Hill family history runs deep

Jon Hill (right), his son Logan, and granddaughter Addy are pictured on the Rangely area ranch that has been in their family for five generations.

Jon Hill (right), his son Logan, and granddaughter Addy are pictured on the Rangely area ranch that has been in their family for five generations.
RANGELY I Rio Blanco County history runs deep, and there is no better evidence of this than the verbal history handed down through generations. Along with the land his family lives on, the ideals of hard work and community service were passed down to Jon Hill of Rangely.
From New Hampshire by way of Texas, Jon’s great-grandfather, Charles P. Hill, came to the Bookcliff Mountains south of Ouray, Uintah County, Utah, in about 1876. He and his brother Frank ran cattle for a Texas outfit and had their own cattle in the area. They also ran a trading post on a fork of Willow Creek (now known as Hill Creek). When the Meeker Massacre occurred in 1879, the years that followed created a shift of land ownership in the area. A Ute reservation was established in the area where the Hill brothers were working.
Frank died shortly thereafter and Charles sold all the cattle in the latter half of 1882. He and six other men headed for Colorado. They wanted to settle somewhere between Douglas Creek and Yellow Creek. They came from Vernal on the path that is now Highway 40 and came down Wolf Creek, then turned back down the White River to the mouth of Douglas Creek, arriving on Nov. 7. Ten days later the river froze over and they were able to skid logs across to build their houses.
The next spring Charles, aka C.P, set up a trading post and helped build the Douglas Pass Road for freight wagons, as the route was better then hauling goods from Salt Lake City or Rock Springs, Wyo. C.P. reentered the cattle business, wintering his cattle in Rangely and summering them in Park Canyon. By 1889, he decided Rangely was too cold for the cattle and drove them to what is now Baxter Pass for the summer and into Park Canyon for the winter. That fall, the cattle were on Bitter Creek when it was time to move so they went straight there the next year.
“Today we still trail back and forth from Park Canyon to Baxter Pass and on to Bitter Creek,” John said. “In the fall they go northwest into Utah and back across the park, with half the winter range in Utah.”
C.P. was a progressive man, serving as the first mayor and postmaster of Rangely. In fact, he was so well thought of, some settlers came to him and asked him to get a schoolteacher for the area. He wrote back East and hired Caroline Elvira Blakeslee. She was an orphan from Massachusetts who dreamed of having a homestead in the west. She rode the train from Massachusetts to Rifle in 1888 and then took a stagecoach to Fruita. From there she got on one of C.P.’s freight wagons and made the five-day trip to Rangely.
In 1889, C.P. took her to Meeker to file for her homestead and that day the two decided to get married before returning to Rangely. They began building their ranch together upon their return. They had two sons: Charles, who suffered through a mustard gas attack in the trenches of France in WWI and didn’t live long after his return home, and Don, Jon Hill’s grandfather.
Don had to work hard to keep the ranch alive during the Great Depression, when a cow was worth $10, a horse worth $30 and a wolf or lion worth $50. Don hunted these predators in the winter to make ends meet. Don joined Ferry Carpenter to convince Congressman Ed Taylor to write the Taylor Grazing Act and served on the first advisory board. They helped determine who was able to own a grazing permit on BLM land. Don’s wife, Julia Herriott, moved from Kremmling to Vernal, Utah, with her family when she was young. She was teaching school in Watson, Utah, on the Uintah Railroad when she and Don met. They had two sons. Dick was killed in a car wreck coming home on leave from the Army during the Korean War, and Harry, Jon’s father. Don and Julia expanded the family ranch into Utah.
Harry married Melba Ellen Chew from Jensen, Utah. Her grandfather homesteaded in Browns Park in the 1890s. Her father bought the ranch that is still in the Chew family today. Jon was the oldest of their children. He has two sisters: Kathy (Bruce) Nay of Norwood, and Kristy (Scott) Wall of Jensen.
Jon still lives on the family ranch he began running himself in 1975. He was named to the Uintah County Cattlemen’s Association board of directors in 1974 and served on it until approximately 1990. He was elected to the board of directors of the Utah Cattlemen’s Association in 1978, serving as president of the board at one time remaining on the board until approximately 1990. He was named the first president of the Columbine Park Board in approximately 1980 and was on the RBC Planning Commission for nine years, serving as chairman in the early 2000s. He was a grazing representative on the BLM Northwest Advisory Council for nine years and was on the Rio Blanco Stockgrowers board of directors in 1996 and is the immediate past president. He is currently a Northwest Quarter Representative for the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.
Jon married Fran Young in 1982. Fran’s grandfather, Bill Young, built a ranch in southeast Utah by roping wild cattle for the Scourp Ranch. Her father Harold was a Marine DUKW (amphibious vehicle) driver in WWII with the assault troops on Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa, Japan. Fran is also very active in the area as president-elect for the Colorado Cattlewomen’s Association and has served on the Uintah County Cattlewomen’s Board, and the Utah Cattlewomen’s Board.
Jon and Fran have three boys. Tim and his wife Carrie have three boys and live in Oklahoma City. Jake and his wife Brenda have two girls and live in Mack, Colo. Logan and his wife Jen have two daughters and a son on the way and live on the ranch near Rangely.
Following in the family’s footsteps, Jon’s youngest son is now serving on the RBC Planning Commission, is on the Rio Blanco Stockgrowers board and serves as Precinct 1 chairman for the Republican Party. His wife Jen is on the Rangely School Board.
The longevity of the family ranch speaks for itself. Though the ranch has had its ups and downs, it has survived just as the Hill name has survived. The ranch is currently 27 miles long and 15 miles wide and runs an 800-head year long BLM grazing permit. The history of the ranch is as impressive as its size, and it looks to continue beyond its fifth generation under the Hill family name.