Henry H. Failing Ranch and Douglas Investment Co.

Henry H. Failing Ranch and Douglas Investment Company

As known today as the Failing Homestead Property, the acreage is located on the western side of the Highlands Ranch Backcountry Wilderness area of Douglas County in ranges 68W and 67W.  Please Note:  On the platte photograph depicting the original 160-acre Failing homestead and the ultimate 2,000-acre ranch, the Grigs property to the Failing Ranch’s left is the John Grigs property (father to Lafayette) and not the Lafayette Grigs property located on the eastside of the Highlands Ranch Backcounty Wilderness area.

All photographs were taken by Historic Douglas County, Inc. on July 16, 2017.

Henry H. Failing Ranch and Douglas Investment Company

1876 – 1913                                    1913-1950

Area Location:  Highlands Ranch Backcountry Wilderness Area

On May 20, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, granting Americans a temporary claim on 160-acre plots of public land for a small filing fee of between $10 and $18.  After five years of continuous residence on the land, building a home, farming and making improvements to the land, the temporary claim could be “proofed” for improvements and, if approved, a permanent, registered ownership patent for the property would be issued.  Henry and Abigail Failing took advantage of the Homestead Act and, starting with their initial 160-acre temporary claim, built a 2,000-acre ranch over thirty-six years.  This is a brief account of their story.

Henry H. Failing was born in New York on September 5, 1832 and, as a child, moved with his parents to Claredon, Calhoun County, Michigan.  On February 22, 1857 in Michigan, He married Abigail Casey, born in New York in 1843.  The Henry Failing family, with their three children: Ezra, Joanna and Henrietta, moved to Colorado in 1865. Upon reaching Colorado, the Failings settled in Denver and lived at 2220 Gilpin Street until they moved to the homestead site in the late summer of 1876 and, a few months later, filed a homestead temporary claim on November 22, 1876.  During Abigail and Henry’s life in Colorado, they added four more children to their family:  Henry H., Jr., Charles Edwin, Nelia and Albert Edwin. 

The original Failing house on the homestead site was a log and frame dwelling house, one story with three rooms. The building of the house was followed shortly after its completion by a horse stable and milk house.  As time progressed, an outside cellar, multiple corrals, a granary and chicken houses were added as well as fencing to enclose the entire 160-acre tract.   Within the 160-tract, 15 acres were cultivated for raising vegetables and feed corps of corn and rye, the latter used primarily for hay feed for both cattle and horses.  The amount of cultivated land for crop farming may seem small; however, the homestead area was extremely hilly with large stands of Gambel Oak brush populating the property.  The non-cultivated area was used primarily as pasturage for the Failing cattle and horses.

On December 8, 1881, Henry Failing filed his homestead property “proof of improvement” report with the Land Office in Denver.  The report was witnessed by a neighboring Sedalia farmer and Abigail’s brother, Charles M. Casey.  The final certificate of approval for the homestead land patent was issued on January 10, 1882.  For the next twenty-eight years following the original homestead land patent, Henry and Abigail continued to increase their land ownership by adding adjacent properties to theirs, utilizing both homesteading and direct buying.  Over the twenty-eight years, eight separate land additions transpired and was patented in the names of the family’s offspring.  By 1910, the Failing Ranch measured 2,000 acres. 

 

Henry Failing and his sons grew the ranch exterior structures and added modern amenities and a small fruit orchard along with a successful, multiple-hive bee apiary over the years.  The Failings added a large blacksmith shop-quasi engine building, a bunk house and improved the farmhouse, migrating it from the early three room, one story to what Hoehn Architects in their Historic Structure Assessment described as a “National Folk” style, “similar in style to a side-gabled two-story, I-house” but with few distinguishing features  …a lack of style of detailing and simple, overall design and construction,” likely the primary reason for the decision of not to preserve and historically restore the farmhouse structure.  Some of the other improvements listed in the Historic Structure Analysis suggest they were made to the farmhouse in th1940s, after the Failing’s ownership. 

The Failings were more ranchers than farmers although they were good at farming even without irrigation.  Initially, starting their ranch with a few horses and longhorn cattle, the ranch in its 2,000-acre formation pastured and fed 150 head of Shorthorn cattle and had a large remuda of some 50 horses.  Henry H. Failing registered his Circle F   cattle brand in 1889. Henry Failing loved horses and had two prize stud horses, Pacing Stallion and Spanish Jack, which sired many fine horses in the Sedalia area.  The Failing sons also loved horses and raced horses in the Douglas County Fair races during the early 1900s.  

Henry Failing purchased a Monarch Well Drill and drilled his own well.  Henry was also well known for installing one of the first Fairbanks & Morse Eclipse windmills on his property as well as building a 16,000-gallon cistern for well-water storage. 

Socially, the Failings were quite active throughout the Plum Creek, Gann and Sedalia area.  Henry Failing was active in Douglas County’s early school districts and president of the Sedalia school officers in the mid-1880s.  The Failing Boys, Charles, Henry Jr. and Albert, were an often-used band for dances in the area and at the Failing Ranch.  According to local newspaper articles, the Failing Ranch hosted numerous potluck-dances and one of these affairs ran from dusk to dawn with refreshments served at midnight.

Abigail suffered a stroke in 1910 and was partially paralyzed thereafter.  Henry and Abigail decided to sell the ranch after her stoke and move back to their 2220 Gilpin property in Denver.  Henry sold the property to the Douglas Investment Company on January 24, 1913.  The Douglas Investment Company built a new

barn and a Tung-lok, octagonal wooden silo on the property.  The Tung-lok silo is one of two such silos still standing in Douglas County today.  The Douglas Investment Company deeded the ranch property to Eugene Shumaker, Jean Williams, and Lawrence Shumaker in 1950 and, although no one was known to have lived on the property during their ownership, cattle were pastured on it.  Lawrence C. Phipps, Jr. purchased the property by warranty deed on January 2, 1954 and added it to his Highlands Ranch. After Phipps death in 1976, the Highlands Ranch property was purchased by Mission Viejo. 

After their thirty-six years of living on and loving their Failing Ranch and their final move back to Denver, Abigail passed on March 9, 1914 at the age of 71 years of age, ending her and Henry’s 57 years of marriage.  Henry Failing died on September 19, 1920 at the age of 88 years.  Both Henry and Abigail are buried in Fairmount Cemetery in Denver.

Reference Notes:

The data in this box is not intended as part of the Failing Ranch story; it is provided only to indicate from where the story information was sourced.

Documents of Researched Data:

Douglas Homestead Historic Structure Assessment, Hoehn Architects PC

Castle Rock Journal (1893 – 1905), Colorado Historic Newspapers

Record Journal (1910 – 1913), Colorado Historic Newspapers

Douglas County, A Historical Journey, Josephine Lowell Marr, c 1983, B&B Printers, Gunnison, CO

Douglas County Libraries, Archives and Local History, Biographical Files


Larry Schlupp     Historic Douglas County, Inc.