The orange line represents Daniels Park Road, and the other colors show the different family properties.
By Joe Gschwendtner
In examining the checkerboard map of Wildcat Mountain homesteaders, an urge springs within to generalize. Many like to draw conclusions to explain what was seen and experienced. By 1900, most of our geography here had been physically taken up and was being used for agriculture, lumbering and grazing. Yet 50 years later, scant history of personal successes remain. Were dreams realized here or not?
Using Daniels Park Road as today’s axis of interest, there was Michael Lackowic and his wife who claimed 160 acres northwest of Sara Bennet and Willis Walker. Were he still ranching today with Holstein cattle, you would see a smokehouse, stable, corral, six-acre field and a house approximating 24 feet by 28 feet. Lackowic was a naturalized citizen who had renounced the Emperor of Austria. Had he still occupied his cabin today, it would likely have been at the intersection of Parkwood and Forest Trails Drive in the City of Castle Pines.
We have talked about Lackowic’s neighbor once before, Willis Walker and Sara Bennet Walker. Their 160-acre Usus Ranche occupied the heights of Northwood Lane in Castle Pines Village and other property straddled hole number three on today’s The Ridge at Castle Pines North golf course. Bennet was a nationally acclaimed naturalist, horticulturalist and inventor, receiving a gold medal for her floral displays at the Chicago Exposition of 1893. Locally, she designed the floral arrangements on Monaco Parkway and for the old Elitch Gardens. Sara also had patented her own decorative fire screen.
Willis was a tinkerer of things with patents to prove it. One was for a better plow harrow, another for a puzzle, which pieces were geometrical and assembled to a perfect square when completed. He also fancied petrified wood, accumulating a sizable collection. As clerk of the Douglas County Court, Willis also drew a bureaucrat’s paycheck.
Southwest of these neighbors, 50-year-old Elizabeth Howe moved in with her four children: two daughters and two sons. She built a four-room house, stable, and a cow and calf shed. Her parcel west of Daniels Park Road was ideal for grazing and also commerce. Howe’s property became subsumed into the Charlford holding and later, into Tweet Kimball’s Cherokee Ranch & Castle. Howe’s access road likely remains as the road to Cherokee Ranch & Castle today.
Directly south was 67-year-old neighbor John Augustus Muller and his wife. Muller was formerly of Germany and naturalized in Pittsburgh in 1852. Due to downhill drainage, his soil was a better quality of black loam, thus allowing Muller to both farm and ranch. Like Howe and as required to homestead, he built a modest cabin having finalized his land patent three years earlier in 1893.
This potpourri of neighbors had perseverance and big ideas. At later stages of their lives all chose boldly to take one final risk on land they could claim for their own. The Walkers were younger, but otherwise only in the size and scope of their ideas. Common to all, was love of the land, endless sky and forest. Like us, it was the dream that lured them here and the reality that could sustain them.