The first homestead of the Valley brings to life the pioneer era.
The Cozens Ranch Museum is located along the Fraser River, where Winter Park meets Fraser. This historic home highlights the pioneer culture of the late 1800s. Countless visitors were able to receive shelter and food here – after the arduous journey over Berthoud Pass. The restored buildings are all that remain of a large ranch complex, once covering 700+ acres.
Wednesday through Sunday, 10am-4pm
Pronounced “cousins”, The Cozens homesteaded this land from 1872-1924. William (Billy) and Mary York Cozens built this ranch, which was the first permanent Caucasian American settlement in the high mountain Fraser Valley.
Billy Cozens constructed the homestead in 3 phases: the original two-story house (1872-1874), the stage shop (1874-1876), and the post office (circa 1881) which connected the two buildings. For decades, the Cozens Ranch served as a center for the pioneer community.
William Zane Cozens II
William Zane Cozens II was the descendant of Quaker immigrants. During the Revolutionary War, the Cozens were loyalists – and fled to Canada. Billy’s father was a lawyer in Ontario, where Billy was born in 1830, one of six children.
As a young man, Billy headed West during the Gold Rush – like many others. He landed in the boom town of Central City, where his brothers eventually moved too.
After a successful career as sheriff of Central City, Colorado – recognized for his courage and honesty, William Zane Cozens moved with his family to the Fraser Valley in 1874. Billy Cozens was appointed postmaster of the Fraser Post Office in 1876 and held the post until he died in 1904. Their large house with six bedrooms served as a hotel to weary travelers.
Mary York Cozens
Mary York was born in 1830 in London. Her Irish father, James, was a royal gardener at Windsor Castle. At the age of 10, Mary’s childhood took a turn when her family migrated to America. Her father passed on during the voyage, and her mother shortly after they landed. Mary and her brother became orphans in 1841 and she was forced to work as a servant to support her younger brother and herself.
In 1859, still a servant – and a spinster at 29, Mary joined the McGee family traveling to Colorado. Mr. McGee’s secret intention was to “sell” Mary in the brothels. Horrified, Mary ran away and miraculously encountered the honorable John Gregory in the next camp. This miracle made Mary more devout.
Mr. Gregory, who owned the gold mines in Central City, set Mary up in a small inn where she could house and feed the miners. It was then that Mary met Sheriff Billy, and they married in 1860.
A decade later, determined to start a new life and with 3 children in tow, Mary led the family over the Continental Divide to this mountain paradise.
Much of what we know of the Cozens’ pioneer life is based on the daily diary of 23-year-old Mary Elizabeth Cozens, the older daughter.
Grand County History
For thousands of years, before waves of Europeans headed West looking for gold, Native Americans hunted and set up camp in the high country. Drawn by the abundance of deer, elk, bison, antelope, and bear, the Utes, Arapahos, Sioux, Crows, and Blackfeet peoples traversed from the Great Plains into the Rocky Mountains along high mountain passes, the traces of which are still visible today.
At Berthoud Pass, archaeologists have identified stone tools and camp remains consistent with Native people passing through the area for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The Indian Peaks that embrace Rocky Mountain National Park in Grand County are named for their ancient tribal residents.
French and British fur trappers and mountain men from the early 1800s called the area Middle or Old Park. Unlike the Native peoples, who crossed from east to west – directly over the Rockies, early Europeans traveled along the riverways – heading into Grand County from the southwest.
Grand County was regarded as an island in the Rockies – an isolated paradise of water and game, with no easy or direct access. The main travel routes west bypassed Colorado because of the impassible barricade of the central Rocky Mountains.
Discovery of Berthoud Pass
In May 1861, Edward Berthoud led a survey party out of Golden that included renowned wilderness scout, James Bridger. Berthoud and his backers sought to enrich Colorado with a new route – directly west over the Rocky Mountains to Salt Lake City and beyond to California, where gold was discovered in 1849.
Berthoud’s team set up base camp near Empire, and as they climbed west, they literally stumbled upon the saddle now called Berthoud Pass. They descended into Middle Park and camped along the Grand River (now the Colorado River). A few weeks later, upon their return, the town of Golden gave Captain Berthoud a hero’s welcome.
Immediately, a survey began for a stagecoach road over Berthoud Pass. The route was charted in 1863, and construction of the road began 10 years later in 1874.
Everyone is welcome to try on a costume or two, which was so fun!!
It was said that there were classes of passengers… when the horses came to a steep hill, the driver would shout:
First Class passengers, stay where you are. Second Class passengers, get out and walk. Third Class passengers, get out and push.
From the 1877 Omaha Herald came Hints from the Plains Traveller, which included these tips for riders:
- The best seat inside a stagecoach is the one next to the driver.
- If a team runs away, sit still and take your chances.
- If you jump, 9 times out of 10, you will be hurt.
- Don’t smoke a strong pipe inside, especially in the morning.
- Spit on the leeward side of the coach.
- Don’t swear, nor flop over on your neighbor when sleeping.
- Never attempt to fire a fun or pistol while on the road; it may frighten the team.
- Don’t discuss politics or religion.
- Don’t grease your hair before starting or dust will stick there in sufficient quantities to make a respectable ‘tater’ patch.
Another museum you may like…
The former royal retreat just north of Downtown Honolulu.