Hayden, Margaret Davis

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

Peg Hayden

(1918 - 1999)

Margaret Davis was born in Denver as the great-granddaughter of John Evans, Territorial Governor of Colorado from 1862-1865.

As a child and throughout her formative years, she spent every summer on the family ranch located at the end of Upper Bear Creek at the base of Mt. Evans, the mountain named after the governor.

Her great-grandfather and Samuel Elbert had initially purchased substantial acreage from John Vance, an early homesteader; over the years numerous parcels were purchased and added to what would become known as "the Evans Ranch," which grew to approximately 5,000 acres.

Peg helped with the ranch work, driving a team during hay season and doing other chores under the tutelage of ranch caretaker Bryan Schwartz.  Spare time was often spent on horseback exploring the area with her brothers and occasionally fishing the lakes that have become part of the Mount Evans Wilderness Area.

Local crops at 9,000 feet during the early days also included oats, potatoes, and rye.  "Wildlife was plentiful then too – mountain sheep, beaver, grouse, lions, bobcats, and bear, but no elk or deer," she recalled in an article wirtten in 1996 in Upbeat. "But the people in Idaho Springs wanted elk and raised the funds to bring elk in by train from Wyoming.  They were turned loose on Flirtation Mountain south of Idaho Springs.  'Then they came over here ... and that was the end of growing crops here.' "

She recalled the summer accommodations didn't have electricity or indoor plumbing in the early years but that a gasoline-powered light plant supplied electricity prior to what was provided by The Rural Electric Association in the early 1940s.

The Davis children rarely visited Evergreen itself, preferring the multitude of activities on the ranch.  Their father picked up provisions each weekend when he drove up from Denver to visit.

Peg graduated from Vassar College in the late 1930s, having majored in geology with a minor in Spanish.  She had a year of graduate school at Stanford and worked as a teaching assistant at Vassar before returning to Colorado where she took a job at Lowry Air Force Base during the war, teaching enlisted men how to read maps.

A cabin at the ranch was turned over to Fitzsimons Army Hospital as a mountain retreat for injured veterans after the war.  About a dozen would be housed there at any one time for a week's stay during the summer months.  The family would take them fishing in nearby Vance Creek.

Even after Peg married, moved to Englewood, and raised three children, they would return to the ranch on weekends.  After her husband died in 1971, she moved to Evergreen, living first in the Buffalo Park area and then building in the late 1980s a home on 40 acres she inherited from her mother where she'd spent so many of her summers.

Although she remembered the historic Troutdale Hotel, she never set foot in it.  "The family lived a ranch lifestyle and wasn't into society," the Upbeat article noted.

Much of the 5,000-acre ranch was owned at one time by her great aunt, Anne Evans, "a well-known patron of the arts who established or helped establish the Denver Art Museum, Central City Opera, and Denver Public Library," according to the Upbeat article by Ellen Stiner.  "When she died in 1941, the lower end of the ranch where the Hayden sawmill is located, went to Hayden's mother, Margaret Evans Davis.  The rest of the Evans Ranch went to Hayden's uncle, John Evans, and then eventually to his children.  The latter is still called the Evans Ranch, but is no longer owned by members of the Evans family.  Hayden's mother eventually placed her land, about 1,600 acres, in a trust."

Approximately 2,500 acres of the Davis property is protected by a conservation easement that restricts development.

Peg didn't like development and worked to further conservation efforts by the Mountain Area Land Trust and The Evergreen Naturalists Audubon Society.

Her greatest contribution was her interest in capturing history before it was forgotten. This passion led her to interview and record oral histories by old-timers still alive, mostly through tapping the superb memory of ranch caretaker Bryan Schwartz, who lived to be 102.  She had them transcribed, hoping to someday incorporate memories into a book.  That never happened during her lifetime, but the historical recollections along with early photographs of the area have been preserved and are often referenced in the writings of others.

Source:  Ellen Stiner's article in October 1996 edition of Upbeat; Peg's son, Tom Hayden