Tom Ross: South Routt’s Redmond family carries agriculture values forward
November 8, 2013
Yampa — Routt County lost another member of an elder generation of ranchers Oct. 20 when James T. "Jack" Redmond died at his family's historic ranch house at the edge of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area on Bull Creek. Redmond was emblematic of a generation that grew up in the Great Depression and weathered the tumult and shortages of World War II to deliver their farms, ranches and families to more prosperous times.
He was born in the home April 13, 1922, and lived there for more than 91 years.
"The Redmond property is still Redmond property because of strong people who endured the economic challenges of the last 100 years and relayed the frugality of the Depression years through their children," Jack's widow, Wanda, said Friday. "Some of them were able to endure and take advantage of economic opportunities that came along during and after World War II."
"Jack and Wanda are South Routt institutions and have helped to foster multigenerational stewardship of some of Routt County's most beautiful spots," Colorado State University agricultural extension agent Todd Hagenbuch wrote in an email. "We're losing so many of our old guard ag champions, so quickly."
Wanda Gumprecht Redmond said the primary reason her parents were able to help their three children go to college was the profitable lettuce and spinach crops grown in the Yampa area during the World War II era.
"My father, Otto Gumprecht, wanted to go on to radio school after World War I, but his father wouldn't let him," Wanda said. "He insisted all of us would have a chance to go to college."
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She is the eldest of four children and has a bachelor's degree in nutrition from Colorado State University and a master’s degree in education from the University of Maryland.
The Redmonds' elder son, Jim, has a master's degree in agriculture from CSU and appraises farms and ranches for pension funds in the Pacific Northwest. Their daughter, Julie, who was very active in 4-H here as a girl, has a master's degree from Regis College in health care administration and is an occupational therapist. Son John is employed as an engineer by MWH Global in Steamboat.
Jack Redmond was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II who went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in botany. He came home to the ranch with a deep understanding of the environment in which he grew up, especially the native plants and the forage on which the Hereford cattle and Rambouillet sheep he raised had grazed.
Redmond was intent on improving the vital access to irrigation water for which his parents and grandparents had fought. He played a leadership role in the 1956 construction of Allen Basin Reservoir, which boosted hay production in the Hunt Creek Drainage west of Yampa.
"I think he exemplified the Routt County rancher who had an interest in county and state issues," Wanda Redmond said. "He always asked me when I came home from a trip to Steamboat, 'Now, who did you see in Steamboat?' At one time, he felt that he knew just about everyone in Steamboat and Routt County. Ranchers in that time were dependent upon each other."
Some of the early homesteaders who came to the Yampa area in the early 20th century learned the importance of water for irrigation the hard way.
"The railroad came (to Yampa) in 1906, and people from the Midwest came west on the train because (the offer of homestead parcels of) 160 acres had great value in the Midwest," Wanda Redmond said. "But when they came west of the 100th meridian, water became essential. There were a lot of 160-acre homesteads in what was the desert area of Yampa."
Be reassured the Redmonds continue to ranch their place on Routt County Road 13 between Phippsburg and Yampa. Jack and Wanda's middle child, John, and his wife, Sara, just finished this week loading two large loads of hay onto trucks waiting to take the valuable crop to the Front Range.
"I can see in my daughter-in-law Sara the same attitude of 'I can do that' I have always had," Wanda Redmond said.
Wanda Redmond is every bit the rancher.
The eldest of four children who came of age in the Toponas area, she knew at an early age how to bring in a crop of hay.
"I was the one that rode horse and trapped muskrats," she said. "I drove a horse-drawn mower in the hayfield and drove a team (attached to) a plunger pole to push the hay to the top of the stack. I’ve had runaways with a dump rake. That would have been when I was 15 and 16 years old. I worked for a neighbor who paid me $6 a day, the same as men, during World World War II because he couldn't get any men."
Wanda Redmond has been active in the historic preservation community in Routt County, working on the Toponas Community Hall restoration. And although she isn’t certain what turn her life will take next, she is interested in an upcoming project to relocate the original Heart Mountain Schoolhouse from a ranch south of Yampa to its original location near the intersection of Routt County Roads 13 and 15.
Wanda Redmond is about to turn 85, and one of her best friends in the world is a young buckskin mare named Dolly. A former barrel racer, she thinks nothing of saddling Dolly and going for a solo trail ride.
"I tell the kids, if something happens to me, they'll know I was doing what I love," she said.
Wanda Redmond is young for her age and has more to give to historic preservation in Routt County.