Grigs Ranch aka Pine Tree Ranch History

Pine Tree Ranch

The Story of the Underwood-Grigs Homestead


Area Location- HRCA Backcountry, East of and bordering Grigs Rd.

 Commonly known today as the Grigs Homestead, the 480-acre homestead property is located on the southeastern side of the Highlands Ranch Backcountry Wilderness of Douglas County, comprising all except the northwest quarter of section 30, range 67W, township 6S, southwest of Wildcat Mountain.  The original 160-acre homestead act filing (enclosed in red dashes on the map of the Pine Tree Ranch plats graphic) was made by William Underwood in 1871, the same year he married Lorinda Palmer.  Lorinda, born in Ashtabula County, Ohio on April 16, 1848, moved to Wisconsin with her family in 1854 and, in 1968, migrated with her family to Colorado.  Shortly after the family’s arrival in Colorado, Lorinda began teaching at the first school in Littleton and did so until 1871 when she married William J. Underwood. Lorinda and William lived for seven years in the house that Underwood built in 1871 on the 160-acre homestead property.

The marriage of William and Lorinda Underwood produced three children, Emma (September 18, 1871), Martha “Mattie” Pearl (August 16, 1876) and William Jr. “Willie” who died during infancy.  The marriage dissolved after “Willie’s” death when Lorinda filed for divorce which was decreed as final on October 3, 1878.  On December 13, 1878, Lorinda married Layfette Grigs, the son of neighboring homesteaders John W. and Ann E. Grigs, who had settled in the northwestern area of the Backcountry Wildness area after migrating the family from Missouri.

Layfette Grigs was fifteen years old when the Grigs family moved to Colorado in 1864.  1864 was a time of heavy gold mining growth in the Central City and Black Hawk areas of Gilpin County.  “Lafe,” as he was known by his friends and family, went to work as a cowpuncher helping to supply beef to the hungry miners and Central City residents.  Lafe was good with livestock and found the work quite satisfying, seeding in Lafe’s mind that someday he would start his own ranch.  After his cow-wrangling days in Gilpin County, Lafe spent some time in the 1870s as a contemporary of William F. Cody (“Buffalo Bill”), working at supplying buffalo meat to the Kansas Pacific Railroad for the railroad’s track building workers.  At the completion of his wild buffalo work with the railroad, Lafe served for a short time as the government agent for the Southern Mountain Utes, after which deciding it was time start a homestead of his own. 


Lafe had known Lorinda from the Palmers living in the Wildcat Mountain area, and after Lorinda’s divorce, Lorinda and Lafe decided to marry and live on the Underwood homestead that was now Lorinda’s after the divorce.  They named their property the Pine Tree Ranch.  In 1891, Lorinda transferred the Underwood homestead listing to Lafe’s name, and in 1892, Lafe purchased an adjacent, additional quarter section of land from the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe railroad (enclosed in purple dashes on the Pine Tree Ranch plats graphic).  In 1911, Lafe and Lorinda added the final 160 acres to the ranch using the claiming rights of the Homestead Timber Act (enclosed in green dashes on the Pine Tree Ranch plats graphic), thus achieving the total 480-acre land area of the Pine Tree Ranch property.


Layfette and Lorinda had two children; born at Pine Tree Ranch: Lillie May, born on December 2, 1882 and Edgar Walter on August 8, 1891.  Growing up on the ranch was filled with fun as well as a lot of work helping with daily chores associated with operating a cattle ranch and a sizable milking dairy cow operation.  Both children attended school in a one room schoolhouse located at the northwest corner of the ranch.  Lillie became an active pony racer at the Douglas County Fair early in her teenage years and Edgar loved school when he was not milking and helping out with the dairy work on the ranch.  Lillie left home for marriage to Arthur Hosack, a brakeman for the Moffat Railroad when she was in her late teens.  Lillie’s husband was killed in 1910 by a runaway train and she later remarried Mathew Davis.  Lillie died on November 1, 1953. 


After a couple of years in the one room school, Edgar went to Denver public schools and graduated with a diploma from West High School.  Edgar taught school at the German-speaking school in Lake Gulch before doing a short hitch in World War I.  After the war, Edgar taught in Palmer Lake and Elbert County and began building a stellar life in education, receiving a master’s degree in education from New York’s Columbia University in 1932 and returning to Denver to teach in South High School until his retirement in 1944.  After his retirement, Edgar finished his career in education by teaching at Colorado University for six years.


The Layfette cattle ranch was a broad livestock operation.  The beef cattle portion of the operation was primarily nurtured by native grasses on an open range grazing in what is now the eastern side of Backcountry Wilderness area.  The Grigs’ shorthorn beef cattle herd generally averaged between two to four dozen head.  Lafe also had a couple of “sideline” businesses, that, workwise, took most of his time of the ranch’s operation.  The main “sideline” business was a milking dairy business consisting of 50 to 80 cows!  Keeping-up with the milking and the hauling of cream by wagon to Sedalia for rail shipment to Denver was almost a fulltime job for both Lafe and son Edgar.  Although jokingly referenced by Lafe as a “sideline,” the dairy operation supplied a steady cash flow for the family.  Lafe’s second “sideline” focus was wild mustangs that he kept in the corral north of the house.  The size of the mustang remuda varied over time between 40 and 80 horses.  Lafe trained most of the mustangs as wagon horses for both the family’s use and for selling by either individual request or public auction.

The structures on the property consisted of the five-room house, a milking barn, a couple of lean-to storage sheds for hay, grain and tack, a silo and a shallow-well windmill …the latter because several springs were prevalent throughout and adjacent to the ranch property.  Remnants of the house and corral plus the silo foundation ring are the only items on the site currently remaining.  The proximity of structures graphic is not to scale or geographically exact but prepared from the musings of William Edward Grigs, grandson of Layfette Grigs.

The Underwood-Grigs homestead house was lived in continuously from 1871 through 1924.  None of the descending offspring of Layfette and Lorinda had an interest in taking over the Grigs ranching operation; consequently, Lafe and Lorinda sold the ranch to Waite Phipps in 1924 and moved to Denver, ending 46 years of living in their Pine Tree Ranch home.  Layfette and Lorinda moved to their new Denver home at 213 Barnard Block (northeast corner of west 8th Avenue and south 11th Street) where they lived until their respective deaths, July 17, 1930, and May 21, 1931.


NOW photos of the property:

The property is located in the Back Country portion of Highlands Ranch.  It is not accessible to the general public; it is only visited on special occasions when escorted to the grounds by Back Country staff.  There are no current plans for the structures.







And the remnants of the clay tile silo

Norma Grigs, wife of William Grigs, Grandson of Lafayette and Lorinda Grigs, takes a trip down memory lane while visiting the Grigs property in 2015.

Click HERE(link is external) for the HR Herald article

Written by Larry Schlupp, Historic Douglas County, Inc.January 2021                                                                                                                    

Reference Notes: The reference notes data below are not intended as part of the Pine Tree Ranch story; they are provided only to indicate from where the story information was sourced:

Documents of Researched Data:

BLM GLO Records, is external)

Grigs, William E., The Grigs Family, Our Heritage, People of Douglas County, Douglas County Historical Book Committee, Susan Meyer, Chairperson, pages 100-103.

Castle Rock Journal (1880 – 1900), Colorado Historic Newspapers

Record Journal (1922 - 1931), Colorado Historic Newspapers

Douglas County Libraries, Archives and Local History, Biographical Files

Colorado Brand Books (No registered cattle brand was found for William Underwood, John Grigs or Lafayette Grigs)

NOTE:  In recorded documents, the surname of Grigs is spelled as both “Grigs” and “Griggs.”  Based upon census and archived records of schools and writings of William Edward Grigs, the correct spelling of the surname is “Grigs.”

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NOTE:  In recorded documents, the surname of Grigs is spelled as both “Grigs” and “Griggs.”  Based upon census and archived records of schools and writings of William Edward Grigs, the correct spelling of the surname is “Grigs.”