The history of the Ken Caryl area in Jefferson County tells a story of people hunting mammoths and other now-extinct animals from at least 15,000 years ago, according to the Ken-Caryl Ranch …
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The history of the Ken Caryl area in Jefferson County tells a story of people hunting mammoths and other now-extinct animals from at least 15,000 years ago, according to the Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society.
It’s home to historic structures like the John C. Shaffer Barn and the Bradford Perley House — the residence of Robert Boyles Bradford who founded the Bradford Wagon Road — a route in the 1860s that ran from Denver to Leadville and South Park.
The residents documenting the area are making sure its history and archaeological findings are remembered for future generations, and Jefferson County is taking notice.
The Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society, a group of around 20 Ken Caryl residents committed to preserving and sharing the history of the area, has been awarded the Norm and Ethyl Meyer Award from the Jefferson County Historical Commission. The award recognizes individuals and organizations that are active in preserving Jefferson County history.
Jim Antes, chairman of the Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society, pointed to the group’s work to ensure that the John C. Shaffer Barn was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Antes said the group did extensive research on the origins of the barn — a structure described by History Colorado as featuring a rectangular plan, gambrel roof with cupola ridge ventilators and structural clay tile.
Shaffer purchased the property where the barn is for $100,000 in 1914. He owned newspapers like the Rocky Mountain News and helped establish the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. After submitting an application to the state to recognize the John C. Shaffer Barn as a historical site, the Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society learned in July of 2019 that the Keeper of the National Register, a division of the National Park Service, listed the John C. Shaffer Barn on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It’s easy to sort of not notice things all around you that are really significant historically. But we wanted to make sure not only our community knows, but also people around the state know there are historically significant sites that are right here,” said Antes.
Aside from preservation efforts, the Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society carries out archaeological work, led by Jack C. Warner — former president of the Colorado Archaeological Society and archaeologist for the group.
He said Ken Caryl is the second oldest archaeological site along the Denver area. Artifacts like pottery and hide scrappers have been found in the area that were used by the Archaic and Woodland people. Tribes like the Utes were also found in the area as the tribe had an ancient trail that went through part of Ken-Caryl Ranch.
“I want to understand humanity. The people who lived here were human,” said Warner. “They did certain things, and that’s where we all come from. As people, you understand more about the eternal nature of human beings. I believe it’s good to understand the ancient people.”
COVID-19 could change its schedule, but the Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society will be presented with its award during the Jefferson County Historical Society Hall of Fame in October.
“(The Ken-Caryl Ranch Historical Society has) been very, very active in preserving history,” said Jefferson County Historical Commission Chair Lee Katherine Goldstein.
“From my perspective, I think preserving and sharing Jeffco’s history helps build our community. It helps us connect with each other and with our land, and it encourages stewardship,” she added. “It encourages us to protect our resources and our collective story.”
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