In 1869 John Barkley Dawson purchased 250,000 acres of land on the Vermejo River from Lucien Maxwell (Maxwell Land Grant). For the next twenty years, Dawson developed the ranch land and built a ranch house.
Coal was discovered and the deposits laid under much of Dawson’s range. The Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Company, an English corporation, purchased the remaining part of the original Maxwell Land Grant and then proceeded to remove squatters and lease tenants of the original grant. All through the 1880s the company was successful in removing many occupants. In the early 1890s, the company filed suit against Dawson. The case processed through the court system and was eventually settled in Dawson’s favor by the U.S. Supreme Court.