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DHL Ranch History

The ranch is situated some fifteen miles from Taos, New Mexico, its post office being San Cristobal, in the valley to the north of the access road. It has been variously called “Lobo” for the mountain on whose lower slope it was carved out, and “Kiowa” for the Indians who once camped there. Its modern history begins on March 18, 1893, with the recording of John L. Craig’s declaration of rights to the water in the El Rio de Las Gallinas, and, on July 19, the issue to him of a homestead certificate. On December 18, 1895, the title was conveyed to Mrs. Mary McClure, who used the ranch for the raising of Angora goats. It became the property of Mrs. Mabel Sterne (Mabel Dodge Luhan) on May 26, 1920, was deeded to her son, John Evans, and was reconveyed to her November 22, 1922. Early in 1924 she gave it to Frieda Lawrence, who, at Lawrence’s insistence, recompensed her with the manuscript of Sons and Lovers. It remained in Frieda’s name, except for one brief period in 1941 when she deeded it to Angelo Ravagli, until she gave it to the University of New Mexico in 1956.

The Lawrences first came to Taos on September 11, 1922, where they stayed in one of Mrs. Luhan’s guest houses. Their first stay in the ranch area was at Del Monte Ranch, just below the Lawrence ranch, from December 1, 1922, to March 18, 1923. They returned to Taos from Mexico and Europe, with Dorothy Brett, March 22, 1924, and after Mrs. Luhan’s gift of the ranch, moved there on May 5, staying some five months, to October 11. Lawrence’s last visit to the ranch began in early April, 1925, after his serious illness in Mexico as he was completing The Plumed Serpent, and extended to September 10. His stay in New Mexico totaled about one and a half years, three and a half months of which were spent at Del Monte Ranch, eleven at “Kiowa” Ranch.

After Lawrence’s death on March 2, 1930, Frieda turned to the ranch as a home and as the ultimately appropriate memorial to Lawrence. She returned briefly in the spring of 1931 with Angelo Ravagli. Then in 1933 they established residence, beginning the new house, just below the original Lawrence house, on May 30, 1033. The chapel was built in the summer of 1934, and that winter Ravagli went to Vence, arranged to have Lawrence’s body exhumed and cremated (March 13, 1935, at the Cimetiere Saint-Pierre, Marseille), and in April brought the ashes to the ranch, where they were placed in the altar of the chapel. At her death, August 11, 1956, she was buried in front of the chapel. At her death, August 11, 1956, she was buried in front of the chapel, her grave marked first by the simple wooden cross she requested, later by the stone marker that was commissioned and dedicated by Angelo Ravagli.

During the many years of life remaining to her after Lawrence’s death, Frieda established a tradition of hospitality, especially creative people, sometimes famous, sometimes simply in need of help. Among her guests were Aldous Huxley, W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Tennessee Williams, and Leonard Bernstein. The register at the chapel contains, as well, the names of visitors from all over the world. One of the ways of using the ranch which pleased her as she planned its future with the University, was the establishment of fellowships for writers and other artists during the summer months. Those who later became sponsors of this plan were Richard Aldington, Dorothy Brett, Kenneth Burke, Witter Bynner, Caresse Cresby, David Garnett, Aldous Huxley, Willard Johnson, F.R. Leavis, Mabel Luhan, Harry T. Moore, John Middleton Murry, Edward Nehls, Lawrence Clark Powell, Mark Scharer, Stephen Spender, Mark Spilka, William York Tindall, and Diana Trilling. A local committee was established, and an appeal for funds to provide a stipend was begun. A generous gift was made by Tennessee Williams.

The largest part of the fund, so far, has been provided by the generosity of the writers, and others, who gave manuscripts: Saul Bellow, Bernard Berensen, Kenneth Burke, Witter Bynner, John Ciardi, Helen Corke, John Dos Passos, Richard Eberhart, Leslie Fiedler, Brewster Ghiselin, Lillian Hellman, David Garnett, Angelo Ravagli, Mrs. Mary Middleton Murry, Mary McCarthy, Josephine Miles, Wright Morris, Vladimir Nabokov, Reinhold Niebuhr, Frank O’Conner, Herbert Read, I.A. Richards, Mark Scharer, Winfield Townley Scott, John Steinbeck, Ruthven Todd, Carl Van Vechten, Richard Wilbur, Thornton Wilder. Particularly helpful in the gathering of these were Mark Scharer and Diana Trilling. The collection was purchased by the Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas, who in April 1960 published a catalogue of what is maintained as the D.H. Lawrence Fellowship Fund Manuscript Collection.

The function of the ranch is to serve as a fitting memorial to D.H. Lawrence and to Frieda Lawrence, and to encourage the arts, and life, in a creative spirit. Though Lawrence’s term of residence was relatively short as time goes, it was long as the spirit of the man goes. In his essay “New Mexico” (published in Phoenix: the Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence), he wrote:

“I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I have ever had. It certainly changed me forever, […] liberated me from the present era of civilization, the great era of material and mechanical development. […] The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine high up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend […] There are all kinds of beauty in the world, thank God, though ugliness is homogeneous […] But for a greatness of beauty I have never experienced anything like New Mexico. All those mornings when I went with a hoe along the ditch to the Canon, at the ranch, and stood, in the fierce, proud silence of the Rockies, on their foothills, to look far over the desert to the blue mountains away in Arizona, blue as chalcedony, with the sage-brush desert sweeping grey-blue in between, dotted with tiny cube-crystals of houses, the vast amphitheatre of lofty, indomitable desert, sweeping round to the ponderous Sangre de Cristo mountains on the east, and coming up flush at the pine-dotted foot-hills of the Rockies! What splendour! […] These that have spent morning after morning alone there pitched among the pines above the great proud world of desert will know, almost unbearable how beautiful it is, how clear and unquestioned is the might of the day […] Ah, yes, in New Mexico the heart is sacrificed to the sun and the human being is left stark, heartless, but undauntedly religious.”