Holding their ground: Burke pioneers

Twins Dean and Dale Burke have lived on the Piceance Creek ranch their grandfather bought in 1886 all their lives, except for two years they served in the military

Twins Dean and Dale Burke have lived on the Piceance Creek ranch their grandfather bought in 1886 all their lives, except for two years they served in the military
RBC I National twin day was Wednesday, Jan. 19. Our county has two men who truly epitomize the concept of family loyalty and hard work. Dean and Dale Burke live on the ranch their grandfather bought in 1886. The original 160 acres remains in the Burke name, a name frequently associated with hard work and integrity.
The twins’ grandparents, James and Mary Burke, owned the Silver Dollar Saloon in Leadville. They sold the saloon and trailed their cattle to Piceance Creek. Dean and Dale told a story about their grandfather’s trip: “He brought the gold with him in his saddle bags, when he stopped he just left the gold in the bags in the barn.” When he arrived at the ranch he bought the 160 acres now occupied by the fifth generation of Burkes.
James and Mary Burke had Fred, Richard, James and Thomas. Thomas lived on the Burke ranch for a big part of his life, along with Fred, who married Annie Jones. A news article printed at that time named Jones as the first white child to be born in Rio Blanco County. It was later discovered she was the second by a few months.
Fred and Annie devoted their lives to the Burke ranch and their family. The two had 15 children: James Burns, Mary Alice, Anna Margaret, Richard F., Thomas Owen, David (Casey), Winnie, Freddie, Claire, Nancy Lee, Nettie Faye, Dean, Dale, Lex and Pat.
Dale said his dad remembered when the Indians camped across from their house on the mesa as the trail they used to travel to the Utah desert for the winter went right along their land. Fred and Annie lived in the house Dean and Fern still live in today, and Dean and Dale remember the carpenter, named Palsen, who put on a new roof after they took the old dirt one off.
“He whistled and ran the handsaw all day long.” Their dad made two trips to town a year with a wagon and a team of horses. He would get as many supplies as he could to last the family through summer or winter until the next trip could be made.
On one occasion, “Claire got to go to town with dad. When they got there a man gave her a paper sack of candy and she was so nervous she kept twisting that bag and it broke‚“ spilling all her candy, Dean said.
The 15 children went to school in the “Burke School House” just down from their home. When it was no longer used, it was moved next to the Burke house and the older boys lived in it. They talked about the quiet that used to be on Piceance Creek. There would only be one car that went by and it belonged to “Old Man Sheer,” manager of the Square S ranch.
The two boys “had never been off the creek and then went to France, England, Spain and Germany” during their two years of military service. Dean said it was “beautiful, and the winter was like fall here‚“ but he was certainly glad to be home when it was over.
“If he could have swam that far he might have been home‚“ Dale said. The two boys traveled together and were only apart about two weeks when Dale broke his arm.
In their 83 years (this April) Dean and Dale have witnessed many changes. They spoke of the wild horses that they had “run a little,” and the dances held every other week at the Rock School.
“You know, people just don’t visit anymore,” Dale said. It used to be common to sit down and talk with your neighbors. Perhaps the biggest change is all the activity involved with natural gas. The twins talked about owning one of very few ranches left on the creek that remains unsold in its entirety.
These two men were born to a true pioneer, known for his friendliness, his willingness to help and always exercising his right to vote. It is obvious those qualities are passed down through generations. Dean and Dale are polite, funny, positive and so obviously loyal to their families. They had a spark in their eyes when they spoke of their kids, and family pictures cover the walls of their home. Their family has changed over time, but the foundation it was built on rings true through generations. Just as their ranch has remained as it was in 1886, so do the values the Burke name represents.