Cheese Ranch (The Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch)

The Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch

1879 – 1943

Area Location:  Highlands Ranch Northeast East Corner

The Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch is among the earliest properties to be established in what today is known as the northeast section of Highlands Ranch.   The land was purchased for $700 in 1879 by Austrian immigrants and brothers-in-law Plaziduo (or Plagiqos per his grave headstone) Gassner and Johann Welte.  

The ranch started out as a modest 160 acres, which was originally homesteaded by Lafayette Suits as early as 1874,  and eventually  became a large sprawling 3300 acre compound, which enjoyed much success and fame in the area for its delicious cheese, well-run dairy farm operations, as well as the hospitality and frequent large parties and events.

The dairy ranch was widely known  for its production of butter, full cream brick cheese and limburger cheese.  The ranch was also recognized by the magazine Scientific Farmer  in 1906 for its innovative dry land farming techniques, large and immaculate outbuildings, varied crops (including wertzl, alfalfa, corn)  and orchard.  

 

Johann and Theresia Welte and their daughter Emily lived at the Ranch, as did Plaziduo Gassner and his wife Mary and their two daughters.   Theresia and Mary were sisters.   Gassner died in 1889, and the ranch continued to prosper with Welte managing operations. Mary Gassner sold her portion to Johann Welte in 1905.  The Weltes had two additional daughters, Ida and Mary.  Various laborers and servants lived there as well.  The Welte and Gassner families were enhanced by the 1900 marriage of Welte’s daughter Ida, to Phillip Renner, with Renner eventually becoming the primary face of the business side of the ranch, having purchased the farm from Welte in 1910. 

The Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch included a large 2 story farmhouse with full basement, 4 brick chimneys and modest gingerbread adornment on the eaves.  It was built circa 1880-1890, and had an addition in 1940.  Other buildings included a spacious barn, slaughterhouse, chicken coop, cheese production area, blacksmith shed, bunkhouse, small pond and windmill, as well as extensive gardens, orchard, and animal pastures.  The property was nestled along the western bank of the Big Dry Creek.  Boundaries were roughly today’s County Line Rd, Quebec, Mc Arthur Ranch Road, and Colorado Blvd (then the Territorial Road).

Like so many other area farms and ranches, the Depression years took a toll, as did the age of Welte and family. The Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch ceased production around 1938 and was eventually sold to then-Mansion owner Lawrence Phipps in 1943.  Many family members of the Weltes, Gassners, and Renners are buried in Littleton Cemetery.  Theresia Welte died in 1920.  Johann Welte died in 1927. 

 

During the Phipps ownership, the ranch buildings and property were used by the Phipps Ranch hands, who referred to the general  northeast area as the East Ranch and used the corrals for cattle branding.   Acquired by Mission Viejo Company as part of the sale of Highlands Ranch in 1978,  by then the Big Dry Creek Ranch had fallen into disrepair and had become a target of vandalism. 

The house and buildings were eventually torn down and removed, so that today the only thing remaining is the land and the memories of cheese and happy days gone by.   The Cheese Ranch Historic Park is now operated as a Neighborhood Park by the Highlands Ranch Metro District.  The Park consists of a lovely concrete and dirt walking path winding along and near the Big Dry Creek, as well as community gardens, large replica windmill, the original small fishing pond, and interpretive signs.  The Park address is 9193 Sugarstone Cir. 

Additionally there is a Big Dry Creek Park just a bit south of the CHEESE Park.  Address: 9898 Atherton Way, and this is also operated as a Neighborhood Park by the Highlands Ranch Metro District. Amenitites include

Basketball Court(s)   BBQ Grills    Drinking Fountain(s)     Picnic Tables    Playground   Restrooms    Sand Play Area    Shelter/Pavilion

Sports Field(s)    Water Features

Documents of Researched Data:

An Historical, Architectural, and Archeological Study of the Big Dry Creek Cheese Ranch,

by Richard F. Carrillo 1986

Douglas County Libraries, Archives and Local History, Biographical Files

Littleton Museum, Littleton CO

Highlands Ranch Metropolitan District

Cheese Ranch Program: Families, Farming and Fermentation

This video is about 2017 Cheese Ranch Program was collected on September 25, 2017 by the Highlands Ranch Historical Society in the course of their historical documentation of the Highlands Ranch area.

Filmed on Location at the Cheese Ranch

HRHS: Videographer: Mark Stevenson, Project Directors for the Highlands Ranch Oral History Project

Click HERE to access the video