared for the rough life of ranching, but this did not deter them. Anything was better than stuffy England! Spunk and grit made up for their inexperience. Upon arriving Colorado in early 1891 they homesteaded 160 acres in vicinity of Green Horn Mt. near Colorado Springs and began their ranching life.
Later in June 1891 while Kate was in the CFI Hospital in Pueblo giving birth to their first born, John Payne Kaye, Kate met a fellow patient Fanny Key, wife of John Key, who also delivered a baby. They became friends and learned that the Keys had a ranch 8 miles west of Aguilar, CO and had built a large stone English style manor house. As both Keys quickly learned they were not suited to the harsh life of ranching in the wilderness, they elected to find a buyer for their ranch and move back to their accustomed life in Washington, D.C. After visiting the Keys and seeing their beautiful home in the final stages of construction, they fell in love with the house, the land and the spectacular view of the Spanish Peaks. Following a return trip to England to present son John, and to secure funds, they took possession from the Keys in late 1891 or early 1892 and christened their new ranch the La Mesa Ranch.
This ranch house was a truly magnificent structure, two stories with a turret and complete with running water to the kitchen, a real novelty for the time and area. There were barns and sheds, a root cellar and ice storage cave and other facilities common to that time. The ranch stead consisted of 160 or more deeded acres, plus access to thousands of acres of state and federal land for grazing. It was located in Township 31 South, Range 66 West, of the 6th Principal Meridian, Los Anims County, Colorado, or approximately 8 miles west of Aguilar, CO. The ranch prospered and E.P. specialized in raising horses. Ranch life and the healthy environment must have sparked the couple, as three new children became residents, Barbara Winifred in 1893, Jessica Mary in 1894 and Catherine Minna in 1896. Later in 1903, a second son, George Robert, joined the ranch.
The lack of proper schooling for the children presented the Kaye parents with a dilemma best solved by sending the children to Europe for their formal education. The only school nearby was a one-room school in Abeyton attended by indigenous Mexican and immigrant Italian children. (Note: The Italians were imported for hire as stone masons and miners by the area coal mines.) This is the same school which Catherine later, 1915-17, served as teacher.
Young John was home schooled on the ranch. But by age 8 it was decided he needed benefit of a more formal school, an English grammar school. So, in 1899 both parents with John and the three girls in tow returned to England to enroll John in school. Fortunate for all, Kate's sister Lillian was married to Bob Johnson the headmaster of Rivington Grammar School a noted school for sons of gentry and yeoman farmers located in Horwich, in county Lancashire. Young John remained at Rivington until 1905, when at age 14 he was released to return to the ranch life he so terribly missed. During this 1899 visit a tutor, a Miss Ethel Woodcock, was hired as governess to come to the ranch to school the three girls. Miss Woodcock remained until 1902.
To continue John's education, he attended high school in Trinidad for two years, boarding with a Mr. Manby, an Englishman. His first year was pure misery as his "Little Lord Fauntleroy" dress and English accent made him the butt of much teasing. He adjusted to the American way and by the end of the second year he returned to the ranch as his Rivington education placed him beyond what the Trinidad school could offer. The next years were devoted to ranch science where he, now called Jack, became a master horseman, a cattleman, carpenter and marksman. He started the ranch in a cow and calf operation taking advantage of grazing on leased government land. His hard work and ability allowed his English gentry father to finally become the squire he always wanted to be. Jack slaved away with the only break an occasional hunting foray to the nearby mountains. He did finally get respite. In 1912 at age 21 he left for three months hired as horse wrangler for a cattle drive from Colorado to Alberta. Arthur Arnold and Dewey Unfug from the Walsenburg, CO area were his best friends.
In 1902, in pursuit for education for the girls, Kate and the three girls traveled to England for a visit with parents, then on to Germany where the girls were deposited and remained for 6 years attending girl's finishing school. This type of schooling, typical of what was offered gentile girls of that day, was heavy on art, literature, poetry, Greek, Latin, and social graces, but science and mathematics were considered too difficult for girls to comprehend.
In 1908, E.P. traveled to England to see his parents, then on to Germany to fetch the girls and bring them home to the ranch. This was a joyous event as the daughters had been separated from their beloved father for six years and the ranch with all the animals they terribly missed.
On return a tutor was hired for one summer to teach the girls, by then fluent in German and rusty in English, basic English grammar, American history and basic mathematics and science, all subjects not taught at their German finishing school. The girls then attended the little Mexican school across the canyon taught by Mr. Easley who took them aside and gave them instruction reinforcing what the tutor had taught them earlier. The girls rapidly adapted to ranch life and in short time became skilled in horse handling taught to them by their expert brother Jack. Each had their own horse. They also became competent in handling firearms, with Catherine displaying great skill in handling a Colt Six Shooter. Each girl, in addition to household duties, was responsible for an income-producing project. Catherine raised Belgian hares, which she sold, dressed and skinned for 35 cents each. Jessica was responsible for the chickens and the eggs. Barbara was in charge of making butter.
The girls were musical, taking after their mother. Barbara was especially accomplished on piano and earned pocket money by giving both piano and riding lessons to nearby Delaguh children. The girls were all blessed with beauty. Tall, slender, poised, charming; classy doesn't adequately describe these young women. Yet at the same time they were tough, competent and independent ranch girls. Claire Livingston, a local girl, was their best friend.
An event in 1913-14, the Colorado Coalfield War, brought changes which led to the gradual demise of the ranch. In 1914, fighting between the owners and the miners became so fierce that the Governor appealed to the President for help. Federal troops were dispatched and the 11th U.S. Cavalry was sent from Fort Oglethorpe, GA to restore order and discipline, arriving in May 1914. The regimental base camp was located nearby the ranch and the regimental commander, Colonel Cabell and his staff officers were frequent visitors to the ranch. Once the word was out that the ranch had three very beautiful girls, young soldiers drawn like bees to honey dropped by frequently to water their horses. One young staff officer, Lieut. Burton Y. Read was smitten by Jessica and a whirlwind romance followed. They were married at the ranch in late 1914 and departed soon thereafter for duty at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Jack, after getting to know many of the officers and men of the 11th Cavalry, decided that a career in the Army offered more opportunity than his hard life at the ranch. He enlisted in Troop I, 11th U.S. Cavalry at Hastings, Colorado on 5 January 1915.
Nursing was always Barbara's goal. She departed the ranch in 1915 for Denver to attend the St. Luke's Hospital nursing school, where she remained until graduation in 1918. In 1919 Barbara moved to Los Angeles, California to join her mother and Bob who had moved earlier from the ranch in betterment of Bob's education.
Jack's departure for an Army career was devastating to the operation of the ranch as E.P. was unable to assume the duties which son Jack so ably carried out. Also, the loss of the two girls reduced the work force as well. Catherine, the youngest girl then struck out on her own and passed the teacher examination in 1915 and became the teacher at the nearby Mexican school at Abeyton, at the monthly salary of $45, commuting on horseback, one hour each way daily from the ranch, rain, snow or shine. Later she was assigned to a larger school at the grand salary of $75. This school was too distant for horseback commute, so Charlie Freeman from the Aguilar livery stable drove her to and from the ranch on weekends. During the week she boarded with the Gribble family. She taught until departing in 1918 to join Jessica who at that time was stationed together with Burton Read at Jefferson Barracks, MO. There Catherine attended a secretarial school in St. Louis learning to type. While with Jessica, she met Lt. Colonel George C. Charlton. They were married in 1919 in Los Angeles.
The problem of son Bob's education was also a contributing factor to the demise of the ranch. Until age 14 he had been attending the local elementary school taught by sister Catherine but it soon became obvious that this very bright boy needed benefit of attending high school in Trinidad if he were to eventually qualify for college. To accomplish this Kate rented a house in Trinidad so Bob could attend high school there, which he attended for two years until 1918. During this period E.P. was alone during the week at the ranch, joined only on weekends by Kate, Bob and Catherine.
Sometime during this period, the ranch house caught fire, but was able to be restored. Also, as the older children had left the ranch in pursuit of their lives the parents decided to sell the ranch and move to southern California and purchase a 10 acre orange grove for their retirement. Kate then together with son Bob moved to Los Angeles. This allowed young Bob to attend better schools followed by college. Later Bob graduated from Cal Tech with a degree in Chemical Engineering.
Arrangements were made to sell the ranch and it was sold in 1919 to a Mr. John I. Thomas. About this same time, while the ranch was under a caretaker, a fire was lit in a fireplace full of pine boughs and cones causing a fire to travel to the roof igniting the bone dry shingle roof, setting the house afire. The house this time was totally destroyed leaving only the stonewalls and the chimneys standing.
Son Jack, by then a regular army Captain, resigned from the U.S.Army on September 17, 1919, returned to the Aguilar area and purchased a ranch he named "Kingdom Come Ranch". Sometime during the next year, his ranching effort failed due to his being injured in an almost fatal tractor accident which required a year of recuperation, plus a complete loss of newly planted crops destroyed by the worst hail storm in history. Jack stayed with his friend Arthur Arnold during recuperation, and then moved to California to join his parents. Later in 1928 he became a ranger with the U.S. Forest Service, a job he held until 1942, the advent of WWII, when he returned to service with the U.S. Army, retiring in 1951 in the rank of Colonel.
(Note: This history was compiled by John Phillip Kaye, son of John Payne Kaye, from notes from Catherine Kaye and Barbara Kaye given over many years, and from tape recordings made in 1983 of both Catherine and Barbara and from events narrated to me by my father. Also, George K. Charlton, son of Catherine, provided transcript of tape recording made in 1986 of their meeting. Also, my visit to the ranch site with my father in July 1951 provided information.)