(1892 - 1960)
Darst Buchanan was born on a farm in Kima, Ohio in 1892, the oldest child with two sisters trailing behind. Completing his education at age 13, which is far as his one-room school would take him, Darst moved with his family to St. Mary’s, Ohio, where he worked as a timekeeper on a railroad’s track maintenance crew. He moved to Tulsa with his bride Ruth (Peake), the girl next door when they both lived in Springfield, Missouri. They wed in 1912.
Landing a job with Chestnut and Smith, the largest producers of natural gasoline, the dapper and dashing Scotsman worked his way up to vice president. Fate led Darst to further his fortune when he joined forces with three other Chestnut and Smith associates to establish their own natural gas production company, Hanon-Buchanan, Inc. The company grew into five companies which handled pipelines, manufacturing and production.
Darst served as the Federal Petroleum Coordinator under Harold Ickes in the U.S. Department of the Interior, and he was the American Petroleum Industry representative to the International Petroleum Congress in Paris in 1938.
Destiny brought Darst and Ruth to Evergreen in the 1920’s in the guise of attending an oil convention in Denver. Convention attendees were bused to Evergreen to spend recreational time at the Troutdale-in-the-Pines Hotel. The year was 1923, and Evergreen was nothing more than a very small mountain community with more summering tourists than year-round residents. Dirt roads led to a quaint downtown that had little more than the Olde's Texaco, a restaurant known as the Hamilton Tea Room, the old hotel, The Round Up, a drug store and Mickey’s Groceries, which also housed the post office.
Without hesitation, the Buchanans brought their daughters to Evergreen for several summers following, renting cabins hither and yon to capture every corner and crevice of their new-found paradise. Ruth and the girls spent several summers in rented cabins with Darst able to spend only a brief amount of time in the family’s treasured vacation spot due to the demands of his business.
Becoming a rancher continued to be Darst’s deepest desire, and he considered ranch land in Wagon Mound, New Mexico. In the summer of 1938, Darst’s dream became a reality. Ruth had found more than an Evergreen summer cottage to rent in Evergreen. She found a sweet cabin nestled in a gorgeous meadow. This now-historic site was then named Camp Neosho; now we know it as the Hiwan Homestead. The Buchanans bought the “cabin” and property – roughly 1,100 acres – for about $50,000.
On March 30, 1938, Darst started a series of land purchases. Some were warranty deeds purchased from private owners; some were treasure deeds purchased from a governmental entity; and some were quit claims. It is said their ranch expanded to as much as 30,000 acres, including land purchased and leased, and extended from Independence Mountain south of downtown Evergreen to Golden, back to Idaho Springs and all the way to Central City. Darst also purchased a separate ranch “down the hill” known as the Wadsworth Ranch.
Darst was known for breeding high-grade Hereford cattle, and the Hiwan Ranch was considered one of the top five registered Hereford breeding ranches in the United States.
in 1947 he paid $61,000 for a prized Hereford bull named WHR Helmsman 89th. In 1948 he built the Showbarn on Meadow Drive to house it; the structure is now home to the Evergreen Design Center.
Commercial purchases expanded the Buchanan portfolio when he bought the Round-Up, which had once housed the drug store and soda fountain; the property is now known as The Little Bear. With several business partners, including son-in-law John Casey, Darst purchased the Evergreen Lumber Company, which operated a sawmill and built homes immediately south of Main Street, along Douglas Park Road.
If the Buchanan name isn’t familiar to you, the name of their ranch is, as Ruth bestowed the “Hiwan” moniker upon the prestigious property herself. Hiwan is an Anglo-Saxon term for ‘plot of land for a family,’ and the Buchanans had a desire to develop their land for the benefit of future generations to enjoy.
In 1954 John and Darst pioneered Hiwan Development Company, introducing city water and sewer capabilities into their developments, including Hiwan Hills, which housed the Buchanan’s 10,000 turkeys before being transformed into a cozy subdivision of approximately 250 homesites in the 1950s and 60s.
John had a dream to create a subdivision and golf course in what was once prized pasture land for the Buchanan Herefords. Several houses were built before the 7,155-yard course that covers the 170-acre golf course was created in 1962. Noted golf course architect Presley Maxwell was hired to design the course. It was an expensive venture and quite a learning experience, but well worth the effort and expense. President Dwight D. Eisenhower wanted a personal tour of the course and development shortly after it opened. Over the next 50 years, more than 500 homes would be built around the golf course as part of the country club. Other subdivisions would also carry the Hiwan name.
When Darst retired in 1952, the family moved to Cherry Hills, keeping the Hiwan Homestead for a summer home. Daughter Joan Landy would make it a year-round home for about 10 years raising her family there. Subsequent to its sale to a developer, the property would be purchased by Jefferson County Open Space as a museum in 1974 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1996 Evergreen Park and Recreation District named an expanding recreational area in north Evergreen “Buchanan Park” in recognition of the Buchanan legacy.
Photo credit: Jefferson County Historical Society