Eleanor Chambers’ granddaughter visits Rock Ledge
Genealogy is a pleasant hobby for many people, but not a lot of folks can claim a family connection to people who have been immortalized as part of a historic site
that attracts thousands of visitors a year.
One who can is Lauren Dunbar, granddaughter of Eleanor Chambers, who between 1880 and 1900 had grown up in the Rock Ledge House, a featured building in what is now the Colorado Springs-owned Rock Ledge Ranch.
“Every time I come here I'm overcome with emotion,” said Dunbar during a recent visit to the site with her husband Dick - her first since 2001. “To have this living history museum is like a window into time.”
Eleanor, the daughter of Robert and Elsie Chambers (who built the Rock Ledge House), lived until the mid-'80s. In her lifetime, she served as a nurse in the Spanish- American War and sold apples during the Great Depression of the '30s. The city bought the Rock Ledge property in 1967, and Eleanor was excited about the idea of preserving it, her granddaughter recalled.
Dunbar herself, who first visited the ranch as a child in 1952, has been “thrilled out of my mind” to see the continuing improvements at the one-time homestead. One of these was the removal, in the early 1990s, of the stucco that had been installed over the large rock exterior walls her grandparents had used in building the house.
The northern California resident has done some research into the family history. One aspect she delved into was the Chambers' apple orchard. Her grandfather had studied scientific farming with a particular interest in wheat farming. “So what were they doing with all these apples?” Dunbar asked, rhetorically. Her belief is that it was her great-grandmother Elsie, whose family had grown apples back East for generations, who spearheaded the orchard's creation.
“Who knew about apples? Elsie did,” Dunbar laughed.
Two of the original trees still exist at the ranch, with a new, commemorative orchard having been started in recent years.
Another historical tidbit from Dunbar: The one authentic item in the Rock Ledge House is a sampler that had been handstitched in 1824. It hung on the wall, as it does now, when the Chambers were there, Dunbar said.
Why did the Chambers move away (to California in 1900)? It's not known for sure, but Dunbar believes it may have been connected with the fire that destroyed the first Antlers Hotel in October 1898. At the time, the Chambers ranch was one of the chief suppliers of produce to the hotel, Dunbar said.
In California, she has a business in which she documents people's personal histories. She is using that know-how to create a documentary of Rock Ledge; on her recent visit, she spent some of her time on that project.
One ranch aspect she's particularly impressed with is the junior docent program, through which 65 children put in regular hours at the ranch, meeting the public while dressed in period costume.
“I think that's astonishing,” she said.
Westside Pioneer article