Marie Guiraud

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Marie Chabreat Guiraud
Born c. 1830
Died June 5, 1909 (aged 79)
Park County, Colorado, USA
Residence Park County, Colorado
Occupation Rancher
Spouse(s) Louis Adolphe Guiraud (married 1849-1875, his death)
Children Ten children (five deceased by 1908)

Marie Chabreat Guiraud (c. 1830 - June 5, 1909) was a French-American rancher in Park County in central Colorado, who amassed a large estate from relatively little after she was widowed at the age of forty-five.


At nineteen in 1849, in Leon, France, Marie married Louis Adolphe Guiraud (pronounced GARO), who was seven years her senior. After a number of years in their native country, the Guirauds came to the United States through the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, where they remained for a month. They settled first in Cincinnati, Ohio, and then Leavenworth, Kansas. When a friend offered to pay his expenses, Adolphe came to the Colorado gold fields, where he opened a general store. He was likely in Hamilton when Park County was created as one of the first seventeen counties of the new state.[1]

Adolphe staked out 640 acres in Park County through the Homestead Act of 1862. He sold hay in Leadville for $80 per ton. On the homestead, he planted about forty-five acres in oats, wheat, rye, potatoes, and vegetables. After a year on the homestead and the accidental death of 10-year-old son Henry, the family moved to Denver. After another year in Denver, they had returned to the ranch. Another Guiraud store in Park County failed because Adolphe extended credit too leniently to customers.[1]

Woman rancher[edit]

After Adolphe died in 1875 at the age of fifty-three, the widowed Marie took over their modest homestead. The couple had ten children, three of whom predeceased Adolphe. The remaining seven children ranged in age from 2-year-old Ernest to 25-year-old Louis. During her 34-year widowhood, Marie lost two other children. Oldest son Louis was struck by lightning in 1888 at the age of thirty-eight. Daughter Eugenia G. Spurlock died in 1908 at the age of forty-two from a lengthy illness.[1]

In time the Guiraud spread grew from the 640 acres to four ranches on five thousand acres.[2] The ranch was worth $200,000 ($5.1 million in 2013 currency) when Marie died. She may have also had gold in the amount of $6 million in 2013 value.[1] In her obituary published in The Flume, the newspaper of Park County based in the county seat of Fairplay, her holdings were said to be "very nearly as great, if not the equal, of the largest estate ever built up in Park County."[3]

Guiraud's steers averaged 1,200 pounds; some weighed 1,800 pounds. She sold at four cents per pound ($1 in 2013 value). She also raised horses; in 1892, she shipped two carloads of horses by train to Chicago. Guiraud had exclusive use of Trout Creek as a source of water for her ranch. When she learned that a railroad would pass within fifty feet of her ranch, she formed the now ghost town of Garo, the American pronunciation of the family name.[1]

In 1906, Guiraud's house burned down; she built a ten-room, one-story dwelling valued at $3,000 ($80,000 in 2013). Upon her paralysis and death of a possible stroke, the six heirs divided $60,000 in cash ($1.5 million in 2013 value), the proceeds from four ranches, and the water rights. There was no mention in the probate of any gold holdings. Youngest child Ernest was executor of the estate.[1]

In 1913, four years after Marie Guiraud's death, the United States Department of Agriculture for the first time acknowledged the important role that women played on farms and ranches. In its annual Yearbook, the department stated:

The woman on the farm is a most important economic factor in agriculture. Her domestic work undoubtedly has a direct bearing on the efficiency of the field workers, her handling of the home ... contributes to the cash intake, and, in addition, hers is largely the responsibility for contributing the social and other features which make farm life satisfactory and pleasurable. On her, rests largely the moral and mental development of the children, and on her attitude depends in great part the important question of whether the succeeding generation will continue to farm or will seek the allurements of life in the cities.[2]

In 2013, the former Guiraud estate, known as Buffalo Peaks Ranch, was owned by the city of Aurora and operated as a residential library in which patrons can stay overnight on the property while doing research into ranch-related topics.[4] The ranch is located on Colorado State Highway 9 near Garo between Fairplay and Hartsel, a community named for Samuel Hartsel, one of Guiraud's neighboring ranchers who subsequently left Park County for Denver.[1]

Guiraud is included in the book Extraordinary Women of the Rocky Mountain West, edited by Tim Blevins.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Laura King Van Dusen, "Marie Guiraud: 1860s Pioneer, Mother of Ten, Widowed at Forty-five, Amassed One of the Largest Estates in Park County Up to 1909", Historic Tales from Park County: Parked in the Past (Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2013), ISBN 978-1-62619-161-7, pp. 15-20.
  2. ^ a b "Historical Background, p. 13". Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ The Flume, Fairplay, Colorado, June 11, 1909
  4. ^ "Laura King Van Dusen, "Rocky Mountain Land Library leases Buffalo Peaks Ranch: Stage One may open by spring 2015", October 18, 2013". The Flume. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  5. ^ Tim Blevins, ed., Extraordinary Women of the Rocky Mountain West. Pike's Peak Library District. 2010. ISBN 9781567352559.