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Holland Sackett Duell, Jr. was born on June 26, 1908. He was the son of a successful Manhattan patent attorney and grandson of a one-time Commissioner of Patents and chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
He became an accomplished violinist and pianist. “Holland ‘Holly’ was given his first half-size violin when he was only 7 years old. He wasn't particularly taken with it. In fact, he would score the bowstring with scissors or snip a string to avoid practicing. ‘Early on I was definitely bored with the fiddle,’ he wrote. But boredom changed to passion and Duell became a concert pianist in both Europe and the United States, a profession he plied until he was in his mid-20s.”
In 1923, the Duell family made a trip to Wyoming. Holland “never got over it.” “That vacation forged a love for the West that would eventually bring him to Colorado. In 1934, he left the concert stage for a job on a dude ranch in Birney, MT, because, he wrote, ‘I knew somehow my life was going to change course.’ It did. He met and married one of the guests, Dorothy Curry of Pittsburgh.
After scouring western states, the couple settled on a 2,500-acre ranch in the Vermejo River Valley of New Mexico. ‘I'm still devoted to Colfax County, New Mexico, where we had our first ranch,’ Duell said.” They ran both commercial and purebred Hereford stock.
In the late 1930’s Holland learned to fly small aircraft. He started a flying service, Eagle Tail Inc. which operated just south of Raton, NM.
“By 1947, Holland and Dorothy ‘Dot’ wanted to expand their operation. They mortgaged the Vermejo ranch to raise capital and, as Duell puts it, ‘the people who had our mortgage wanted me to look at the Crow ranch.’ They had the mortgage on it too. ‘We fell in love with the valley’ and bought the 5,117-acre ranch that once was the inheritance of Estefna Hicklin as part of the Vigil-St. Vrain land grant.” (The Hayden Ranch)
They moved their registered Herefords to the Greenhorn Valley and using the original irrigation ditch, they enlarge the existing Hayden Reservoir to create Lake Beckwith. In 1955, they sold their cattle and began to lease the land.
Stewart Thoroughbred Farm
Conyers Stewart was born Biloxi, MS in 1912. He was sent to a private school in New York where he begins a life-long friendship with Holland Duell. Conyers drifts west and “becomes a skilled horseman in Montana” at the Bones Brothers Ranch near Birney. There he meets and marries Grace Shaw in 1938.
In 1947 he visits a new race track in Raton, NM where he spends time with Holland who owns a ranch near Raton. Conyers follows the race circuit to California and spends a few years developing his reputation and training horses.
In 1956, Conyers returns to Colorado and the new race track in Littleton. Holland Duell who now owns the Crow Ranch in the Greenhorn Valley and having recently sold his Hereford cattle, Holland has decided “what he really wanted to do was raise thoroughbred race horses.” The two men form a partnership and create Stewart Thoroughbreds.
“Major construction on the Duell-Stewart thoroughbred facilities at the Crow Ranch begins in the fall of 1959. Open for business in 1960 the horse farm accommodates 20 thoroughbreds with complete services.
As part of the training a five-eighths mile race track is built to give the horses practice in starting from a gate and running the oval. It takes about six months to train a horse for running the rapid race. Eight years after starting the business, horses-in-training will number about 125.
In the spring of 1966 several miles of horse trails, some lined with trees, are being created to accommodate dozens of horse students arriving at the Duell-Stewart training school. The horse farm is considered to be among the finest in the west. It has complete facilities for breeding, foaling, training and special care for thoroughbred horses. The farm produces several winning horses: Zip Pocket; Rowdy Fleet; Good Investment; Dun Dancer; Colorado City and Barbara Coma.”
Holland and Conyers “become known among friends as Holly and Connie.” Holland supervises the breeding; Stewart handles the buying, boarding, breaking and training of the horses; Holland’s son, Albert is the office manager and Edward Viulla manages the farm. In 1972, Colorado City, a seven-year-old gelding, from the farm has track earnings of $123,000.
In September of 1972, Holland and Dot Duell plat a subdivision called the “Turf Club”. Designed for ‘horse people’, “the $200,000, 185-acre equestrian center was only open to Hollydot homeowners. With an annual membership fee of $500, the Duells hope to bring locals into owning and racing horses.
Member facilities provided all necessary horse services for breeding, boarding and breaking, including tack rooms, a veterinarian room and laboratory, a 20-stall horse barn, automatic horse walkers and training rings. One training ring has an English-styled jumping course with judging stand at the infield.” The home sites don’t sell and in 1981, the Hollydot Park Turf Club is purchased by the Dixit Corporation and its name is changed to Meadowcreek Turf Club.
“Conyers Stewart continued to operate the farm until 1988, finally retiring after more than 60 years in the thoroughbred racing industry that fondly knew him as ‘The King of the Rocky Mountains’.”
Colorado City Development
In 1956, Holland Duell quit flying small airplanes and gets involved with thoroughbred horses. He and Dot “began talking about developing their Crow ranch for people. ‘The quality and beauty of this land and our love for it made us feel a responsibility for it,’ he wrote. “In 1962, at age 55 two years after beginning the horse farm business, Duell sold 6,500 acres of his historic ranch to California land developers, Colorado City Development Company. Holland reserved 500 prime acres including the 179-acre thoroughbred farm in the center of the development for family and friends.”
In October of 1963, Colorado City was officially ‘born’. The birth was celebrated with a 350 pound birthday cake and a huge ‘birth certificate’ signed by Secretary of State Byron Anderson and Governor John A. Love who attended the party.
Holland said later regarding the sale of the ranchland, "I can't help but recognize the vast number of mistakes that have been made — none of which obscure the beauty of the valley." “Although Colorado City wasn't the perfection of his dream, Duell said that he was never sorry he moved west.” He and Dot wanted the ‘new town’ to be named ‘Crowton’.
In 1961, the West 9 of the Hollydot Golf Course was started. Holland and Clyde Young designed the course and Ron Higgins built it. Its name is a combination of the Duell’s first names: Holly and Dot. The West 9 opened in 1965 and the clubhouse was built in the winter of 1966 to 67. Eventually the course grew to 27 holes. The official Grand Opening was held in 1973.
Duell continued to play the violin until 1972, when two of his fiddles were vandalized. He later gave a third violin and his concert grand piano to the University of Southern Colorado.
Dorothy Curry Duell died in 1982. Several years later, Holland “re-established an acquaintance with the sister of his best friend, Charles Clement of Albuquerque. He and Cele were married in 1986.”
Over time arthritis limited Holland’s mobility and hearing loss eliminated the upper range of tone for him. The couple moved to Poughkeepsie, NY in August of 1993. Holland explained, “We want to spend what time holds for us back in the Hudson Valley, one of the wonders of the world, second only to the Greenhorn Valley." He died four years later in June of 1997 at the age of 88.