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Table of Contents

  1. The Estes Park Land Grab - by Davidson Hicks
  2. The 4th Earl of Dunraven - by Mel Busch
  3. Lord Dunraven Controls Estes Park - author unknown
  4. Lord Dunraven - by Bill Lambdin
  5. British Nobleman Tried to Own Estes Park - by Lee Netzler
  6. To Hunt for the Priceless Liquor Cache - author unknown

Click here to see a map showing the locations of Dunraven's buildings


The Estes Park Land Grab
By Davidson Hicks

 In 1874 the Earl of Dunraven decided to obtain the whole of Estes Park for his own. He wished to create a private hunting preserve for the exclusive use and pleasure of his friends and himself. In other words, he wanted to become the 'Earl of Estes.'

How the 33-year-old Englishman, Thomas Wyndham-Quin, Fourth Earl of Dunraven, Viscount of Mount Earl and Adare, Lord Dunraven, would acquire such vast territories in Colorado did not seem to bother him. He was immensely wealthy. He owned lands in Ireland and Wales. He owned a castle, a manor or two, a London townhouse. He had been schooled in Paris and Rome before his education was completed at Oxford. He was a member of the House of Lords of the British Empire. He was a world traveler and well-known newspaper reporter.

Pompous and selfish? Perhaps it seems so, but there is more to it.

Lord Dunraven wanted to preserve the area, then occupied only by Griffith J. Evans and his family. Only a few persons then traveled through Estes Park. Lord Dunraven wanted to keep the area in its natural primitive state.

Once he had made the decision to acquire the land, he moved quickly. He hired Theodore Whyte to get the land. Whyte, an English mining engineer, had been with the Dunraven party on an 1873 trip to Estes Park. Although something of a dandy, Whyte carried all the paraphernalia of an English gentleman with him when he came to the Park. He appeared to be an excellent choice for the job.

The property was under the Homestead Law which allowed only 160 acres to each person.

After conferences with Denver lawyers and with money in hand, Whyte set to work with a passion. Men were needed to file on all land on which there were streams or springs. Then the whole Park could be controlled.

According to early residents of Estes Park - those who would become the familiar thorn in Lord Dunraven's hide - Whyte hired drifters and loafers from Denver's Larimer Street. He hired out-of-work ranch hands. He hired anyone who could mark his "X" or sign his name to homestead records. Some of the entries were said to be false.

Abner Sprague, an early resident and historian of Estes Park, once wrote:  "It would be easy to think up enough names for the required entries.

"A government sub-division was asked for by petition, a certain number of persons wishing to settle on the land being the signers, and paying for the surveys, until final entries were made, then the cost of the work would be allowed as part payment for the land.

"The survey was ordered and the work done in January 1874, asked for by men who had never been in the Park, more likely, by names without owners."

Sprague goes on to say that in May 1874 about 4,000 acres were claimed, and in June and July another 1,000 acres were filed on.

The men doing the filing would, for token payment, hand the land over to Whyte. The payment, it is said, was $50 per man. And Whyte paid $1.25 to the government for each acre.

"Improvements" were required under the law. These were often nothing more than four logs, laid out to form a square and said to be the start of a cabin, the anti-Dunraven forces claimed.

The project was called one of the greatest land thefts in the history of Colorado.

The legal records indicate that some of those anti-Dunraven forces might have been wrong, at least in part. Records show one series of filings, which totaled in excess of 5,000 acres, cost Lord Dunraven $39,000.

Miscellaneous entries, involving some 2,960 additional acres, cost somewhere far in excess of $1,000. The largest of this group, more than 2,600 acres, was transferred for $5. In those days it apparently was proper to leave out the phrase used today: "And other valuable consideration."

"Whyte went about his job in a businesslike manner. The Estes Park Co., Ltd., a corporation organized under the laws of Great Britain doing business in Colorado, was formed.

One deed dated in 1876 transfers property from Frederick G. Cornish to David H. Moffatt Jr., and Theodore Whyte for the benefit of the Estes Park Co. A filing in 1879 transfers the land to the Estes Park Co.

David H. Moffatt Jr., in 1879, when this and other transactions took place, was cashier of the First National Bank of Denver. In 1880 he would become the bank's president.

The following list shows the date, name, selling price and number of acres sold to Theodore Whyte:

       Name                                  Price         Acres

       James B. Harris               $1,500         160
       Wilson H. James               1,800         170.23
       Joseph S. Boyer                   800         160
       John W. Sibley                     900         160
       Lyman B. Hooper             1,200         160
       James Dunn                       1,000         160
       Morris Wilson                      700         160
       Thomas Pogue                   1,000         160
       Andrew Winslow              1,400         160
       Benjamin A. Williams       1,500         160
       Charles Aubry                   1,000         171.64
       Robert S. Rogers               1,200         172.78
       John Goff                          1,500         160
       Menry B. Brown               1,500         160.55
       Thomas C. Carpenter        1,000         169.88
       George Robinson              2,000         160
       Andrew Brown                 1,300         160
       L. Henry                            1,800         160
       Alfred H. Hord                 1,000         172.58
       Charles S. Graham               900         160
       Samuel Sumner                    800         160
       Samual Payton                  2,000         160
       Joseph Putnam                  1,300         160
       James Thorpe                    1,200         170.61
       Villiam Tempest                1,400         170.31
       John V. Dogherty           1,000         160
       William Hains                   1,000         160
       James L. Daly                   1,200         160
       William Kellogg                1,200         160
       George S. Harvey                900         160
       Charles Fowler                     500         160
       Israel Row                            500         160
       Frederick G. Cornish             52         640
       Isaac H. Hilldieth                 500         160
       William Hallick                        --         160
       Griffith J. Evans                  500         160
       F. F. Johnson                           --         80

The Denver Post of Oct. 15, 1916, listed some additional names from U.S. Land Office records. They were James B. Haymen, John Kellogg and Andrew McLaughlin.

Were many of these names fictitious? So many entries for a certain date might make that seem plausible, except that this date is the filing date, not necessarily the same as the date the sale was consummated.

We know that Griffith J. Evans existed. The property listed here, however, was not the Evans ranch where Lord Dunraven stayed on his first visits to the Park. The deed transferring the Evans Ranch to Dunraven was not found. Perhaps it, along with other legal documents which are known to have existed, has disappeared, the victim of historical-record vandals.

On the 1905 Geological Survey map, the Evans Ranch is called the Dunraven Ranch.

We have every reason to believe that F. F. Johnson existed. His deed transfer was made by his attorney, Daniel White of Arapahoe County. Johnson apparently had returned to Woodson, Kan.

Despite his alacrity in acquiring the lands Lord Dunraven required, Whyte and the Estes Park Co. were doomed to failure.

In forming the company, D. H. Moffatt Jr. and Theodore Whyte; were to report to the company in London each six months or oftener if required. According to the records, the company was formed to benefit Lord Dunraven. That wasn't the way it worked out.

By 1880 the Estes Park Co. had the land, in excess of 8,200 acres, .when the figures from the deeds are totaled, and controlled perhaps another 7,000 acres. Still, that was not enough, even though it was the major portion of the land in the Park.

"The overlooking of land by the company in Black Canyon, Willow Park, Wind River region, and Beaver Creek, together with many springs around the Park, gave an opportunity to settlers and the pioneer settlers of Estes Park took advantage of it," Sprague says.

Sprague notes further that the land his family settled upon was left out by the land company because of an error in township numbers. "In their hurry they chose the land in the wrong township."

In working up the map that accompanies this article, it was found that the Estes Park Co. often bought the same land twice. Was this simply an error in figuring? Was it possibly done to settle disputes over property ownership? Or was someone dipping into Lord Dunraven's pocket?

There was a tremendous amount of bookkeeping involved in the land acquisition. Perhaps there were other errors, such as the one Sprague luckily found.

Even as the great land acquisition began, there were those settlers, like Sprague, who planned to make Estes Park their home. They might make things difficult by laying claim to land which Whyte thought he already owned. With all the Dunraven money at hand, it would be simpler to buy them off than to fight in court.

Along this line, there were trades made. The Kellogg claim was questioned by Henry (Buckskin) Farrar. Whyte finally deeded him 40 acres. The Hord claim was questioned by H. W. Ferguson. Since Ferguson owned another piece of property adjacent to the Estes Park Land Co. land, Whyte traded. John Hupp settled on a spot with a spring. This turned out to be the Daly claim. The Hupps moved the next spring to what they thought was a better parcel.

Despite these torments, which Whyte seemed capable of handling peaceably, the Estes Park Co. was becoming an expensive toy for the handsome English lord. He decided it was time to make the property return some of his investment. The preserve idea vanished.

Whyte, acting for the company, registered a brand and put cattle on the land. He used the cattle as a weapon, sometimes running them onto another property owner's land. He erected fences which cut across roads to the homes of the settlers. In many ways he made himself unpopular. Still there were those settlers who, once they got to know him, found out he wasn't such a bad neighbor. Of course he did like to wear his fancy hunting habit and. use the fences for hurdles for his horses, but people can forgive the little idiosyncrasies and Whyte could throw a whale of a party now and again.

Still, Whyte caused enough ruckus that the Denver newspapers became aroused and, eventually, the Larimer County commissioners.

Lord Dunraven, through a flurry of opposition, held his land, making annual visits until the mid-1880's. He could throw parties too. He brought large numbers of relatives and friends to enjoy the hunting. One such group was said to number about 200 young Englishmen.

Lord Dunraven had a lodge built in a small park known as Dunraven Glade on the North Fork of the Big Thompson River, northeast of the present day Estes Park.

A hotel was built near what is now Lake Estes. Albert Bierstadt, a famous German painter, was brought to Estes Park to paint the scene. This painting, a huge canvas, now hangs in the Western Room of the Denver Public Library.

But the settlers, in growing numbers, kept yapping at Lord Dunraven's heels.

Some years later, in his book, "Past Times and Pastimes," he wrote: "We pre-empted and bought land along the water, had a great area of splendid grazing country and we put in cattle...

"Folks were drifting in, prospecting, prospecting, making claims; so we prepared for civilization. Made a better road, bought a sawmill at San Francisco, hauled the machinery in, set it up, felled trees and built a wood hotel, and did pretty well with a Chinese cook. . .

"Neither I nor my chum stayed there long. People came in disputing claims, kicking up rows, exorbitant taxes got into arrears, we were in constant litigation. The show could not be managed from home and we were in danger of being frozen out. . :'

On July 2, 1878, the Larimer County Board of Commissioners met and increased the assessment on cattle of the Estes Park Co. by $2,150. In August they slapped a $500 tax on the sawmill.

A report in the Fort Collins Courier in 1880 showed 26 tracts of Estes Park Co. land up for sale for back taxes. The land was valued at $30,000. The total taxes unpaid amounted to $658.33.

The cattle also posed a problem. This problem belonged to Theodore Whyte. In October 1877 a grand jury indicted Whyte and Griffith Evans on nine counts of brand tampering. One can almost hear the clerk reading­

"The case of the people versus Theodore Whyte and Griffith Evans, Larimer County October term 1877, the grand jury present, that Theodore Whyte and Griffith Evans." on May 1, 1876 did feloniously brand and mark or cause to be branded and marked with a certain brand, not the brand 6f the owner of two certain cows of the value of $20 each and two calves valued at $10 each, the property of one William Miller, farmer. . . with the intent of Whyte and Evans to steal the cattle. . ."

There were other charges brought by Miller, and by Presley Martin, H. W. Ferguson, Abner Sprague, Frank Bordoff and Carl Busnell.

Witnesses, in addition to the accusers, included A. L. McGregor, Henry Rogers and Frank Passons.

By the time the grand jury acted, Griffith Evans was "late of Larimer County." There is no record of a trial or verdict in the case.

The Estes Park Co. cattle, 1,400 head, were put up as security for a $5,000 loan from the City National Bank of Denver in December 1878. The 1.5 per cent per month loan was repaid by mid-February of 1879.

In 1879 Whyte married Lady Maude Ogilvy, sister of Lord Ogilvy who had a ranch at Greeley. Whyte had leased the Dunraven property in 1878. He couldn't make a go of it on his own and finally pulled stakes and headed for England in 1896.

In 1890 the Dunraven lease passed from Whyte to C. Golding Dwyer. Later it went to Frank Borcloff.

Lord Dunraven sold his Estes Park land, some 6,000 acres, in 1907, to B. D. Sanborn of Greeley and F. O. Stanley, inventor of the Stanley Steamer.

It is said that the English lord who wanted to be the Earl of Estes lost more than $200,000 on his gigantic land grab. But, for a dozen years he enjoyed his American adventure. Perhaps it was worth it.

The Author

Dave Hicks, a member of the editorial staff of the Denver Post, is a Posse Member and former sheriff of The Denver Westerners. He was editor of Vol. 27 of The Brand Book. Hicks was a correspondent in the Korean War for Pacific Stars and Stripes. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he worked on Newspapers in Kansas and Iowa before coming to Colorado. A published author, his first three books were stories for children: Angie Meets the Hammer Family, President of the Zoo and Treasure of the Empty House, the last a novel situated in Cripple Creek, Colo.

In 1971, he wrote Englewood From the Beginning, a history of that Denver suburb. In 1975, he wrote, Littleton From the Beginning, telling that city's history. And in 1976, he produced Estes Park From the Beginning, recounting the story of the popular mountain resort. In 1977, he wrote Aurora From the Beginning, another history of a Denver suburb.

Hicks has written several articles for The Brand Book, including "Bully." about Theodore Roosevelt in Colorado; "Wee Waifs in the Wild West," a report on early children's homes and orphanages in the Centennial State; and "Voices From the Deep," a report on mining in Cripple Creek.

He and his wife, Ruth, reside in Denver, and have a son and two daughters. 

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The 4th Earl Of Dunraven
The 1st Earl Of Estes

by Mel Busch
from the Estes Park Area Historical Museum

February 12, 1841, Abraham Lincoln's 32nd birthday, marked the birth of one not quite so dear to the hearts of Estes Park's early settlers as "Honest Abe".  It was in Ireland, between Limerick and Killarney, at Adare in County Limerick that Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin entered the world.

In 1850 the grandfather of young Thomas Wyndham died, and his father inherited a house that had been under construction for twenty years.  It received a title.  The 3rd Earl of Dunraven moved his family into Adare Manor - a house in which one of the rooms was 132 feet long.  Construction continued until 1862, the year Thomas Wyndham, or Lord Adare, came of age.  In 1871 his father died and he became the 4tyh Earl of Dunraven.

In the meantime he had graduated from Christ College, Oxford, was a special correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph in the Abbyssinian war, went with the German army and wrote a series of articles regarding the siege of Paris, was married and made a trip to the United States on his honeymoon in 1869.

After his father died Lord Dunraven crossed the Atlantic again, and Christmas, 1872 found him in Denver where he heard about Estes Park.  On December 27 he was there.  The hunting was superb, the beauty magnificent, the climate invigorating, and the entire area was practically uninhabited.

He retuned in 1873, and in 1874 decided that he should have all of Estes Park as a private hunting preserve exclusively for the use and pleasure of his friends and himself.

After all, hand't he grown up in a house with a 132 foot long room in it?   Didn't he inherit 40,000 acres of land and several homes including Adare Manor, Dunraven Castle at Glamorgan, Kenry House, and a town house in London?

Why shouldn't he use his wealth to preserve this wild and wonderful paradise in the mountains?  He could control its development and protect it from the destruction that would surely come with civilization. He hired Theodrore Whyte to acquire the Park for him.

Men were hired from the streets and bars of Denver, Boulder, Longmont and wherever else to file claims on 160 acre parcels along the waterways of Estes Park.   In attempts to satisfy legal requirements four logs were often laid in a square and called the foundation of a cabin.  Each man hired to turn over his claim to the Earl was paid ten to fifty dollars, and the government was paid $1.25 for each acre.  Conservative estimates are usually stated at 6,000 acres.

In Volume I of his "Past Times and Pastimes", the Earl of Dunraven states, "We pre-empted and bought land along the water, and, commanding the water, had a great area of splendid grazing country, and we put in cattle." He claimed 15,000 acres.

Whyte's men annoyed, intimidated, and discouraged the legitimate homesteaders by driving cattle onto their property, fencing off the roads to their homes, and being generally obnoxious.

From 1874 to the late 1880's the Earl was an annual visitor along with family and friends.  Albert Bierstadt, the artist, was brought in to help choose a location, and in 18784 Dunraven hired John Cleave, a master carpenter from Cornwall, England, to oversee the building of a cottage for himself and a hotel for his guests.  The cottage was complete in 1876 and the hotel in 1877.

More homesteaders came, legal battles ensued with the A.Q. MacGregor, attorney and owner of MacGregor Ranch, in the front lines.  More tourists came, the hunting preserve idea was abandoned, and the cattle venture failed.

Dunraven later wrote, "People came in disputing claims, kicking up rows, exorbitant land taxes got into arrears; we were in constant litigation. …  So we sold for what we could get and cleared, out, and I have never been there since.  …  But I would love to see again the place I knew so well in its primeval state."

After he left tin the 1880's Lord Dunraven served in Lord Salisbury's administration as Undersecretary of the Colonies for Queen Victoria, served in the Boer War, competed for the America's cup in 1893 and 1895 with his yachts Valkyrie II and Valkyrie III, and won the Kings Cup in 1905, 1912, and 1921.  He used his yacht as a hospital ship in World War II.

Unfortunately his yacht Valkyrie II collided with Satanita in the summer of 1894.  It sank in about four minutes with everything on board, including Lord Dunraven's diary.

His 6,000 acres in Estes Park were purchased in 1907 by B.D. Sanborn of Greeley and F.O. Stanley of Estes Park and Newton, Massachusetts.

The English, or Estes Park, Hotel burned on August 4, 1911, but Dunraven Cottage still stands, on private property, just off Fish Creek Road

The 4th Earl of Dunraven died in 1926 at the age of 85. 

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Lord Dunraven Controls Estes Park
author unknown

 The Right Honorable Windham Thomas Wyndham - Quin, Fourth Earl of Dunraven and Mount Earl, at one time owned and controlled practically all of Estes Park. His goal was to make the park his own personal game preserve. Except for the indignation of the early settlers at Lord Dunraven's tactics to secure the land, Estes Park might still remain in the hands of one family.

Born in 1841, Lord Dunraven could trace his origin back to third century Irish King. He was educated at Oxford and became the lieutenant of a crack cavalry regiment. At the age of 26, Dunraven became a war correspondent for a London newspaper, but spent his leisure time hunting wild game around the world.

Lord Dunraven was an author of books ranging in subject matter from hunting, spiritualism, navigation, to the finances of his native Ireland. Among his books are Canadian Nights, Hunting in Yellowstone, and Past Times and Pastimes (the latter covering some of his experiences in Estes Park).

He had heard stories of exceptional hunting in the American West. In 1872, he headed west and arrived in Denver at Christmas time. In a Denver saloon, he listened to a young man describe his hunting experiences in a place called Estes Park. Lord Dunraven immediately began to organize a trip to reach the place. With two of his noble English friends, Dunraven headed up the St. Vrain River in a loaded wagon on the primitive road into the park. The party reached the top of Muggins Gulch and beheld Estes Park on December 27, 1872.

One of Estes Park's pioneer settlers, Griffith Evans, welcomed the Earl and his companions. Evans had discovered it was more lucrative to entertain visitors to Estes Park than to raise cattle. He had constructed some crude cabins around his ranch on Fish Creek. A cabin with two rooms and a fireplace was rented to Lord Dunraven and his friends. Despite below zero weather, the Earl unpacked and immediately went in search of wild animals.

Dunraven found the hunting exceptional with abundant deer, elk, and mountain sheep. Game was plentiful during the winter and spring, while in the summer, it was necessary to know where to look. The climate was also pleasant. The winters included long spells of good weather with intermittent storms. Cool breezes typified the summer evenings making sleeping comfortable.

Hunting had its dangers, however. Dunraven was hunting one July when he ran across a mountain lion. Dunraven was alone, having been separated from the rest of his party. When he saw the lion about to spring from an overhanging rock, Dunraven had just a split second to fire before the animal attacked. The lion was not stopped by the bullet embedded in its stomach. It had Lord Dunraven pinned to the ground about to bite into his throat when another hunter, Dr. Kingsley, came rushing and shot the animal in the nick of time. Dunraven was shaken but got up and remarked, ". . .those mountain lions are blasted nasty things to meet when alone, you know." Lord Dunraven returned to Estes Park in 1873 and again in 1874. Using his personal wealth, he decided to buy the whole park as a private hunting preserve. During his trips to Denver, Dunraven became acquainted with Theodore Whyte, who was also a member of Dunraven's 1873 hunting party. Whyte was hired by the Earl to purchase the land. The object was to file for all the land where there were springs or streams, thus controlling all the available sources of water. In turn, Dunraven could control the entire area.

The land in Estes Park was under the Homestead Act which excluded non-citizens from filing. A citizen, however, could claim 160 acres provided they lived on the land and made improvements. Whyte went about hiring men to make dummy entries on behalf of the Earl, and public officials were paid to remain silent about the matter. The recruits were hired, some for $100, with the understanding that they would relinquish their claims once they obtained title. The U. S. Government was petitioned to survey and subdivide the land, and by May of 1874, around 4,000 acres had been filed on, with another thousand acres added by July.

Part of the Homestead Act required construction of a dwelling on the land. Dunraven and his agents made no real effort to comply with the law, and in some cases, four logs were laid out in a square. In the case of thirty claims, Whyte built a single shed and plowed 1/8 of an acre to satisfy the requirement for all thirty claims.

Lord Dunraven formed the Estes Park Company Limited, and all land was transferred from the names of the claimants to the company. Exactly how much land the Estes Park Company held is not known, but the Earl personally claimed control over 15,000 acres that encompassed nearly all of the accessible land in the park. Much of the land was held, however, without title, and fences were used to define the boundaries Dunraven wished to control.

A lot of money changed hands, and so many people were involved in the sham that it couldn't be kept quiet. A man camping in the park for his health learned of the land swindle and informed the Denver newspapers, thus unleashing a storm of protests against the Earl. In a Grand Jury investigation, thirty of the homestead filings were made under fictitious names and on none of these claims were the necessary improvements made.

When legitimate settlers began arriving in Estes Park, they put a stop to Dunraven's land grab scheme. The new settlers began to challenge the Earl's land titles, and they were successful in taking some of the land back. When the Estes Park Company sold out in 1907, it owned 6,600 acres.

For three decades, Lord Dunraven hunted in Estes Park and regarded it as his own personal property. He did not reside in the park continuously, but visited it each year. He typically brought relatives and friends with him to enjoy the hunting. Dunraven built a lodge on the North Fork of the Big Thompson River in a place now known as Dunraven's Glade. The lodge acted as his base for operations.

On the south side of the park along Fish Creek road, Dunraven constructed a cottage for himself which remains standing today. At great expense, he built a magnificent hotel for his friends and visitors to the park. The hotel was called the Estes Park Hotel or English Hotel and was visited by a number of famous people during the years it remained in operation.

Wild parties thrown by Dunraven were the rule at the English Hotel. Lady Dunraven accompanied her husband to the park on occasion, but the Earl often brought a female companion. At one of Dunraven's parties, the noise was so excessive that it disturbed the other guests, and the manager was obligated to throw Dunraven out of his own hotel!

When the idea of a hunting preserve failed, the Estes Park Company began raising cattle. There was insufficient grazing land and the summer seasons were far too short to keep the cattle fed. His stock business could not pay its expenses. The company, in fact, never paid a dividend. In 1878, approximately 1,400 cattle were reported to be in Estes Park.

Theodore Whyte was told that the Estes Park Company had to be self-supporting, and he resorted to cutting fences and driving the cattle over settler's claims. The settlers, however, continued to encroach on pieces of land held fraudulently by the company. One homestead was located right in the heart of the Earl's property, almost in front of the English Hotel.

Dunraven became disillusioned with his attempt to control Estes Park. After the late 1880's, he did not return to his hunting grounds. It was estimated that he lost between $200,000 and $300,000 in the Estes Park venture. A lake that had been formed by damming Fish Creek in front of the English Hotel was allowed to wash away. The hotel became run down and burned to the ground in 1911. Whyte left the United States for England in 1896. The Dunraven property was sold to B. D. Sanborn and Freelan O. Stanley in 1907, ending a colorful chapter in Estes Park history.

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Lord Dunraven
article in Estes Park Senior Voice
By Bill Lambdin

 Long before Estes Park was discovered by tourists, it was the private playground of a British aristocrat, Lord Dunraven. In fact, at one time he owned Estes Park, and many bottles' of his expensive Irish whiskey may still be buried there.

Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quinn, the 4th Earl of Dunraven, was born in 1841 in County Limerick, Ireland. Educated at Oxford University, he was Queen Victoria's Undersecretary of the Colonies and a battalion commander in the Boer War.

At age 28, he traveled to the United States, the first of many trips he made. In 1871, Civil War General Phillip Sherman gave Dunraven a letter of introduction to U.S. military commanders in the western states. Buffalo Bill Cody was one of the scouts assigned to accompany Dunraven on his western travels.

Dunraven was a handsome young man and, like many aristocrats of the time, enjoyed big-game hunting in the untamed wilds of the West. At Denver in 1872, he heard a hunter describe the abundance of game in Estes Park.

Dunraven went there and fell in love with the place. He wrote: "It was a paradise for hunter and trapper... The air is scented with the sweet smell of the pines... You felt a wild desire to gallop about and shout!" He loved it so much that he was determined to make the entire valley his private hunting grounds. He quickly bought what little land was privately owned and set about homesteading the rest, even though U.S. law did not allow foreigners to homestead land.

He got around the law by paying local men from Denver and other areas to stake homestead claims and deed them to him. He used this scheme to eventually own an estimated 30,000 acres by 1875. 11 was illegal, but he was determined to have this piece of paradise in the Rockies.

He built an English-style hunting lodge for himself, and in 1877 he built a hotel for his British friends and wealthy travelers. Called the Estes Park Hotel it was, at the time, luxurious. It held 50 to 75 guests and offered tennis courts, riding stables, and a billiard hall, dance hall with live orchestras, even a 9-hole golf course located where the present city course is.

To entertain properly, Dunraven brought in wagonloads of fine Irish whiskey and the best liquors. Each fall when the hotel closed for winter, he would bury what liquor was left for use the next summer.

One year he returned and forgot where he had buried the liquor. That was not surprising. Lord Dunraven often consumed more than his share of the stuff.

Historian Henry Pedersen, Jr., says this about the lost liquor:

"For years thereafter, it would prove an interesting pastime both for guests and locals to meander through the grounds in a ruse suggesting casual contemplation of nature, but in reality as one admitted, (they were) 'searching for that damned liquor!'" To this day, no one knows if it was ever found.

Dunraven's wife never accompanied him to Estes Park, but that didn't matter. He had no trouble finding beautiful women to share his appreciation of nature and other things.

But he did have trouble keeping hired help for the hotel's wealthy guests and the hell-raising parties. Managers were expected to somehow maintain a delicate balance between dignity and chaos.

One new manager, who had not met Dunraven, was told to maintain an atmosphere of "pastoral peace" for the guests. That evening, when the party got rowdy, he threw out the noisiest one there - Lord Dunraven.

By the late 1800s, Dunraven's homestead scheme was exposed and he was forced to give up most of his land holdings in Estes Park. He sold part of it to EO. Stanley, who built the Stanley Hotel, and a Greeley businessman named B.D. Sanborn. Dunraven estimated that he lost $300,000 in his attempt to make Estes Park his private domain - a fortune at that time. He left in 1887 and never returned. The hotel burned down in 1911.

Dunraven was still so wealthy, however, that he later donated his private yacht for use as a hospital ship in World War I. He died in Ireland in 1926 at the age of 85.

He lived many years after leaving Estes Park, but he never forgot the beauty of the place that fired his youthful ambition so much that he thought he had to own it. Indeed, the Park must have been a glorious sight when he first saw it. Unspoiled and, untouched. Shining and serene, a magnificent showplace of Nature.

Before his death, Dunraven said:  "I would love to see again the place I  knew so well in its primeval state."

If you want a good book about early Estes Park, get Henry F. Pedersen's "Those Castles of Wood." It is an excellent history (with many photos) of Dunraven's Estes Park Hotel, the MacGregor Ranch, Elkhorn Lodge, Stanley Hotel and other resorts and ranches. 

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British Nobleman Tried to Own Estes Park
Estes Park Senior Voice
May 1992

By Lee Netzler

Two days after Christmas in 1872, Estes Park received a royal British visitor, William Thomas Wyndman-Quinn, the Fourth Earl of Dunraven.

Despite the difficulty of winter travel, Lord Dunraven and his companions were drawn from Denver to Estes Park by reports of excellent hunting available there. The Lord's arrival began a series of events that led p to the legend of buried treasure.

Lord Dunraven was so taken by the abundance of game and the beauty of the park that he returned for an extended stay the following year. In 1874 he returned again, but this time it was more than just a hunting trip. He hired an agent, Thomas Whyte, to secure land for him through both legitimate and fraudulent manipulation of homestead rights and cash purchases. Dunraven intended to have Whyte acquire the whole of the Estes Park area to be reserved as the Lord's private hunting preserve. His efforts succeeded well enough that at one time he controlled about 15,000 acres.

As his holdings increased, Lord Dunraven expanded his venture. A sawmill began operation, and stables, ranch houses, a cottage and a large hotel were constructed. His private retreat was a hunting lodge located along the North Fork of the Big Thompson River, perhaps two miles upstream from the present location of the town of Glen Haven.

Lord Dunraven made arrangements to have the lodge well stocked with wagon loads of his favorite whiskey for himself and his guests. At the end of each hunting season, the whiskey that had not been consumed was buried in a cave near the lodge, to be unearthed the following year.

On at least one occasion, the whiskey buried the previous year was never found. Dunraven was not able to determine whether the servants had drunk it or had forgotten where they buried it.  While Dunraven delighted in his hunting grounds, the atmosphere surrounding him was beginning to sour.

His attempts to acquire the park and to exclude others was strongly resented. By 1880, chiefly because of opposition to his efforts, his enthusiasm was diluted.

When Dunraven left that year, Whyte saw to it that the Earl's remaining whiskey was carefully buried in a cave. A large boulder was rolled in front of the entrance to protect the precious cache. But Lord Dunraven never returned to the lodge. In 1883 Dunraven leased the land to Whyte, the first of several people who held such leases. By the late 1880's Lord Dunraven had set foot in the park for the last time. He finally sold the remainder of his holdings in 1907.

For years, it was said to be a favorite sport of local residents to search for the hidden cache of whiskey, the imperial legacy left by Lord Dunraven. So far, no one has admitted finding it. Somewhere along the North Fork of the Big Thompson River a royal buried treasure may still await discovery.

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To Hunt For the Priceless Liquor Cache Of
The Earl Of Dunraven In Estes Park

 The following story appeared in a Los Angeles, Calif., paper recently and was sent to Mrs. Viola Ryan, who runs the beauty parlor at the Lewston Hotel, by her sister.  Mrs. Ryan in turn presented it to the Trail and it reads as follows:

The spring thaws were the signal this year for a renewal of the treasure hunt which people in the general neighborhood of Dunraven Park, near  the north boundary of Estes Park in Colorado have been pursuing for may years. It is not gold, nor silver, nor oil which the prospectors seek, but "booze." Even fortune hunters in other states have shown their interest this year. The chief of police of a small town in Fulton county, Missouri, has requested permission of the chief of police in Denver to "search for that which the Earl of Dunraven buried in Estes Park.".

Fred Reed, the chief of police in Denver, having no jurisdiction in  Estes Park, referred the matter to the authorities of Larimer County, Colorado , of which the Park is a part, and they have in turn passed the matter over to the Department of the Interior at Washington, since Estes Park is included in the Rocky Mountain National Park and is therefore under federal jurisdiction.

Regardless of the action of the federal department, the search for the buried liquor will go on.

But an interesting question is what will be the disposition of the liquor if found?  Doubtless, in these days, it would b e worth at least several thousand dollars, but will the finder be permitted to keep it, or sell it?  Legally, it would have to be turned over to the United States.  There are many, however, among the searchers who calculate on making a much quicker turnover should they be lucky enough to find the liquid treasure.

It was in 1872 that the Earl of Dunraven, whose name was a talisman in politics, sports, war and literature, came to the Rocky Mountain region then very sparsely populated to hunt wild game.  He engaged as guide one William H. Cody, who subsequently, as Buffalo Bill, scout and showman, became a figure of world wide renown and whose grave is atop Lookout Mountain, just north of Denver, now is visited by thousands of tourists from all parts of the world.

Buffalo Bill led the English nobleman into north central Colorado.  From the crest of a prominence now known as Park Hill, on the North St. Vrain River, the Earl got his first glimpse of the now Estes Park and the panorama unfolded before his eyes cause him to forget, for the moment, the purpose of his trek.

He was so captivated by the splendor of the region that he returned the following year and brought with him some of his British friends.  And the next year he came again, with still others.  Finally, in 1875, he purchased 6.000 acres of ground.  He built what was in that day and region a very pretentious "cottage" and, at a considerable distance, a smaller structure which served as a hunting lodge. 

Each summer he entertained lavishly, counting among his guests not only the English nobility, but leaders in politics, business, and arts in the United States.  His guest list became so large that, ultimately, he erected a three story structure containing 35 rooms and reserved the cottage for himself and his most favored friends.

His mode of entertainment left nothing to be desired.  Great quantities of whisky and other liquors were packed in to the Park by wagon train each summer and when full rolled around and the "party" was over, what remained of the liquor supply was given to trusted servants to bury somewhere in the glade, for resurrection the following summer.

Whether the servants entrusted with the "obsequies" played him false, or whether, as the legend has it, they got drunk in the process and wrongly marked the location of the grave on the map provided for the purpose, is moot.  At any rate, so the story goes, the Earl, returning one summer to his mountain play ground, was unable to locate the liquor buried the previous fall.  Nor did his failure worry him to any considerable extent, for he was rich and the supply was unlimited.

But the story got around among the few settlers on the fringes of the Park and since then three generations have engaged in the quest.  The small town chief of police is the only would-be seeker who has seen fit to ask to have a permit. Perhaps his desire is not so much for the liquor as to test a pet contrivance which he assures Chief Reed has "successfully located" oil, water and minerals in the ground.  His "divining rod" consists, he tells the Denver Chief, of "ten nail kegs set twenty feet apart, with a gallon of pure grain alcohol under one of the kegs."

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