A Historical Novel by R. Reed Johnson

Shadycroft Farm - Littleton, Colorado



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Shadycroft Farm

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by Steve Voynick,
Colorado Central Magazine

A brief history of Shadycroft Farm

  In 1877 Mr. Charles R. Bell homesteaded 365 acres of farmland several miles south of Littleton, Colorado. Subsequently, it was sold to Mr. Henry Curtis who, in turn, later in the 1800’s sold it to Mr. Herbert E. Johnson. Herbert was the father of Julius E. Johnson Senior and the paternal grandfather of Julius E. Johnson Jr. and Robert Reed Johnson. Granddad Johnson was vice president and general manager of the Colorado Milling and Elevator Company that was owned by Mr. J. K. Mullen. Consequently, he had no time to do the actual farm work himself and had others to do it for him while he took a horse and buggy each working day into the train station in Littleton. After stabling his horse and buggy at a nearby livery station, he would ride the commuter train “Uncle Sam” down to the Union Station in Denver, disembark and head to his office in the Hungarian Flour Mill in lower downtown Denver. I guess you might say that Granddad and his family were among the first of the suburbanites. Meanwhile, while Granddad was off making a living, Grandmother Johnson was stuck on the farm with a horde of children – initially five, later on eight. Eventually, they both apparently grew weary of this presumably idyllic way of life and moved back into Denver, setting up residence at 2160 So. Columbine St. in University Park. The farm, however, –  now named Shadycroft Farm based on a 1897 book, Evenings at Shadycroft – remained in their possession with tenant farmers doing the work as before.
Looking north-west from the top of a silo in 1941.
Barn and milk houses are on the near side of the Highline Canal with the Shadycroft farmhouse, pond, fields and mountains in the distance.                              
Picture taken by Julius E. Johnson, Jr. (J.J.)

   Our mother and father, Grace Reed and Julius E. Johnson, were married in 1915 and set up residence at 2148 So. Columbine St. next to Dad’s parents. Mother’s parents were Ida Andrea Reed and Doctor Anderson Franklin Reed. He was both a medical doctor and a dentist and mother was their only child. At the time of Mother and Dad’s marriage, Dad was working as a cereal chemist at the Colorado Milling and Elevator Company. Their first son, Julius E. Johnson Jr. (J. J.), was born in 1917, and the following year our folks decided to move back to Shadycroft Farm and actively farm it themselves. After purchasing the farm from Granddad using funds they received from selling their home and some land Dad had acquired north of the Happy Canyon Road in southeast Denver, they moved, lock, stock and barrel out to the country. This was sometime in 1918 or 1919, and from that time until 1948 they continuously farmed the land, except for a time in the 30’s when Dad’s poor health required that he live in town for a time. 

Julius Jr. & Robert Reed Johnson Julius Jr. and R. Reed Johnson ('Robby')

'Robby'  (alias Buck Duane) and 'Sadie'

    Life on the farm was not an easy one during the post World War One years of the twenties, followed by the stock market crash in 1929 and the depression and drought of the thirties. Things improved somewhat in the forties, however, when the price of wheat and other crops rose because of increase demand during World War Two. For most of these years Dad had the help of Clyde Williamson. He and his wife, Ada, along with their two daughters, lived in the tenant house on the property. 

   In the early 1940’s the Williamson’s left and Wesley and Frieda Corder took their place. Julius Jr. and Robert (Reed) helped out with some of the various chores on the farm, but neither of them would have been considered prime hands. This was largely because Mother was strongly opposed to her sons becoming farmers – and for good reason. What with drought, hail, wind, early fall or late spring freezes, blizzard, insect pests, government controls and economic slumps, life on a farm was not easy – and it still isn’t. But for all that, it can be a great way of life and very soul satisfying when things go well. Farmers are eternal optimists, as well as gamblers and will usually stay the course whenever things get bad, figuring that things are bound to get better soon – after all they can’t get any worse.

Forced to become an outlaw as a young man, Buck Duane rode on to become one of the toughest, most resourceful Texas Rangers in the history of Western books. Whether facing a gold-crazy renegade or a gang of rustlers, he was the gun to beat.

   Personally, I consider myself lucky to have grown up on the farm, and I suspect my brother, Julius (J. J.), feels the same way. He went on to become a biochemist and worked at the Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan until he retired in 1982. In 1943 he married Sally Moery, a lovely Illinois girl, and between them they raised four children, Peggy, Andrea, Jan and Reed. At the time of his retirement Julius was Vice President and director of Research. After retiring, Julius and Sally moved from Midland, Michigan to a new home in Roxborough Park, a community southwest of Denver. 

   I chose a different course and became a medical doctor. And then, after a stint in the Navy and a pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital in Denver, I practiced pediatrics for forty years in the University Hills area of southeast Denver. 

   After Shadycroft Farm was sold in 1948, Mother and Dad kept fifteen acres along the north margin of the original farm. After Mother died in 1954, my wife, Tee, and I along with our three children, Randy, Pam and Brad, built a home on the west five acres of Dad’s land. We moved in January 1956 and have lived here happily ever since.

The Shadycroft barn and, silo are visible at the top-right of the picture. "Sam's" shack is at center-left.  This is part of a larger picture taken from Ridge Road in 1948 looking to the south west across Windermere.  The larger historic picture can be viewed as either a 814KB or 262KB jpg image.  

As you might imagine, even though it is greatly diminished in size, we still call it Shadycroft Farm. Randy, his wife Carol and our grandson Reed live on the land in their grandparents remodeled home, while Pamela and her husband Lester Hay live in their adjacent home . Their children, Elisabeth, Justin and Andrew, have all grown up and flown the coop- so to speak. Our younger son, Brad, his wife, Patti and their son, Peter, live in Broomfield, Colorado.

   The remaining acreage of Shadycroft Farm has been subdivided and filled with many beautiful homes – many on large parcels of land. So, I'm happy to say, the rural atmosphere remains. Our old farmhouse was torn down in the 1960’s and replaced with a modern home, and the old, red, Wisconsin-style barn built by my Granddad Johnson in 1903 was torn down in 2001. That pretty much ended the story of old Shadycroft Farm.

   A Thread of Gold is available now.  Ordering information can be found here!       

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