Centennial Farms & Ranches

Across the nation, family farms and ranches, historic barns and other agricultural sites are disappearing at an alarming rate.  The contributions of Colorado’s ranching and farming families have withstood the pressures of growth, changes in farming methods, drought, and economic conditions to preserve these important pieces of our state’s commercial and cultural history.

To be considered for honorable recognition, farming or ranching properties must have remained in the same family continuously for at least 100 years, each property must still operate as a working farm or ranch­­­ and farms or ranches must have a minimum of 160 acres.

Ranching has been the bedrock of the economy in the Wet Mountain Valley since the 1800’s and unsurprisingly Custer County is home to 11 Centennial Ranches, all located in or near Westcliffe, Colorado.

Frank Kennicott Ranch (1870)

Koch Ranch (1871)

San Isabel Ranch (1872)

Elton Camper Ranch (1874)

Brandenburg Ranch (1879)

Degree Ranch (1888)

Russell Berry Ranch (1901)

Dieckman Ranch (1901)

Walker Family Ranch (1911)

Harold G. Vickerman Ranch (1917)

Miller Ranch (1919)

Kennicott Cabin – 63161 CO-69

National Register of Historic Places 2/14/97

The Kennicott Cabin is a rare example of a two-story log cabin and is significant for its association with the early settlement of the area. Frank Langdon Kennicott built the cabin on his original homestead in 1869–70, and his family lived there until the early 1890s. Originally from Illinois, the Kennicotts came to Colorado because they were suffering from tuberculosis. They recovered quickly, took 160-acre homesteads in the valley, and soon went into the cattle and freight businesses. Today a small sign on the west side of Highway 69 three miles north of Westcliffe identifies the log cabin, and the surrounding land has been placed in a conservation easement.

Brandenburg Ranch

Great Grandfather Moritz Brandenburg arrived in America from Germany in 1880. He homesteaded 160 acres in the Willows district. By 1884 he had met all the required improvements of the Homestead Act and received a patent on the property, which has become a hay and cattle operation, As are most of the ranches in the wide and beautiful Wet Mountain Valley. 100 years quickly passed; in 1984 the Brandenburg family ranch was honored as a Centennial Ranch having been in the same family for 100 years. (To add to the properties charm, in 1964 much of the movie Cat Ballou was filmed on the Ranch staring Lee Marvin and Jane Fonda.)

Due to pressure from development to grab land and agricultural water, the Brandenburg’s in 2004 filed a Conservation Easement on their ranch to protect it from “being chopped up like a pan of brownies” and to protect their water rights – in perpetuity.

Russell Berry Ranch

The historic Berry Ranch was established in 1901 by William Berry, an English immigrant to the Wet Mountain Valley from Barnstaple, in Devonshire. Located at the confluence of North and South Brush Creeks near Hillside, at the northern end of the Wet Mountain Valley, the ranch has existed as a family-run cattle and haying operation for more than 120 years. The broader family’s roots run deep in the Valley going back to the original German colony; William married a Valley-born descendant of the colony’s Koch family, Amalia Koch, and together they developed a ranch encompassing, at one time, several thousands of acres. With their four sons, Nels, George, Charles and Jim, they managed a productive and thriving business. At the time of their deaths, the four Berry sons inherited parts of the family ranch, and the original homestead and core of the ranching lands and operation remain in the hands of their descendants to this day. Russell (William’s grandson) and Eunice Berry worked on, and later ran, the ranch beginning in the early 1970’s until their deaths in 2021 and 2022. Their children, Rhonda (Berry) Patterson, Rita (Berry) Wilson, and Randy Berry, continue in the ranching tradition and management of the family land as the great-grandchildren of the ranch’s founder, William.