COBWEB CORNERS: Background on Rock Ledge

By Mel McFarland

       The city is talking about our tax problems pretty often lately. Over the years we have built up some pretty great parks and other amenities. It would be a shame to see these closed. I know we get a lot of people here in the summer just to see Garden of the Gods, Pioneers' Museum, Rock Ledge Ranch and a dozen or so other places that depend on our taxes. The tourists do not get by without paying for this, thanks to taxes on motels, restaurants, and places like the cog railway. It is a tough decision, one I am glad I do not have to make unless it comes down to voting.
       I have not talked much about Rock Ledge Ranch and its history. I know we have covered it here in the paper. On the Library Channel on Comcast I see many programs about the place. In fact I enjoy hearing the little song about Rock Ledge Ranch.
       Camp Creek is the little stream that runs down 31st Street, but at one time it was the source of important water in that valley. It comes down from the valleys below Rampart Range, An early homesteader, Walter Galloway, started farming in the valley around 1867, but his formal claim to the land was not filed until 1871. He bought the land for $1.25 an acre. He sold the land to Robert Chambers. It was Chambers who used the Rock Ledge Ranch name first. Mrs. Chambers suffered from tuberculosis, and the area proved good for the family. The Chambers family prospered along Camp Creek.
       General William Palmer, the Colorado Springs founder, purchased the Rock Ledge Ranch property in 1900, mainly for additional water rights for his place in Glen Eyrie. He had a new home built on the property for ornithologist William Sclater, and his wife Charlotte, a half-sister of Queen Palmer. Designed as a country manor, it was quite different from the Chambers' home. In 1909, after General Palmer died from complications caused by his fall from his horse, the Sclaters left and moved to England.
       During the next 50 years, the ranch had a variety of owners, and we old timers knew it as White House Ranch after the Cochran family had everything painted white. Along Camp Creek, in that pleasant little valley, a lot of nice homes sit on what was once farm land. There was an idea to build more houses on the land, all the way to the Garden of the Gods entrance. This changed in 1968, when this part of the ranch was preserved. The area has been steadily upgraded as a living history center, and its popularity is quite evident.