Pruden’s Ranch — Early outpost in Eldorado Springs

This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise.

Back in the day when the Interurban tram ran from Denver to the Eldorado Springs resort, the last stop before Eldorado Springs was Pruden’s Ranch. When the line to the resort began operation in 1908, several years after the “Coney Island of the West” opened, the Pruden family had already been there for 24 years.

Since purchasing the property in 1884, Charles and Jennie Pruden had run a ranch and orchard. Jennie produced fruit, butter, honey, and other goods, which she carried by horse-drawn wagon into Boulder and sold. In addition to numerous other endeavors, Charles maintained the all-important ditch that traversed the area heading for Denver. The couple had two children – Seth and Odessa. In between helping with ranch chores, the children attended lessons at a one-room schoolhouse known as the Hawthorne School. (This building was later integrated into someone’s home.)

In 1896, the Pruden house burned down, but this hardy couple built a new ranch house, a building that still stands. In 1902, work began on the Moffat road (a rail line over the mountains). Jennie began running a boarding house and also brought meat, dairy, vegetables, fruit and honey up to the tent camps where workers lived. In 1903, 19-year-old Seth was working as assistant surveyor on the Moffat project and died suddenly one morning as he hiked up the mountain to work. Tragically, it turned out the young man had a heart ailment.

eldorado springs tightrope walker

1909. Eldorado Springs was famous for tightrope walkers. This fellow’s name was Baldwin. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Meanwhile, daughter Odessa married Ted Moore from another Colorado pioneer family. She and Ted took over the Pruden ranch while her parents moved to a tiny nearby settlement on the Moffat rail line known as Plainview. There, Charles wanted to develop another Eldorado Springs-style resort but ultimately was unable to procure funding. They opened the Plainview Post Office and general store, which they ran from 1909 to 1916.

Odessa and Ted’s granddaughter, Cherry Moore, today has a number of diaries kept by Jennie and Charles Pruden, documents that recount many of this pioneer family’s early adventures. One particularly interesting story tells how Odessa and Ted would send their little girl, Katherine, up from the Pruden Ranch to Plainview to spend time with the grandparents. Their horse, Punch, knew the way, so the parents simply put the three-year-old child on the horse and gave it a whap on the rump. Punch then delivered little Katherine to her grandparents up in Plainview and returned home. This route, which followed the Doudy Draw, passed by a rattlesnake pit, which “rattled” poor Punch, so Grandpa Charles finally blew it up.

The other grandchild, Charles Moore (Cherry’s father), became a “key boy” at the Eldorado resort at the ripe old age of ten. (A key boy managed the single key that opened all the lockers.) Later, he became a lifeguard there and, not surprisingly, ended up on the CU swim team as a college student.

Katherine and Charles Moore’s stories can be found in the oral histories collection maintained by the Boulder Historical Society. Cherry Moore hopes to write a book based on their chronicles.

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