Very little information remains on the early homesteading history of the Teton Science Schools’ Kelly Campus. It is known that Ransom Adams filed on a 160-acre homestead that is thought to have been first settled by Grant Shinkle. While Adams’ claim remains in the patent issued by the General Land Office, Shinkle’s claim is undocumented. In 1917, Adams sold the homestead to D.H. Miller, who leased it to Raymond Kent. The Kent family lived on the homestead until 1923, creating a small family ranch. They raised hay and grain that they sold to neighbors, but never owned any cattle. In 1928, John “Jack” and Dollye Woodman purchased the property from Miller and opened a modest dude ranch called the Flying V. For the first time the ranch now had a name.
There are few records about the earliest buildings on the ranch, but the Woodmans probably purchased a few small log buildings necessary for supporting a small haying operation and family. The Woodmans invested in a herd of cattle and a large new main lodge to run their dude operations from. Rates were $550 for the 2-month season or $70 weekly. In 1932, tragedy struck and the new lodge caught fire. One woman died as a result from burns she sustained. The Woodmans were devastated and decided not to rebuild, they instead sold the lodge and the cattle to Gustav Koven. Koven then sold the cattle, and associated brand, to the Chambers family of nearby Mormon Row. The Chambers opened a new ranch under the Flying V name in the Gros Ventre. At the former Woodman property, Koven had formed a partnership in 1936 with famed mountain guide Paul Petzoldt, who suggested renaming the ranch “Ramshorn.” Their idea was to create a hybrid dude ranch and headquarters for mountain climbing guides. Koven and Petzoldt rebuilt the main lodge and added three additional guest cabins. However the partnership would not last and Petzoldt departed in 1937. Koven leased out the ranch to local guides Ted and Bill Jump who ran a small dude ranch during the summer and hosted hunters in the fall.
In 1946, Koven sold the ranch to a partnership of non-locals. The association had plans to continue the dude and hunting operations, but also to create a winter season for skiing. By 1953, all of the partners had sold their interests to Alvin P. Adams, vice-president of Pan American Airlines. In 1956, Adams sold the property to Grand Teton National Park. It would seem that despite the success of other small ranches throughout the valley, the Flying V-Ramshorn would not see the same determination in its changing ownership. But one woman with a ranch on the opposite side of the valley saw an opportunity in the lonely ranch. Katie Starratt held a lease on the Elbo Ranch just south of Jenny Lake. The Elbo had once been a thriving commercialized operation that had also witnessed the decline associated with multiple ownership. Grand Teton National Park officials allowed Starratt to transfer her lease, as they needed the old Elbo buildings for staff housing. She moved across the valley, and took the Elbo name with her. The former Ramshorn was now the “new” Elbo Ranch (as it became colloquially known). Starratt was able to bring her reputation and following from the old location to the ranch that never took off, and she was very successful.
In 1974 Starratt died and the now-popular New Elbo Ranch would come to an end. That same year, a new lease was issued on the property to the Grand Teton Environmental Education Center. The property was no longer open to dudes, but it had transferred to a unique style of education focused on teaching environmental science in a natural setting. Ted Major had first come to Jackson Hole in the 1960s to teach science, and began to develop his own curriculum focused on bringing the outdoors directly to his students. His vision was realized with the new lease at what is known today as the Kelly Campus of the Teton Science Schools (TSS). The campus was first used for TSS’s Graduate Program, which expanded to include the Journeys School in 2001. The Teton Science Schools now have several campuses in the area, and host a number of school groups from around the world. Ted Major’s early mission to connect students to their natural environment and the importance of conservation, has resulted in the preservation of the historic buildings at the Kelly Campus. Despite such a disruptive beginning, the Flying V-Ramshorn-Elbo-TSS Kelly Campus has become a prominent player in the history of the valley.
Text by Samantha Ford, Director of Historical Research and Outreach