America’s First Grazier, by Edward F. Carpenter
[amazon-product]1579860214[/amazon-product]Review by Ellen Miller
Agriculture -April 2006 -Colorado Central Magazine
America’s First Grazier: The Biography of Farrington R. Carpenter
by Edward F. Carpenter
Published in 2004 by Vestige Press.
ALL OVER THE WEST, but particularly in northwest Colorado, Ferry Carpenter is a name that still provokes reverence 26 years after his death at 94, and his signature battle drew national headlines when he grappled with FDR’s Interior Secretary, Harold Ickes, over national vs. local control of the range.
Farrington Reed Carpenter (1886-1980) began life in Illinois, got the cowboy bug when his parents dispatched him to Western ranching friends for his health as a teen-ager, started his working life as a lawyer and achieved national fame as the first director of the U.S. Division of Grazing, which later morphed into the Bureau of Land Management.
Now Farrington Carpenter’s son, Ed Carpenter of Grand Junction, has written his father’s biography. It offers information about the family tree and growing up, is accompanied by interesting accounts of his father’s time at Princeton University under the tutelage of Woodrow Wilson and descriptions of Ferry Carpenter’s varied career as lawyer, rancher, politician, benefactor, and leader.
Starting during the summer of 1902, Ferry Carpenter soaked up ranch life under the guidance of John Barkley Dawson, a pioneer Texas cattleman who drove herds from New Mexico to western Kansas and eastern Colorado in the 1860s. Eventually Dawson migrated to Hayden in northwest Colorado after concluding that the area, and Alaska, were about the only places left for a cattleman who wanted elbow room and a place where he wouldn’t hear “bells ring and whistles blow.”
Carpenter met his future partner and lifelong friend, John (Jack) Foreman White during his teen-age years in New Mexico under Dawson. In 1906, Farrington, by then at Princeton, came to Hayden for the summer. From Denver he took the Rio Grande train to Wolcott and then hopped a stagecoach for a three-day trip. By the summer of 1908, he and Jack had formed a partnership with a lease on the Dawson ranch.
With Jack as cattleman and Ferry as thinker and salesman, the two spent decades ranching, despite Ferry’s many forays into law and politics. Ferry emerged from Harvard law in 1912. By 1913, Ferry had opened his law practice in Hayden and signed on the town as a client for $100 per year. He served in the U.S. army in 1917-18 as a lieutenant, but the Armistice came before he shipped out.
It was a pattern Ferry would keep to throughout his life. With the well-managed ranch at home, he pursued other careers. But Ferry lost his town attorney gig in 1925, after railing against the fascism of the Ku Klux Klan, which was acquiring influence throughout Colorado at the time. Ferry served as district attorney, winning 87 percent of his cases, but lost a race for county commissioner. And he kept selling bulls and tending to private clients.
RANGE CONTROL became an over-riding problem, the range being badly over-grazed and eroded. Finally legendary Congressman Ed Taylor won passage of the landmark Taylor Grazing Act in 1934. But Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, Ed Carpenter wrote, was on a quest for power. “He had a running battle with various cabinet officials about returning the Forest Service from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Interior. . .
“His heart’s desire was to be the personal dictator of all the decisions concerning the use and development of all the natural resources in the entire United States not then in private hands.”
Into that battle stepped Ferry Carpenter, who drew Ickes’ attention after his testimony to the Public Lands Committee. Ferry was hired to be director of the Grazing Service and set up a staff. Though Ferry worked some in Washington, his real work was done in the West, meeting with cattlemen and sheepmen and keeping as many decisions local as he could. At one of the meetings, and perhaps more, guns were literally checked at the door. Ed Carpenter’s account of those years is detailed, regarding the ways of the West and Washington, and the son certainly shares his father’s disdain for central-authority bureaucrats.
The political battles for Ferry mounted, and by late 1938, came to a head. “You’re out of a job,” Ickes told Ferry one day in November. And according to his son, Ferry “never looked back and walked out of the door, a free man.”
But Ferry wasn’t back on the ranch for long. Governor Ralph Carr appointed him state treasurer in 1941, which lasted for two years, until the new governor dumped him; then it was on to the University of Denver, where Ferry started the private school’s now-considerable endowment.
The pattern continued. Ranching, selling bulls and involvement in the community of Hayden occupied him until politics called again. Ferry was elected state representative in 1952 but served only one term. Readers with livestock backgrounds will also find Ferry’s ground-breaking work in livestock development interesting.
Ferry Carpenter died at the ranch on December 12, 1980, but there’s more to the story. By 1995, his children were in discussions with the Nature Conservancy, and negotiations were concluded in 1996. With cash on the barrel head for the heirs, and a conservation easement for the ranch, the Nature Conservancy acquired the property and now operates it as a working ranch. So if you go 4 ½ miles east of Hayden, below the power plant, you’ll see 957 acres that won’t be ranched for subdivisions. It is the legacy of Farrington Carpenter, the First Grazier.
Ed Carpenter has some disagreements with his publisher, Vestige Press of Fort Collins. His book is available for sale straight from Ed, who can be reached at 2117 Saguaro Rd., Grand Junction, 81503, or by calling 970-242-1650. He’s available for book-signings and, like his dad, isn’t averse to traveling his beloved West.
Ellen Miller is a freelance writer based in Grand Junction, where conservation easements are being acquired to save at least a small part of the valley floor.
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