1880 was not a gentle time to be alive. In Missouri, the land was vast and dusty. The farmers spoke of a better place, just beyond the mountains that were rumored to be the tallest in the world. A place where the land was lush and forgiving, and full of opportunity.
But in truth, to cross the Rocky Mountains was a man’s final journey to the depths of the underworld. A journey that promised gold and silver and death, and nothing in between. Those that lived through it, brought back tales of savages and grizzly bears, lawlessness and God. Those that lived, brought back tales of living.
Sterling Price Sloss heard of the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado through a series of travelers that came back to ring the bell of triumph for their found wealth, or more likely, future found wealth. They returned from their journey’s in need of a wife. Once they took their brides, they sent them on trains into the unknown, until the trains would take them no further. And then they took a carriage and traveled on trapper trails deep into the wilderness to claim their promised glory.
Price watched as these men disappeared on the train tracks only to be heard from again in letters to their mothers and sisters, whom they left behind to tend the farms and gossip.
When Price finally turned 18, the anticipation of going to Colorado in search for his fortune was no longer a dream, but a certainty, which he had meticulously planned every day he toiled his father’s farm. There he learned to ranch the lands and run cattle. He paid attention to the crop, the growing season for hay, and how to keep potatoes alive through the winter. A son of the American frontier, born in St. Clair Missouri in 1862, Sterling Price Sloss knew the only path for his life was west.
So he left his six brothers and sisters, and his parents Joseph and Margaret, and headed to Colorado. Price landed in Silver Cliff where he worked as a ranch hand for $25 a month plus board. Then to South Park just a year later, driving cattle for A.J. Bates. There he learned the western slope and high alpine care for the herd. In just a few short years, Price apprenticed his way through all the cornerstones of ranching in Colorado. From the turn of the seasons, to the crops, to raising purebred Herefords, Price grew a confidence and a fire in his belly that couldn’t be sated. He wanted more.
By the time Price was just 20, he formed a joint partnership with George W. King of Ashcroft to conduct a dairy business, selling milk for $.50 a gallon. He wrote to his brother John, who had a similar itch for the promises of the land, and urged him to come join him in his now flourishing dairy business. After three years, Price and John made enough money to buy out Mr. King’s interest and solely own and run the dairy.
But Price’s fervor couldn’t be stopped. While now only 25, he had not yet reached his goal and the opportunities he saw in every person that bought his milk made his skin itch with anticipation. And so he saved. And learned. And he saved some more until finally he had enough to walk into the recorder’s office and claim his very own ranch.