Masked cattlemen drove sheep herds off the range near Parachute in 1894 |

Masked cattlemen drove sheep herds off the range near Parachute in 1894

Willa Soncarty
Registrar, Frontier Historical Museum

In the 1890s, an uneasy sharing of the open range existed between the cattle and sheep ranchers near Parachute.

Sheep, the cattlemen believed, destroyed the range and limited the area for cattle grazing. Their mere presence and odor was offensive to the cattlemen. Only a series of oral arrangements maintained tolerance and order between the two groups.

But in September, 1894, a sinister plot designed by a disgruntled band of masked cattlemen unfolded. The band of men rode up to the Book Cliffs where three separate flocks of sheep were grazing. The sheepmen, the cattlemen believed, had overstayed their welcome by several weeks. It was time to remove all sheep from the area.

The masked men bunched together Mr. Starkey’s flock and attempted to drive them over a cliff. When the sheep did not move, the men clubbed many to death. Other sheep suffocated from the bunching.

The riders then went to Mr. Brown’s flock. Brown was shot and wounded trying to defend his sheep. His flock was rounded up and most were driven over an 800-foot cliff.

The sheep owned by Mr. Hurlburt were saved by darkness.

Nearly 4,000 sheep were killed that day by the masked men. No one confessed to the crime. By October, all of the sheep in the area were sold. The cattlemen had successfully driven the sheep ranchers from the open range.

“Frontier Diary” is provided to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. Located at 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs, the museum’s summer hours are 11-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.

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