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SILT — The nation’s second oldest Forest Service ranger station, 15 miles south of Silt, is being restored with the help of a small group of very dedicated people.
The Cayton Guard Station was built in 1910 by Forest Ranger James Cayton and his wife Birdie. When the three-room cabin was finished its cost was $731.01, according to meticulous records found in a trunk full of memorabilia Birdie Cayton donated to the Forest Service in her later years. The Ranger Station, near Divide Creek, served as base from which Jim Cayton carried out his mission as a steward of the White River National Forest.
The Caytons and subsequent forest rangers lived in the cabin until the mid-1940s. After that, it was used only occasionally by seasonal Forest Service workers and for local picnics. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
Its most recent residents were packrats, according to Andrea Brogan, Forest Service archaeologist. The packrat nests have been removed and a lot of other work accomplished in the past couple of years, due to the efforts of Brogan, retired district rangers Michael Herth and Dave Silvias, and the Cayton Ranger Station Foundation (CRSF), a non-profit group dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the building and its history.
“Restoring the cabin takes us back to why the Forest Service is here — as stewards of the land and serving the people so that we’ll always have public places that provide rangelands, timber, water and a place for people to get away and enjoy nature.”
“We originally thought it would cost about $80,000 to restore the building,” said Alan Lambert, president of CRSF, who herded cattle by the cabin when he worked for Rosemary Patterson, CRFS board member and long-time rancher with a grazing allotment in the area.
“But as we got into the project, we discovered the floor had to be removed, some logs replaced, and the prices of goods and services have really increased since our original estimate a few years ago. It’s probably going to cost twice as much to finish it.” Lambert added that the foundation really appreciates the several companies and individuals who have contributed money and in-kind services to the project.
David Cayton, the grand-nephew of Jim and Birdie, is treasurer of CRFS and actively pursuing the completion of the project. “This cabin, along with Jim’s diaries and Birdie’s memorabilia, are a true pearl in Colorado history, and the history of our nation,” Cayton said.
A major accomplishment this summer was pouring a cement foundation, for which CRFS vice president Dean Filiss, Divide Creek Builders, donated his company’s time and expertise. The porches were removed and the building jacked up to put in the foundation. The porches will be put back on and the roof will be replaced by Mullinax Roofing. A new floor will be put in, chinking repaired, and various original shelving will be hung back up. The original Majestic wood cookstove will be put back in the center of the cabin where it resided for almost 100 years.
“When this is all done, we plan to rent it to the public nightly or weekly so people can enjoy it and learn about the history of the area through experience and interpretive displays,”said Brogan. “If you want to keep a place alive, it has to be lived in and taken care of.”
The Cayton Ranger Station Foundation is accepting donations to help complete the work and provide matching funds for grants. Please send donations to: Cayton Ranger Station Foundation, P.O. Box 1898, Rifle, CO 81650, or call Alan Lambert at (970) 625-9558.