Larkspur Historical Society

Ranch Samuel L Johnston Circa ~ 1870

Johnston Ranch

Samuel L. Johnston came to Douglas County in 1870. His first employment in the county was rounding up horses in Greenland where he first lived. He worked a homestead of 160 acres and bought more land over the years until he had just over three thousand acres near Greenland. He raised cattle, some dairy cattle as well as horses, growing potatoes (called early Ohio potatoes) and hay crops; he also cut and put up ice in the winter.

Mr. Johnston married Miss Orie Dakan, of the West Plum Creek Dakan’s in November of 1890. Mrs. Johnston was known for her baking, which was reported to be delicious. Her services, as a baker, were used at times by a hardware man to demonstrate the cook stoves he sold. Mrs. Johnston would bake all kinds of bread for these events.

It was 1900 when Samuel had a new barn built. The Castle Rock Journal of October wrote the following:

“S. L. Johnston of Greenland…is building a barn 90 X 150’,…will use 100,000’ of lumber when complete, and will shelter 150 head of stock.”

It was the following June when it was reported that a Mr. Lindberg painted the new barn as well as other buildings on the Johnston ranch. From other reports by the papers it would seem that Mr. Johnston owned a forest as he was shipping cord wood and lumber to Denver, as well as selling wood to locals such as William Whitehead for the building of an ice house.

After the Johnston children came along and were old enough to go to the high school in Castle Rock, the family bought a home in town. The Johnston’s raised three children, Ross, Gladys and Tom. The house in Castle Rock was on Wilcox and 6th street.

Mr. Johnston was not only a prosperous rancher, but was known as a good debater, as is attested to in this May 1921 Record Journal article, this was one year after Samuel Johnston died.

“The late Samuel Johnston came to my hermitage several times and we had many very interesting talks. He was a great advocate of debating and said that there were a great many ranchmen who could not stand up in a convention and talk intelligently, but if they had attended debates at school they would be ready for a public speech at any time.”

This was from an address of a Mr. H. B. Mosley, who was probably a teacher; as he goes on to speak of Tom Johnston and how Tom won a prize at the Moseley Oratorical Contest.

Johnston during his life also served as a juror and election judge in the county, he was a member of the Odd Fellows and was called as a witness to Colorado Springs in the Prebble case, in 1911.

Since 1960 this ranch has been known as the Ponderosa Retreat & Conference Center on Furrow road.


Part of True Mountain is seen behind the ranch buildings of the Johnston Ranch.


Ponderosa Chapel is a relatively new building on a site which is now a retreat and conference center.

Thanks to the book “Our Heritage the People of Douglas County” and to the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection