The Cold Spring Ranch, among the first ranches established in northern Colorado, began around 1860 when John F. Vandevanter, a gold rusher from Sturgis, Michigan, along with Robert D. Thompson created the ranch out of 320 acres at the crossroads of two important roads to the gold fields. With one road leading northeast to the Gregory Diggings of today’s Gilpin County and the other leading southwest to the Jackson Diggings near today’s Idaho Springs, it was quite the strategic spot to put up a way station for travelers! The ranch had the advantage of a very fine cool water spring at the southern end of the junction, and next to it Vandevanter built this log station house.
This house was a 1-story log building of rather basic design, constructed of hand-hewn V-notched logs probably cut from the pineries west of Golden. It sat upon a pretentious foundation of cut stone, one of the earliest known to exist in the area. It was a perfect place to establish a way station, supply and resting place at an important crossroads to the gold fields beyond. People could stay here, rest and water their oxen and horses, and more. This soon got the attention of a fellow gold miller in the Gregory Diggings area, by name of George Mortimer Pullman.
Pullman had come here from Chicago in 1860. There he had recently worked on his invention of a sleeper railcar for public travel, and had come west to the gold rush to make money to realize his dream of making them. Pullman did not make a ton of money on gold milling, but was certainly open to other business ventures, such as operating a freight business and keeping a store in Central City under the name of Lyon, Pullman & Company. Being at a midway point on his constant journeys back and forth between Central City and Denver, the Cold Spring Ranch soon caught his eye. On September 22, 1860 Pullman got Vandevanter’s half ownership in the Cold Spring Ranch by trading him 5 yoke of cattle and a lumber wagon. Spafford C. Field, the brother of Pullman’s associate Benjamin Field in Illinois (his partner in inventing the Pullman cars), who had just moved to Colorado, acquired Thompson’s half ownership. Quickly Pullman seized upon the opportunity to expand the Cold Spring Ranch and make it a large operation.