A Page Out of the Book Cliffs
Page 7 — Harry Ballard — Part 5
by AJ Rogers
Mar 07, 2018 | 575 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The twentieth century was well underway, and Harry Ballard was still single, but finally ready to do something permanent about the lonesome life he’d often endured since leaving England.

He was at the same time still dabbling in mining interests and had a serious livestock ranching operation going for himself as well as other businesses and civic duties. I’m not sure how many cattle he had ... it was most likely quite a number because his outfit ranged over a vast area. He also had sheep herds. One document mentions 35,000 of the wooly buggers.

These days we often wonder at folks raising cattle and sheep together after watching too many westerns that make it appear sheep were hated by all cattlemen. I learned better years ago as I was walking into the La Sal Store one day. I overheard one very old ranch hand telling another fellow an interesting story about Charlie Redd. He said: “I one time heard old Charlie say that he raised cattle because it was the thing to do, and he raised horses for the prestige of it, but he raised them damned sheep to pay the bills.” I assume it was kind of the same for Harry Ballard and others. You could get two crops off one sheep.

Harry traveled east, returning to the land of his boyhood at least once in the first decade of the 1900s. I don’t know just when or how many times he went home or just what he did there, or how long he stayed, but his life was changed in a big way upon arrival back in Thompson’s after one special trip. It was the year of 1909 and he was no longer alone.

A lovely young wife by the name of Maud was at his side and from all accounts she was full of “P and V.” I have many of the letters she wrote home to her folks along with a lot of photos she took of life and times in her new home town of Thompson’s, as well as of her husband’s cattle and sheep operations in the Book Cliffs. The problem is, I can’t locate those particular letters or pictures right now. I have lived too long and acquired too many storerooms (sheds) of memorabilia (junk). I’ll find them one day and write more about this fine woman. In the mean time you can see some of Maud’s pictures in the book titled Cowboying — A Tough Job in a Hard Land by James H. Beckstead. This interesting book also contains a lot of other old photos of ranching life throughout Utah. I remember Maud wrote about how she liked to take buggy rides around the beautiful Cisco Desert, amidst all the pretty spring flowers. She often mentioned that she never went off without her pearl-handled Colt .32 revolver.

Her grandchildren still own that pistol by the way, but they must rent space to store it in a government-licensed and secured facility in England, since it is unthinkably immoral, illegal and unheard of to keep such an awful thing as a cute little personal defense pistol at your home in Great Britain.

It seems by this time that Harry Ballard had purchased or leased a vast amount of the Book Cliffs rangeland between Green River and Colorado. There exist a number of photos of cow camp cabins, corrals, and tent camps etc., that Harry and his men used between the last of the 1890s until around 1912 or so. Maud wrote in one letter how strict she found Harry to be while accompanying him checking his cattle and sheep herds in the Book Cliffs. She said that the meadowed canyon bottoms belonged to the cattle, and the sheep were relegated to the ridges. The sheep had to be brought to the bottoms to water daily, but it was worth the herder’s job if Harry caught a sheep taking a bite of bottom grass.

Harry and Maud seemed to have lived a good life together in northern Grand County in those days. Harry also welcomed his brother Arthur to the Book Cliffs during the first decade, putting him in charge of a general store in Thompson’s, which he operated for several years. Arthur wrote some good stories about outlaws and adventures in his later years. (I plan to share some of these in later columns.) Harry had a foreman, a very good man who helped to run his ranching operation. His name was G. A. (Ink) Harris. More about him later as well.

Eventually Harry got back into mining as he began developing a coal mine north of Thompson’s around 1908. A small town called Ballard was starting to develop around the mine and was still called that by 1912. When things got moving well Harry sold out to the American Fuel Company, which changed the name of the town to Neslen after the new general manager. They put in a six-mile-long railroad branch from the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad at Thompson’s up to the mine. It was called the Ballard and Thompson’s line. In 1918 American Fuel sold out to the Chesterfield Coal Company and the town got a new name once again.

The story goes that some of the bigwigs were standing around in the Neslen store discussing new name possibilities when one of the wives walked up to the counter and noticed a row of cans of Sego condensed milk. Aha!

A good easy new name for a fairly new community in an area where the state flower grows prolifically in the spring. Perfect!

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