Cozens Ranch House | Fraser Colorado Museum
The history of Grand County is rich with exploration and hardship from combatting the fierce conditions of the new frontier in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. After the Berthoud Pass was discovered in the late 19th century, travel to Grand County was more plausible. Travel was possible but still very difficult, and travelers needed a place to get supplies and food.
The Cozens Ranch House is located along highway 40 in between Fraser and Winter Park, next door to Rendezvous Discovery Center. You can see it from the road and it’s easy to access from just about anywhere in Grand County. Without a closer look, the house looks small and unassuming. However, turn off the highway and get a tour, and you’ll soon experience the history of this beautiful 11 room house. I got a personal tour and spent my own time after the tour taking pictures and investigating all the history in that simple house. The house is the only structure left standing from the Cozens Ranch, figuring into its reputation of durability and well preserved history.
William Cozens, former sheriff of Central City, moved to the Fraser Valley after his wife, Mary York, insisted that they leave the wild mining town. Mary York Cozen must have been enticed by the open air and relative tranquility in comparison to lawless mining towns. The couple married late for the time, 30 years old, and made the trek over Corona/Rollins Pass.
The Cozens Ranch House became the first homestead in the Fraser Valley after William Cozen and his family arrived. It’s interesting to see how quickly the valley developed after being homesteaded so late. It’s also important to note that Mary Cozens was born in Ireland while William Cozens was born in Canada. Some of the earliest explorers of one of America’s great frontiers were immigrants into the U.S. It’s clear the Cozens had been exploring their whole lives.
Between 1874 and 1881, structures were fully completed which provided a family residence, a small hotel, a stage stop, dining room and the first Fraser Valley Post Office. One of the first buildings built in addition to the house was the stagecoach stop in 1876. After the opening of the Berthoud Pass, stagecoaches traveling over the pass needed a place to stop, and William Cozens saw an opportunity to make more money off of room and board for his family. Also in 1876, William Cozens is appointed the first U.S. Post Master in the Fraser Valley, one week before Colorado becomes the 38th state.
As frontiersmen traveled from Georgetown to Hot Sulphur Springs, the Cozens Ranch House was the first stage stop on the west side of the Berthoud Pass. Travelers were treated to a warm bed and hot meal, prepared by Mary York Cozens and her daughters. The Cozens had three kids, a son and two daughters. However, none of the kids married. The Fraser Valley, at the time, was fairly desolate and lacking potential partners. As a result, the Cozens had no one to hand their busy ranch down to.
Their kids were still active, though. Their son, Will, became “Justice of the Peace” and conducted court proceedings and community meetings from the ranch. Later, his father would build a larger courtroom and post-office across highway 40 from the ranch. Their daughter, Mary Elizabeth, kept a detailed diary and is the source of much of the information on the ranch that we have today.
Without someone to continue to take care of the ranch, Mary Cozens had to sell. Beginning in the 1890s, Jesuits had been coming to the area around the ranch. In 1901, much to Mary Cozens’ delight, a devout Catholic, the Jesuits decided to make the Cozens Ranch their summer getaway. Eventually, she handed the property over to the Jesuits, who repurposed the property as a retreat site named “Maryvale” from the 1920s to the 1980s.
After the Jesuits left, the ranch was restored to its late 1800s condition thanks to the Grand County Historical Association and is operated as a museum currently. The museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the only museum in the Winter Park-Fraser Valley region. The museum charges a small entrance fee, but it’s worth it to keep this original part of Fraser history alive.
The Cozens Ranch House is not just a museum, though. The house features events, bands, and art shows throughout the summer into fall. The museum houses workshops on oil and watercolor painting and is a great place for local art enthusiasts to meet up. In addition to art workshops, the museum also offers talks on history. These events can be found online at the grand county historical association’s website
If you haven’t stepped into the Cozens Ranch Museum, it’s a must for Fraser events and history. Go through one of the great guided tours, and you’ll learn more about the Cozens, like son Will’s gambling issues. There’s always more to learn at the museum!
Read about the Colorado Ghost town of Arrow here.
Jack is new to the Colorado region, having only moved here a couple years ago, yet he’s been an eager explorer of everything that Grand County has to offer. He lives with his family in Granby and is currently a student at Tulane University in New Orleans.