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Summit County pioneers: Howard Giberson

By Alison (Grabau) Pomerantz
Special to the Summit Daily News
Howard Giberson in 1999.
Courtesy Bob Winsett

SILVERTHORNE — When Howard Giberson and his sister Edith Mary (Sue) Chamberlain were named Summit County Pioneers of the Year, Howard quietly accepted the honor. Born and raised on a ranch in Summit County, Howard may not see himself as a modern-day pioneer. However, prevailing through the many economic, population and landscape changes has more than justified the title bestowed on him. During World War II, many young people left the county, but Howard stayed on the ranch. To Howard, Summit County has always been home. 

“I can’t remember not working because I was always on the ranch,” Howard said with a shrug.

He grew up on his parents’ 320-acre ranch with only two neighbors in sight. When he married, he took over the ranch from his father, and he and his wife, Lura Belle Allworth, added another 400 acres to the homestead. In 1999, the ranch had been reduced to 188 acres of pastureland on Buffalo Mountain with two cows and one horse. About 160 acres of that land will be forever protected from future development thanks to a conservation easement he contributed to the Continental Divide Land Trust. 

When the weather permitted, Howard, his two brothers and sister would ride horses to school. In the other months, they drove to school. Their first family car was a Model T. Then his father bought a Stevens Touring car, and later when they began driving to Breckenridge for high school, they had a 1927 Buick with a rumble seat.

Howard laughed and said, “Boy, we could really make dust fly.”

Like an explorer born too late, Howard has covered nearly every inch of the surrounding forest, fields and creeks. Water would run through Howard’s property from a lake up the canyon to a mine called the Royal Buffalo Placer near Silverthorne. He loved hiking into the backcountry and fly-fishing in Willow Lakes. When he was younger, Howard also enjoyed hunting. He would shoot rabbits, skin them and hang them up to freeze outside in the winter until he needed them. On various outings over the years, he spotted all sorts of wildlife tracks, such as bear, mountain lion and deer.

Howard Giberson and his burro, Blue, circa 1920.
Courtesy the Giberson family

Life on the land

There were often many social gatherings and dances in Summit County during the first half of the century. It was attending one of those dances in Frisco in 1936 that Howard caught his first glimpse of Lura Belle. Her mother had been there the year before to visit a friend who owned the Ophir Lodge on Bill’s Ranch, which prompted Lura Bill to visit. Bill Thomas, the owner of Bill’s Ranch, introduced Lura Belle and her friend to Howard and one of his friends. The match was successful as Howard ended up marrying Lura Belle and the two friends married, as well. In 1992, just two months after their 55th wedding anniversary, Lura Belle died.

Howard and Lura Belle had taken over the ranching responsibilities from his father since the other two brothers didn’t seem interested. She and Howard had no children to help out with the chores, so Lura Belle learned to drive a tractor and worked alongside Howard as a team. From 1937 to 1939, while the young couple resided in the rustic cabin, Lura Belle also would go out in the evening and catch three fish for dinner from Meadow Creek — two for Howard and one for herself. To earn some extra money, Howard worked on the construction crew assigned to open Loveland Pass in 1940. Then as the years passed and the county continued to grow, the Dillon Reservoir was built and Interstate 70 was cut through his land. Howard began to cut back on the number of cattle he ran because it became too difficult to raise the 90 head of cattle, half of them calves, on less pasture.

Ranch buildings where Howard and Lura Belle lived from 1937-1939. Dillon Reservoir now covers this area.
Courtesy the Giberson family

For many years, Howard rode horses with a mix of doctors, lawyers, surveyors and other professionals in a group that called themselves the “Roundup Riders of the Rockies.” After riding once a year on journeys that took them from Wyoming to New Mexico, “strong friendships developed,” Howard said. It was an all-male group that enjoyed the camaraderie on horseback. Their 100-mile a week rides would be broken up by fun entertainers and horse shows. During that time, Howard rode two different horses: Dolly and Ginger.

“There were a lot of really good fellas on those trips,” he recalled. “We would sit around the campfire every night just telling stories and laughing. It was a good time.”

Sign at the entry to the Giberson ranch in 1999.
Courtesy Bob Winsett

In the early days, there was no Alpine skiing in Summit County. Instead, everyone participated in ski jumping. Howard’s first skis were four feet long with pieces of leather used to strap them on. He remembers seeing all the new equipment come along, but it always was too expensive. His leather work boots doubled as his ski boots. He skied actively throughout the ’30s until he twisted his ankle. He then began competing in cross-country ski races and had a wall full of ribbons to show off his accomplishments.

Howard continued the physical labor of working outside because it was “good for him,” he said. “I guess that if they hadn’t put that road (I-70) in, I’d still be feeding cattle,” he admitted. Thinking back, he said, “I feel satisfied with the life I’ve lived — living and ranching. Even though it was a lot of hard work, it was pretty satisfying.” 

Editor’s note: Howard Giberson died in July 2007 at age 95.

This story previously published in the book “Summit Pioneers,” which was printed in 1999. The book was written by Alison (Grabau) Pomerantz with photos by Bob Winsett in partnership with Wilson-Lass Creative Communications. It was published to raise money for The Summit Foundation. Read more about the history of Summit County at SummitDaily.com/news/history.

Howard Giberson with a photo of Lura Belle.
Courtesy Bob Winsett

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