The Family Histories Behind Princess Beef
Butterfield Brand (Cynthia Houseweart's side of the family)
The Butterfield genealogy is traced to 1375, Yorkshire, England. My grandmother told me the origin of the name Butterfield is “beau champs” which is French for “beautiful field.” The roots of the Butterfield name are French, Scottish and English.
My great-great-grandparents, Amos and Rosanna Butterfield, and their four children moved from Ohio to northeast Colorado in 1886 as early homesteaders. Their homestead, in Phillips County, was only a few miles from Amherst, Colorado on the eastern edge of the short grass steppe. By that time, the buffalo were gone and cattle roamed on the open range. Annual roundups were held by the homestead ranchers.
Two of Amos and Rosanna's children, Edward Ulysses, my great-grandfather (b. 1868), and his brother, Charles, were among these ranchers. In 1902 they established the B/B brand to mark their cattle. They built beautiful twin homes with the tallest windmills in Phillips County and controlled many sections of the Colorado prairie.
In 2004 with the help of the Colorado Brand board, I was able to figure out what the Butterfield brothers had registered as their brand. It was available for me to purchase. Now all of our cows have the original Butterfield 1902 brand on their hip! Recently, when talking about Princess Beef, my father reflected, “nearly eighty years passed before part of prairie life, I knew only vicariously, returned to our family." That, he said, “has left a warm glow.”
Edward Ulysses died in 1934. Eventually, one of his sons, my grandfather Edward II (b. 1914) and his bride, Dorothy, refurbished and moved into his parents' beautiful home to work the ranch and raise their family. My father, Edward III, was born in 1936. They tried to continue ranching and farming on their inherited portion of the ranch but it was during the Great Depression. By 1938 life was too difficult trying to make it with their accumulating debt. I still remember my grandmother telling me how they just packed up and moved to Denver, where my grandfather became a plumber. She loved to reminisce about their home and ranch on the plains.
My father, Edward III, met my mother, Judy Helms, born in Iowa in 1938, while both were studying to be teachers at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. He became a high school biology teacher in Denver, where he taught for 34 years. From its inception in 1975 to its closure in 1988, my father was the director of the Grasslands Institute conducted on the Pawnee National Grasslands, which is located east of Fort Collins. Dad said the Grasslands Institute, which was sponsored by the Audobon Society of Greater Denver, “offered a holistic view of the grassland through the lens of ecology, geology, meteorology, archeology, art, music and the ranching community.” Although my father never ranched, he always has had a passion for the eastern plains where he was born.
Five Generations of Housewearts Ranching on the Same Property
In 1874 in Illinois, Ira and Mary Houseweart (my husband Ira's great-great-grandparents) had a son, Oran Charles. Two years later the family moved to Kansas because great-great-grandfather Ira thought the farm ground was better there. When he was 7, Oran Charles became very ill with asthma, which plagued him throughout his youth. In 1898, doctors told Oran, then 24, he should go to Colorado for his health and survival. He left his family's farm in Kansas, caught a train for Delta, Colorado and then headed for Hotchkiss. Great-grandfather Oran knew farming well and was hired on by several different ranches on Rogers Mesa outside of Hotchkiss. When he became healthy again, he sent a note to Mable Grove, his sweetheart back in Kansas, to come join him. She had been waiting for that letter and soon came out to Colorado. They were married and in 1910 bought a 20 acre piece of ground on Rogers Mesa in 1913. It is this acreage where our house is located. Oran and Mable pulled out fruit trees that were on the place and planted pasture. They milked a herd of cows and had five hundred chickens. The eggs they shipped to Telluride and the cream to Grand Junction.
Oran Charles and Mable had two children, Mary and Oran Grove, who was my Ira's grandfather. Oran Grove (b.1913) loved farming and helping his father. Their family bought 60 more acres adjacent to their original 20 and began keeping their heifer calves and growing their herd. As their herd became too large for the pasture, the family acquired a forest permit for grazing. The permit was located above Paonia, Colorado. Oran Grove's father, Oran Charles, died in 1936. Oran Grove and his mother continued to run the place. In 1940 Oran Grove married Margery Spore of Hotchkiss and brought her home to the ranch.
Oran and Margery had two boys, James and William (my Ira's father.) Jim became a chemical engineer and worked in Globe, Arizona. Bill (b.1943) received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University in Fort Collins in 1967. He returned home after receiving his degree and helped his Dad with the family ranch. He also opened a veterinarian clinic just a half mile from the home ranch. Bill talks about his dad always working hard from early morning to late at night.
In 1977 Bill married Betty Bargsten, a young woman from Willits, California who had been born on a 12,000 acre ranch. Betty was in the Hotchkiss area staying with cousins and working as a vet tech when she met Bill. Together she and Bill grew the Houseweart vet clinic and continued running cows on both the Rogers Mesa property and the forest service permit above Paonia. Bill and Betty had two boys, Ira (b. 1978) and Cody. The boys grew up helping dad and grandad on the ranch and on the grazing permit. In 1994 Bill and Betty decided to reduce the size of their herd and sold their forest service permit and now keep their cows on the ranch.
Ira recognized early in his life he had a passion for metal work. He first learned to work with metal by welding on his family ranch. He graduated from Mesa State College in Grand Junction with a degree in welding and machine manufacturing. Always knowing he wanted to come back to the ranch, he did so in 2002 and opened his blacksmith shop in his grandfather's barn located on the original 20 acres. Ira continued building his business while helping his dad and grandfather on the ranch. He speaks very fondly of driving his then 89 year old grandfather around the fields checking on new calves.
In 2003 Ira married Cynthia Butterfield (b. 1970) and they lived in a cabin on the Allen Ranch in Crawford, Colorado until his grandfather Oran and later his uncle Jim, who lived in the house across from the blacksmith shop, both passed away. It was 2005 when Ira and Cynthia moved into the house on the original Houseweart acreage. From here they continue to grow their herd with cows descending from the original Houseweart herd from 1913!
The fifth generation of Housewearts living on the original piece of property are Ira and Cynthia's two girls Isabelle (b. 2004) and Cecelia (b. 2006.) The girls enjoy collecting eggs from the chicken house, feeding the goat, pigs, horses and turkeys. They love riding with dad in the swather cutting hay in the summer and helping with all the other ranch activities. When mom and dad are busy, Izzi and CeCe hang out with their grandparents in the veterinary clinic. They help walk boarded dogs and even watch surgeries. We have no idea whether the girls will live on the family place when they reach adulthood. But their childhood is filled with the extraordinary history and lore of four generations before them and this may entice them to stay when they grow up.
I went to the Allen Ranch in 1993, the day after graduating from Colorado College with a liberal arts degree in Art History. I wanted to have some adventures before settling down into a career. I had lined up driving a grain truck for a wheat harvest in Kansas, but I still had a month before that started. With the help of my college friend, Amy Allen, I was able to take part in a two day cattle drive on her family ranch. In essence, I never left. I did do the promised Kansas wheat harvest. But my heart was at the ranch and I came back as soon as I could.
Steve and Rachel Allen both grew up as city kids in Denver and met while living and skiing in Crested Butte, Colorado. Steve says Rachel was the best women skier he had ever seen. Crested Butte Ski Resort thought so, too, and named a ski run after her. Rachel says Steve, who was on the ski patrol, was the best skier in Crested Butte. He even starred in a ski movie called Ghost Town Skiers. Steve and Rachel loved living in the small mountain town but wished for a more self sustained life. In 1970 they bought a 60 acre farm in Paonia and began growing all their own food and even worked the land with a team of horses. They farmed in Paonia for seven years. Then they decided that ranching would be a more profitable means of living off the land. They sold the farm and bought a 1,600 acre ranch on Fruitland Mesa, 12 miles from Crawford, Colorado. They bought the ranch in a drought. Steve said the only thing that was green were a few alfalfa plants dotting the fields. Still they could see the potential it held.
Steve and Rachel started with a small herd of cows, learning the profession by reading, watching neighboring ranchers and by trial and error. They improved the original flood irrigation system and over the years have added nine side roll sprinklers. When their herd grew big enough to look for a summer grazing permit, they purchased one for 275 cows on the West Elk Wilderness.
I lived and worked with the Allens for 12 years. Around the time Ira and I had our first child, the cattle market was at a high and they sold their cows and grazing permit. They have switched to a herd of goats for weed control, while still managing the custom grazing of the Princess Beef herd year around.
It was not just the ranching life style that attracted me to the Allens. Perhaps more than anything it was their progressive thinking and their willingness to try new things. Having taken a class in holistic management in the 1980s, Steve and Rachel came to know there was a better way of ranching than what was being taught in the ranch magazines sent free to ranchers by drug and chemical companies. They learned, and later taught me, about setting goals for the future and how to accomplish these goals through planning and monitoring.
I looked up to Rachel early on as a strong willed woman, who was not afraid to jump into any ranch activity where she was needed. She was dealt a nasty hand having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her 30s but she remains one of the most positive people I have ever known. She never complains about the effect of the disease on her life and remains one of my favorite people to hash out ideas for Princess Beef and life in general.
Steve Allen thinks “outside of the box” like no one I know. He stays well informed on what is going on in the ranching community. He never hesitates to try new things when he realizes what is taking place is unsustainable not only environmentally but also socially and economically. Steve is a person who, when finding a passion, learns everything he can about it, masters it and then teaches it to others with patience. He has done this in an amazing wide range of activities including skiing, motorcycle racing, stock dog training, stock handling, holistic management, natural horsemanship and clicker training.
I feel very honored to be able to keep the Princess Beef herd at the Allen Ranch. Some of my happiest moments are spent working cattle with Steve and visiting with Rachel. As many will attest, the Allen Ranch is one of the most exceptional places around and Steve and Rachel two of the most exceptional people.