In the Beginning
In the beginning, in the early 1900’s, Mr. and Mrs. Frend Neville owned a small cattle ranch at the mouth of the Big Thompson River. Wealthy doctors from Saint Louis came to the area to hunt deer and liked it so much they wanted to bring their families. The Nevilles then built some cabins and a lodge along the river and planted apple trees in the yard.
Years later, the facilities were sold to Cotner College, a Christian Church school in Lincoln, Nebraska. But during the depression of the ’30s, Cotner College closed and Sylvan Dale was leased out as a youth camp. Maurice Jessup, then a college kid in Oklahoma, overheard a conversation about the Ranch and asked for a summer job there. He hitch-hiked to Loveland and caught a ride from town with the mail carrier. He was overwhelmed with the beauty of the mountains and the rushing water and immediately told Camp Director JB Weldon, “You know, I just love this place. Someday I’m going to own Sylvan Dale.” That was in 1934.
Twelve years later, the Ranch was for sale and Maurice Jessup was in the Army. He received special permission to go and bid on the property. After scratching his bid on a piece of paper, he and his wife Mayme “Tillie” were awarded the 125 acre run-down property. The Ranch remains in the Jessup family and continues to enchant people from near and far.
Through a lifetime of hopes and dreams solidly based on faith, dedication, and hard work, the Jessups and their two children, David and Susan, increased the 125 acre ranch to a 3,200 acre working guest ranch. The Big Thompson flood of 1976 threatened to put an end to the dream, but reconstruction efforts were successful and what was once a summer guest ranch became a year ’round facility.
The future of Sylvan Dale remains with the Jessup Family, and so do the rich traditions of her past. It all adds up to a deeply-rooted sense of belonging. You can taste it in the hot buttered biscuits–light as a feather, in the distant cry of the coyote, the soft sound of the wind in the pines, and mostly in the warm western welcome that still rings true, “Pull up a chair, join our family table. Rest…Relax…Enjoy.” This is what life is all about…Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch.
We will never forget the afternoon of May 12, 1993. The Sylvan Dale valley was incredibly beautiful, clad in a spring robe of lush green sprinkled with the magic of wild flowers. We gathered on the lawn of the “J” House facing to the west.
The hills of home embraced us as we sat close sharing the memories of our Dad—Maurice Jessup, a man who lived his values, patiently endured his long illness, unselfishly gave opportunity to troubled youth, and shared his dream with literally thousands of people.
We said goodbye to him that afternoon as his ashes drifted into the valley. Our dad lived in the present moment. He was a “doer,” a risk-taker, a dreamer…a man with incredible vision and faith. His legacy continues to enrich our lives.
Mayme, nicknamed “Tillie” by her soul mate, Maurice Jessup, was one of the most gracious hosts in the history of Dude Ranching. She was loved by thousands upon thousands of people, having greeted and cared for Sylvan Dale guests for over 60 years. She always put herself last working tirelessly alongside her “knight in shining armor,” to make their dream come true.
Her baking was superb and her cinnamon rolls were world-famous. But neither of these held a candle to her beautiful smile and her genuine, unconditional acceptance of others. Her legacy was mirrored in her twinkling eyes, her teasing manner, her practical nature and her childlike wonder.
Her ashes were released into the arms of her beloved husband from the cliff of Echo Rock into the Sylvan Dale Valley on May 12, 2007, thirteen years to the day when his were released from the same location.
At the age of 93, she had managed to shed all vestiges of anger, bitterness, resentment, impatience and judgment. She was pure love. She was…and forever will be…the Heart in the Heart-J Brand.