Fall Creek Ranch in Unaweep Canyon one of earliest near Grand Junction

The 3,000-acre Fall Creek Ranch in Unaweep Canyon has a storied history with ties to cattle rustling and the legendary racehorse Seabiscuit.

Although the history of the 3,000-acre Fall Creek Ranch in Unaweep Canyon is colorful, not a lot has been written locally about its original owners. Unaweep, a Ute word signifying “dividing of water,” originally was the province of the Ute Indians, who occupied the area for many years.

In 1882, Charles N. Cox, son of Gen. J.D. Cox, ex-governor of Ohio, was engaged in mining in Rico when the Ute Indians were forced out of western Colorado into Utah. Cox sent two of his employees, Jack Hall and Bob Allison, to the newly opened region in Unaweep Canyon to stake out land for a cattle ranch.

While Hall and Allison were searching for just the right property, Cox began looking for financial partners.

The first person he contacted was longtime friend John S. “General Jack” Casement, who quickly joined in the partnership. “General Jack” had an impressive record of accomplishments. He had directed construction of the transcontinental line for the Union Pacific Railroad. Earlier, he had served in the Civil War as a major in the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and later as a colonel in the 103rd Ohio Regiment. He was commissioned a brigadier general for very distinguished conduct at the battle of Franklin, Tenn.  

A year later, Cox approached Charles A. Otis Sr., who also quickly signed on. Otis Sr., one-time mayor of Cleveland, had accumulated a large fortune as a pioneer in the steel industry. 

General Jack and Otis Sr. bought out Cox in 1892, and their sons, Dan Casement and Charles “Tot” Otis Jr., became joint managers.

Dan Casement had entered law school at Columbia University in 1890 after four years at Princeton University. He was joined by his old friend, Tot Otis, who previously had graduated from Yale, and they became roommates. 

The two young men arrived in Grand Junction with much excitement on July 4, 1891, on their way to work the summer at the Fall Creek Ranch. Dan wrote that when he and Tot arrived they were warmly welcomed in the Windsor, the Senate, the Board of Trade, the Bucket of Blood and similar public houses, in which most of the business and social life of the town centered.

Soon after Dan and Tot settled at the ranch, a college friend, Jerry Black, and his wife, Isabel, joined them.

This group celebrated Christmas 1892 at the Unaweep ranch. They dressed for the occasion, Isabel in a gown from Paris, the men in tails and white ties. They dined on turkey stuffed with chestnuts and drank champagne that had been chilled in a bucket of snow under the table and served in glasses from bars in Grand Junction.

The senior Cox continued to be a community leader and, in 1899, was one of the founders of the Colorado Sugar Manufacturing Co.

Life on the Unaweep ranch apparently progressed smoothly until early January of 1914, when a grand jury was called to investigate county affairs, cattle-stealing and bootlegging.

Tom Smith, who had been the foreman of Fall Creek Ranch for several years — along with John Dowling, Ira Mock, Clyde Shropshire, and George and Ed Gordon — were indicted in the disappearance of several head of cattle from the ranch.

A $3,500 reward offered by the Cattle Owners Protection Association for the conviction of the cattle rustlers produced the witness needed for the indictment.

Smith, Dowling and Mock were tried together. Smith and Dowling were found guilty, but Mock was found innocent of cattle rustling in October 1914.

Shropshire, a local wholesale meat dealer, was tried separately and found guilty. He was tied to the rustling through hides that he had sold to a tanning business in Trinidad.

The Gordon brothers were acquitted because of a hung jury.

Smith served his term in prison and, when he was released, went on to become the trainer for the famed racehorse, Seabiscuit.

Dan Casement admired the quarter horse and was a charter member of the American Quarter Horse Association. In 1926, he was appointed by the secretary of agriculture to review an appraisal of the grazing value of the national forests. His report recommended that fees charged for grazing be related to the prices of livestock.

Through the years, Dan bought out Tot Otis’ interest in the ranch and in 1931 signed over the ranch to his son, Jack, as a wedding present. Jack sold the ranch in 1941 to Jerome Craig. It has changed hands several times in the intervening years.


Kathy Jordan is retired from The Daily Sentinel and involved in many preservation efforts, including the Avalon Theatre, the railroad depot and the North Seventh Street Historic Residential District.

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