Park Valley Ranch
Nickson Brothers Ranch
George Nickson was an early pioneer and homesteader in Douglas County. He came to Colorado Territory in a covered wagon with passengers who wanted him to take them to Boulder. His ranch on Bear Creek started with 160 acres in 1866, with a pre-emption claim. In 1876 George added another 160 acres to the ranch he and wife Sarah called Park Valley Ranch. George and Sarah Paddison married in 1872 and eventually raised ten children, all on the ranch. This ranch was between Dawson Butte and the Rampart Range. Bear Creek and West Plum Creek brought water to the ranch. Their ranch shared boundaries with George Ratcliff’s ranch, Mrs. Ratcliff (Mary), was George Nickson’s sister. Mr. Ratcliff had come to the area in 1861.
George started his ranch raising Texas Longhorns, but in the late 1870s he made a change, as many other ranches had, to shorthorn cattle. One of the oldest brands in the county was George Nickson’s “GN” which was branded on all his cattle. In 1867 George put an irrigation ditch in on his own, by hand, without the aid of a surveyor. It was regarded as a “marvelous piece of engineering.” His first home on the ranch was a traditional log cabin with a dirt roof and floor and only one window on the north side of the cabin.
To give you an idea of Sarah Nickson’s day the following paragraph was taken from the book Douglas County a Historical Journey, by Josephine Marr.
“Washing, baking & cooking, milking, sewing, canning, candle-making, cheese making, rendering lard, making soap, preserving meats, butter-making—all without the modern day conveniences – were a part of her long day which began before sun up & continued into the soft light evening A large family was part & parcel of this work a day routine. Sarah Paddison Nickson gave birth to ten children without the assistance of a doctor; George Robinson’s mother served as the midwife.”
George helped to establish the St. Phillip’s Church and Bear Canon Cemetery in the 1870s. Saint Philip In-The-Field, an Episcopal Church, which sits off the Perry Park Road or Highway 105, is surrounded by the Bear Canyon Cemetery. Many area families invested in the building of this church. Today a growing parish is raising money to expand. George, Sarah and some of their children are buried in Bear Canon Cemetery. George died in November of 1901, the Castle Rock Journal printed this article on his death:
“The news that George Nickson, one of the pioneer settlers in Douglas county, had passed away last Friday was received with genuine grief throughout the county. The funeral occurred at Bear Canon Cemetery on Sunday afternoon and was very largely attended. The deceased was born in England about 1835, and came to this country 40 years ago. He served the South during the war of the Rebellion and immediately after leaving the army he came to Colorado, locating near Perry Park, which point he made his home for the remainder of his days. A very fine property has resulted from his efforts and industry, his ranch buildings being as good as any in the county. Mr. Nickson was never a candidate for public office, but was always a good citizen and good neighbor. He was brother of Mrs. George Ratcliff. A widow four sons and four daughters survive him all of whom have the sincere sympathy of hundreds of friends. Mr. Nickson had been a sufferer from cancer for many years, and since the early summer had been confined to his bed. He was conscious of the approach of death, and he met the end with fortitude worthy of a soldier.”
A large barn was built in 1899 which was 58 X 60 feet and made of peg construction; no nails were used in the building. Native wood was cut for the barn and it was milled at the Old Cantril saw mill which was nearby on Spring Creek. Thirty cows and twelve horses could be kept in the barn. Large rolling doors enabled the family to drive wagons and equipment right into the barn utilizing the large hay loft.
One of the Nickson’s neighbors, the John Kinner family’s, property abutted the Nickson property on the northwest side. At about the time that fencing started to be used tension grew between Mr. Nickson and Mr. Kinner and soon the two had put up their own fences creating a lane called “No Man’s Land” between the two properties. The wives were able to get along regardless of their husbands differences, but the Kinner’s sold out in the 1900s moving to Castle Rock.
George and Sarah had ten children, but it was the brothers Joseph and Andrew who kept the ranch going and growing, finally accumulating 1,800 acres in all. They breed pigs, Polled Hereford bulls and milking Shorthorns. A dairy was operated by Joseph and Andrew for ten years. Crops grown on the property were hay (alfalfa, clover, timothy and June grass), wheat, rye and silage corn, but the main stay for this ranch was in the raising of beef cattle. Choke cherries and wild plums were gathered to make preserves.
Eventually George Nickson, Jr. bought a blacksmith shop in Castle Rock where he made his home. The blacksmith shop was near the corner of Fourth and Jerry Streets. The family home was on Fifth and Elbert, which is now where I-25 goes through town. Other children moved to Louviers, north of Sedalia, and three children moved to California.
Sarah Paddison Nickson died after 1920. She is listed in the U. S. census at the age of 70 years, living on her homestead with sons, Andrew and Joseph.
Sarah and George Nickson.
Barn and cattle on the Nickson ranch.
Andrew Nickson, first child born May 27, 1873.
George Nickson born February 2, 1875.
Mary Nickson born December 22, 1876.
Joseph Nickson, born July 17, 1881.
Annie Nickson, born September 17, 1884.
Sarah Nickson, born September 15, 1889.
Charles Nickson born July 3, 1892.
Front porch of the Nickson house on the ranch in 1906. From left to right is Annie, Mary, Sarah and Lizzie.
Thanks to the book, Douglas County Historical Journey by Josephine Marr; the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection; the United States Census and Mrs. Mullis