K Bar T has colorful past
From the homesteaded land, families, schools and stories above where the river forks to the north and south, down the valley to ranches that have been in the same family for more than 100 years, the area holds strong to tradition and tales handed down through the years.
Take the beautiful K Bar T Ranch just a few miles east of Meeker for example. It began with a story as unique as the man who partnered to homestead it, Thomas Kilduff, having passed on his name four generations to local well-known veteran Tom Kilduff.
The story was told in The Denver Daily Record Stockman in 1939, and certainly worth a retell.
The K Bar T Ranch was developed because of money owed for a barrel of whiskey. The story begins in 1879, when two brothers, Isaac “Ike” and Adolf Baer moved to the town of Leadville to seek their fortune during the silver boom. They went into the saloon business and eventually got into the retail and wholesale business.
Tom Kilduff was a customer of theirs and he had a saloon and hotel in nearby Kokomo. In the spring of 1884, Tom’s saloon burned to the ground. He did not know how he would pay the Baer brothers the $2,000 he owed them.
After discussion, they decided that Tom would go to Meeker and take up a ranch there. The Baer brothers would “grubstake him” and he would work the land as a partner and pay off his debt.
They all decided that Meeker was the best area as the Meeker Massacre had happened approximately five years previously, the Ute Indians had been driven west and the government had opened the land for settlers. The attraction was great for fortune seekers like these.
Tom settled on the original 160 acres. He cleared the sage brush, dug ditches, built a shack and put in crops.
Ike visited after a year and decided they needed livestock on the ranch. They tried horses first, but were much more successful with cattle. They bought their first bunch of steers from Mexico. When they got them to their ranch, they needed a brand and applied for K Bar T because it could be put on the cattle with a straight iron.
The ranch expanded and the large number of cattle demanded more land. They acquired 1,500 acres of hay meadow surrounding the original 160 acres. They continued to buy steers each spring and built their herd to an impressive 7,000 at one time.
They ran into problems after expanding. The new law limiting homesteads to 320 acres found the land surrounding their ranch occupied with dry farmers and they did not have enough room for their herd.
The the national forests opened up permits for grazing.
The Baer Brothers and Cattle Co. was granted a permit, but the partners substantially decreased their numbers. In 1913 Tom decided to sell his portion of the ranch to Ike Baer for $40,000. He paid the whiskey debt and retired.
In 1914, Adolf Baer passed away and Ike and his son continued to run the ranch.
In 1919 the ranch was sold to Edgar Manaugh, however, the Depression years were hard on everyone and he had to turn the ranch back in 1924.
The ranch returned to the Isaac Baer family. He died in 1920, but his heirs ran the ranch for some years following. It has had different owners through the years, but the hay production and beauty of the place remains the same.
Today, the ranch is still known as the K Bar T. It is used for its hay, it is winter feed ground for cattle and is renowned for its fishing.
The bed and breakfast offers a unique experience with tremendous history, all beginning with a barrel of whiskey and continuing with a family connection through Tom Kilduff, who still lives in Meeker.
This is just one example of our county holding strong to little treasures and keeping the history alive.