OUR TOWN

GREENLAND LIES JUST MINUTES SOUTH OF DENVER, BUT IT'S A MILLION MILES AWAY.EXIT, GREENLAND A TWO-HORSE TOWN IS PUT OUT TO PASTURE.

The small house Ida May Noe shares with John, her husband of 52 years, is one fence line away from the hundred-year-old Noe Farm, run by John's brother James. Both places sit just back from Noe Road, which cuts a two-mile dirt track through the southern half of Douglas County. The Noes came to this country in the 1880s and, unlike the homesteaders who could not stick it out, they stayed.

Ida May, a Noe by marriage for the past half-century, collects Noe history. "I worked in the county clerk's office, hunting up records for people," she explains. "It got to be a habit with me. I started keeping things."

Ida May's things are contained in a shelf of notebooks that have become her companions. She likes to spend evenings sitting at an antique drop-leaf table, with the TV on for company, sorting old newspaper clippings, photographs, letters and maps--anything that pertains to the twenty square miles where she lives.

Since as far back as 1880, it's been known as Greenland.
In 1943, when John and Ida May Noe married, their mail went to a post-office box at the Greenland station. Though they lived in the same house for the next thirty years, the Noes' post-office box numbers kept getting lower and lower as the population of Greenland got smaller and smaller. In 1959 the post office shut down altogether, and Ida May's address officially became part of the town of Larkspur.

"Greenland was more of a place back long ago than it is now," Ida May says. "There were two grocery stores once, and one had a slot machine, I hear, not that anyone had a nickel to put in it. There were three saloons. My husband was born here in 1922, and he says it was a hopping place, although even that happened before his time."

Much of what did happen in Greenland is preserved in Ida May's notebooks, whole volumes of which deal with the Noes and the Higbys, their next-door neighbors for a century. Between the photographs and census entries are cryptic handwritten notes, such as the list of all Ida May's post-office box numbers. A random sampling also reveals:

•a photograph of an 1890s-era, grandmotherly woman in black bombazine that was rescued from a Greenland attic. Spidery script on the back of the picture reads: "Dear Old Mrs. Riggs. Never has a better old lady lived on this earth." Ida May has spent many an hour trying to decide whether the writer meant to say "better" or "bitter." She leans toward "bitter."

•the words "tertiary sandstone" written on a piece of paper, to remind Ida May exactly what Greenland earth consists of.

•a flier advertising free blood-pressure screening available to residents of Greenland and Larkspur.

"I keep even the current things," Ida May says. "Ancient history is good, but you have to be careful not to miss things in between."

In fact, the history of Greenland is the history of being in between: between mountains and plains, between Colorado's two largest--and most hungry--metro areas, between flourishing and ceasing to exist.

Greenland still has its own exit on I-25, ten miles north of Monument and eight miles south of Larkspur. Driving past Greenland on the highway, if the monotony of the Monument plateau has not dulled your brain, you might discern railroad tracks, a half-dozen clapboard buildings, a large red barn and the singularly beautiful stretch of open land that comprises the hundred-year-old, 18,000-acre Greenland Ranch--the largest continuously operating cattle ranch on the Front Range.

How long it will remain in operation is a matter of much discussion in and around Douglas County. Although no deals have been announced, rumors of the ranch's imminent sale, to be immediately followed by anything from a crowded subdivision to pristine open space, have been flying for months.

Should any of this come to pass, the history of what happened here over the last hundred or so years could disappear as completely as the town of Greenland itself, which is why the Douglas County Library has asked Ida May to donate her notebooks, on the off chance that anyone might care. A Compressed History of Early Greenland

Since time immemorial: Roving bands of Indians pass by.
1820s: The Stephen Long expedition marches through.
1858: Rumors of gold in surrounding hills attract Easterners.

1859: A stage stop opens in what is known as Pinedale. Rumors of gold in surrounding hills prove unfounded.

1871: The Denver and Rio Grande railroad begins stopping at the Pinedale depot. A post office opens. Settlers harvest big pines for railroad ties, run cattle, grow famous "Divide" potatoes, dig fancy pottery clay and quarry nearby buttes for stone, some of which ends up in downtown Denver office buildings.

1876: A twenty-acre town plat is drawn up, to include nearly one hundred building sites. Saloons and a blacksmith shop are already in place to service several large ranches in the area.

1877: A large red draft-horse barn is built for the Greenland Breeding Farm. Struck by lightning in the 1920s, it burns and is rebuilt to look almost exactly the same.

1880-something: Novelist Helen Hunt Jackson, the Barbara Cartland of her day, passes through Pinedale on the train and, entranced with the lush colors of the pastures, renames it Greenland.

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