Veterinarian and rancher Bill Houseweart is not known for being loquacious. But folks who attended his recent historical society presentation on five generations of Rogers Mesa Housewearts were treated to a full hour of interesting family history.
Back in 1898, Oran Charles Houseweart, Bill's grandfather, left McCune, Kan., to come to Rogers Mesa. His doctor had advised him to seek the dry Colorado climate to help his asthma. Oran Charles worked for other ranchers for 17 years saving his money for the day he could purchase land for his own ranch.
Oran Charles had corresponded with Mabel Annie Grove in Kansas for 10 years. Then on June 23, 1910 he penned a letter to Mabel with his offer of marriage, "would you tie your life up with mine?" He repeated the question on the second page as well. She couldn't resist and Oran Charles borrowed a wagon with a team of mules to meet her as she got off the train in Delta. They were married thatsame day. In 1913, their son Oran Grove was born.
The hardworking father continued to save until they could buy 20 acres in 1915. In another five years they added 20 more. In 1925 they purchased 40 more acres.
According to Bill Houseweart, Oran Charles meticulously irrigated and farmed the 80 acres to make the ranch a success to take care of his family.
The family history compiled by Bill states Oran Charles was "an excellent farmer. He worked long hours from before daylight — milking cows, plowing amid the rocks of Rogers Mesa, suffering in the dust of hay, tediously irrigating what precious water that Leroux Creek could deliver — until past dark at night." Because of his asthma, during haying season he "would sleep upright in a chair turned backwards leaning over the back. Some days every breath was a labor."
Oran Charles and Mabel not only had a herd of cows to milk, they had 500 chickens. The family history states, "The eggs they shipped to Telluride and the cream to Grand Junction."
Oran Charles died on Feb. 16, 1936 at 61 years of age.
Mabel and her son Oran Grove continued working the ranch. In 1940 he married Margery Spore. They had two sons, Jim born in 1941 and Bill two years later.
In 1943, the couple purchased the Bill Coutts home and 40 acres. By 1957, Oran Grove and Margery had added60 acres to the ranch.
Bill went to Colorado State University to be a veterinarian and then returned to the family ranch, doing both occupations. When he substituted for a Delta veterinarian he met a young woman from Oregon who had come to learn about being a veterinarian technician. Betty Jean Bargsten wanted to learn all she could and then return home to help on her family's ranch. But she took note of Bill on her first day of work, and in 1977, Bill and Betty were married. They had two sons, Ira in 1978 and Cody in 1980.
In 1993, they too added to the ranch size, buying 45 acres and another 30 acres in 1998.
Bill's mother died in 1988 and his father in 2002. His brother Jim died in 2005.
Today, Bill and Betty continue their fast-paced vet clinic. Bill is often seen on his ATV with Jack Russell terriers precariously perched wherever they can hang on. He and his dogs are checking on his herd of cows on 3200 Road and Lazear Road.
His two sons, Ira and Cody are part-time ranchers in addition to their full-time jobs.
Ira is a blacksmith. He married Cynthia Butterfield who has her own Princess Beef herd. The couple have two daughters Isabelle (Izzi) born in 2004 and Cecelia (CeCe) born in 2006. Ira's blacksmith shop is located in his grandfather's barn on the ranch's original 20 acres. After Oran Grove and Jim Houseweart died, Ira and Cynthia moved their home to the ranch. Cynthia notes that "they continue to grow their herd with cows descending from the original Houseweart herd from 1913!"
Cody works for Phillips Equipment in Delta and has one son, Tucker born in 2005.
Bill explains the Houseweart work ethic which they learned by example. "You see someone work that hard, you do the same," he said.
The generations of Housewearts have added to the ranch and progressed from working with horse and mule farming to modern tractors. Bill Houseweart has added pivot sprinklers to make the irrigation process simpler and more efficient.
In two years, the Housewearts will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ranch being established.
The Housewearts have memorabilia of their ranching history at the Hotchkiss-Crawford Historical Museum until the end of February.
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