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Summit Old Timer

Summit Daily/Brad OdekirkHoward Giberson
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On March 22, Summit County native Howard Giberson turned 92. He was born on the ranch his parents scratched out of the High Country earth nearly a century ago between Frisco and the old town of Dillon. Today, most of that ranch sits under Dillon Reservoir, Safeway, Holiday Inn or under sections of Interstate 70.Howard’s father, Wilbert, came to Summit County when he was 17 years old, looking to strike it rich during the mining boom and then return to Maine.”He never did strike it rich or go back to Maine,” said his youngest offspring, Sue Chamberlain, from her Frisco home Saturday morning.

He did, however, strike good fortune when he met his future bride Elizabeth Ann McDonald, a native of Colorado born in Robinson – a small town west of Kokomo. The two married in 1904 and had their first child, Jim, in 1905. Without earning his riches during the mining boom, Wilbert turned to the timber industry, making enough money to buy a ranch a few miles northeast of Frisco. He later expanded the ranch by homesteading a quarter section of land (an additional 160 acres).Their family began to grow with the addition of Roy (who died as an infant), Howard, Glenn, Donald Kenneth (called Don by some and Ken by others) then Edith Mary (who always went by Sue).”We were always poor,” said Sue. “But we never knew it. We had plenty to eat. We had clothes on our backs, good parents and lots of good friends. This was good country to live in.”

Jim went to work for the highways. Glenn died in his 30s from complications with diabetes. Don (or Ken) and Howard went to the draft board at the beginning of World War II, but they would only take one brother (agriculture was deemed an important part of fighting the war at home); they took Don and sent Howard home. Don was wounded during the war – both his eyes and ears – when a mortar went off in a pill box where he was being kept as a prisoner of war by the Germans. He returned after the war and worked at Camp Carson (now Ft. Carson) until he retired.Howard was the one son who remained on the ranch and spent his life raising cows. Originally, his mom and dad had both milk and meat cows, but after they died in the mid-1960s, Howard mostly ran meat cows. He met his wife, Lura Belle, in 1936 when she came to Frisco from Detroit to spend a summer with a lady her mother knew who ran the Ophir Lodge.”They (Howard and Lura Belle) met at a dance,” said Sue of her older brother, adding that they used to have dances at the old town hall. “She came with a teacher named Julia Wilson and Howard came with his old friend Otto Limke, who used to stay with us quite a lot on the old ranch. Julia saw Ott (that’s what they called him) and said to Lura Belle, ‘He’s just my type.’ Then Lura Belle turned to Julia and said, ‘The other one doesn’t look so bad either.'”



The two couples spent a lot of time together that summer, then Ott and Julia married in the fall, and Howard, after his father took the family on a trip to Washington state and California that winter, went to Detroit in April, married Lura Belle and brought her back to Summit County. The four remained friends for decades afterward. Though Howard and Lura Belle always wanted children, they were never able to have any. They continued to run cows on the early ranch and the homesteaded ranch, then added to the property by leasing the Lusher ranch – north of the Frisco roundabout. The Denver Water Board had long dreamed of harnessing Summit County’s three rivers to create a reservoir to support the thirsty demands of Front Rangers. They began buying land all around Dillon in the lean years of the ’30s and ’40s, and in 1956 announced they would create Dillon Reservoir. A portion of the Giberson’s ranch, which once extended to 720 acres, was soon to be inundated by water.Howard purchased the Lusher ranch and continued ranching into the mid-1990s. Five years ago, health problems forced him to a lower elevation, and he has been at Bear Creek Nursing Home in Morrison ever since. His niece, Peggy Alexander, tries to bring him up to the ranch every month, where Howard still enjoys looking over the 188 acres he protected through a land conservancy trust.


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