Telegram Staff Writer
There is an important freshwater spring about nine miles west of Rifle. Its importance lies in its use by Indians, travelers, folks from Rifle who filled water jugs there and, most of all, the Potter family.
Sam and Terri Potter live in the same house Sam’s grandparents bought in 1905. They don’t have a well. They still drink from the same fresh spring the original Potter family used.
Samuel and Lilly Ruth Potter moved with their children, and Lilly’s father, Richard Becktell, to a 145-acre ranch in Rulison in 1905.
One of the Potters’ sons, Sidney, had tuberculosis as a boy, and the doctor recommended a drier climate to treat the illness. The family moved first to Wisconsin and then to Oklahoma, before coming to western Colorado.
Richard was a beekeeper and had heard about the healthy fruit industry on the Western Slope. Thinking it would be a good spot for his bees and his grandson’s health, the family made the journey. They came mostly by train.
The first year, the family of eight lived in a two-room house ” the same house Sam and Terri live in today, though they’ve added a lot on to the old structure.
Sidney graduated from Grand Valley High School, where he rode his horse the seven miles to and from school every day in 1916.
After graduation, Sidney went to Ottawa University in Nebraska. When he returned home, he taught at Garfield County High School in Glenwood Springs and coached football and basketball. Later he loaded marble cars in Marble.
Samuel moved to La Junta to coach the high school’s football team to a state championship, and then decided to become a doctor. He coached a number of sports at the University of Denver while he went to school.
All the while, his parents still lived on the ranch in Rulison.
Sidney’s father died in 1929, after he went hunting with some of Sidney’s college friends. He wore new boots, which rubbed a blister on his heel. He didn’t do anything about it, and by the time he made it to the doctor he had blood poisoning. His leg was amputated, but he still died.
Lilly hired men to help her, and she ran the ranch by herself until she died in 1948.
Sidney always made sure the ranch was in working order after that. He was a doctor at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Hospital in Pueblo when he met his wife Betty, who is now 86. She lives in a mobile home behind the old house. Betty was a nurse and says she cared for Sidney when he had pneumonia in 1942.
“We fell in love while I was taking care of him,” Betty said. “It was quite a romance.”
Sidney and Betty raised their three daughters and Sam in Pueblo, but took them to the old farm every summer and sometimes in the spring as well.
“We usually spent the month of August here,” Betty said. “(Sidney) loved to come over here. This is where he grew up. It was his favorite spot.”
In the 1950s, Sidney started a dairy farm on the property, just another change in the land’s evolution. It started as a fruit orchard, then a hay field and grazing ground, which is what it’s used for again today.
Sidney died of a sudden heart attack in 1961. Sam worked during summers at the farm, and moved to the place permanently after he graduated from Colorado State University in 1970.
Sam worked as an industrial engineer with the oil shale industry, and then started to work in the insurance business after that dried up.
Sam and Terri have two grown children, Katie Mackley and Sam, and a 12-year-old daughter, Lauren. The whole family is still in the Rifle area.
The Potters had a centennial celebration of their own on July 2. More than 100 people showed up to congratulate the family on securing state certification for the house, designating it as a century-old structure.
“I’m so grateful Sam came out here to keep this ranch we all care so much about,” Betty said. “I’m so thankful there was never any thought of not keeping the ranch.”
Thank you to Sam and Terri Potter and Betty Potter for sharing family information for this story.
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