The Whole West was His Home…… O.D. Loutsenhizer
By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE—(January 15, 2014) As a young man he struck out from his Midwestern home, in search of rugged adventure in the nation’s wild Western Frontier, exploring the rough and ready territory before settling at last in the place that held onto his heart—Montrose.
Though originally named for Pomona, the Roman Goddess of fruit-and later for author Walter Scott’s character “The Duchess of Montrose,” Montrose probably owes far more to a long ago resident nicknamed “Pappy.” Take a quick stroll around town, and evidence of one of the town’s first citizens is everywhere—from the small gabled house he once occupied at 947 South Second Street, to the prominent headstone at Cedar Cemetery, to the life-giving irrigation canal that bears his name.
Oliver D. “Pappy” Loutsenhizer embodied the free spirit of the American West, piecing together a living as a farmer, prospector and miner. Born in Williams, Ohio in 1839, he headed West as soon as he was able, striking out for Montana and the Northwest and eventually passing through Idaho and California as well.
A Montrose Press article dated Feb. 26, 1907, notes that “He came to Colorado in the early days, and made a trip through this country and on to Salt Lake as early as 1860…he was well acquainted with Chief Ouray, and knew all the great Ute chiefs of that time. “
Noting that Loutsenhizer—who was one of the Montrose County’s first three County Commissioners—was “a great factor in the building up of Western Colorado and particularly of Montrose County,” the obituary also touches on one of the frontiersman’s many adventures. After serving as Sheriff of Bozeman, Montana in 1867, the pioneering spirit once again lured Loutsenhizer to head out in search of adventure—this time with one of Colorado’s most notorious historical figures.
“He was with Packer the “man eater” in 1872,” the account recalls, and when the party divided, before Packer went to Lake City, where he murdered and ate his companions, Loutsenhizer and his party went on over to the Tomichi and to Los Pinos Agency.”
That episode was also recounted in the Montrose Press obituary in March of that same year.
“In 1871 he joined a party of trappers and prospectors in the territory of Utah and started for Colorado, with Alfred Packer, who claimed to know the route, as guide. The party became lost on the desert and for months they wandered about, finally reaching the Grand river, not far from where Grand Junction now stands, in a half-starved condition. They continued on and finally pitched camp in the Shavano Valley, a few miles south of Montrose. This was the headquarters of the Ute Indians and they were then under leadership of Ouray who received the palefaces in a kindly manner.
“Here the party separated, Loutsenhizer and three others going toward the mining camp of Ouray, Packer and the other three for Los Pinos Agency. The killing of his companions near Lake City and the eating of their flesh by Packer are yet familiar history. Loutsenhizer did not like Packer’s actions on the first part of the trip and this was the cause of the separation in this valley.”
Shortly afterward, the obituary states, Loutsenhizer “settled down for life on the spot now occupied by beautiful Montrose.”
Loutsenhiser and Joseph Selig owned the ranches that were later divided into lots for the town.
According to authors Cathleen Norman and Marilyn Cox in Montrose-Take a Closer Look-A Walking Tour Guide (Preservation Publishing, 2006), the tiny, gabled home that Loutsenhizer lived in with his family (he was married twice and had two daughters, Mae and Julia) still stands at the corner of South Second and Lot streets (947 South Second)—the latter of which appears to be derived from his own last name. On his gravestone, shared by beloved family members, is carved his nickname, “Papa Lot.” A portion of the Loutsenhizer Ranch became the “Loutsenhizer Addition” to the growing town of Montrose.
“His home was there and in that home Loutsenhizer and a good wife welcomed the friend and stranger with the same warm-hearted characteristic of the family. ‘Pappy’ Loutsenhizer was the familiar term with which he was ever greeted,” states his obituary.
When “Pappy” passed away at the age of 78, he was not only one of Montrose’s best-known citizens, but one of the best known residents of the Western Slope. He died at the home of daughter Julia, then Mrs. Harry McNeill, and his older daughter Mae traveled from Hot Springs Arkansas to pay her respects.
“The funeral was held Wednesday afternoon from the opera house and the old time acquaintances of the dead pioneer turned out in large numbers. The floral tribute was elaborate,” noted the Montrose Press. “May the soul of this hardy pioneer rest in peace, in the little cemetery in the Western land he loved so well.”