John J. Langstaff, of Rifle, Garfield county, an extensive and prosperous stock man, was born on February 14, 1855, in Grant county, Wisconsin, and was reared and educated there, attending the district schools during the winter months for a few years. At the age of twelve he took up the burden of life for himself and from that time until the present he has made his own way in the world successfully. Being obliged to work hard for a livelihood and depend wholly on himself in the effort, he learned self-reliance and acquired a good knowledge of his own capacities and the characteristics and temperaments of men in general. He began by working nine years in the lead and coal mines of his native state, then in 1876 went to Illinois and later to Cleveland, Ohio. For two years he followed coal mining in those states, and in 1878 turned his attention to farming, moving soon afterward to Minnesota, where he farmed for wages. He determined to return to the mining industry, and until 1880 was engaged in that pursuit in Utah and Montana. In the year last named the gold excitement at Leadville in this state led him thither, and during the next two years he mined both for wages and on an independent basis in different parts of Colorado, meeting with good success most of the time. In 1882 he pre-empted a claim of one hundred and sixty acres in Grand river valley, to which he added other tracts until he owned six hundred acres, and on this land he ranched and raised stock until 1903. He then sold the land but retained the cattle which he has since kept and tended on the open range. When he located in Grand valley the country was wild and wholly unsettled and the Indians were numerous and hostile. They killed stock owned by other persons in the neighborhood in 1885, but did not molest his. Mr. Langstaff was one of the earliest settlers in that portion of the valley, and, with the help of William L. Smith and H.G. Brown, buried the first white man who died there. His name was William Gay and he died in 1883. A coffin was made of wagon-bed timber by James Moss and in this the body was buried. Mr. Langstaff was the first county commissioner elected in Garfield county, and he also had charge of the bridge and road building in the county at its organization. There were then one hundred and twenty miles of roads and four bridges, and the sum of twenty-seven thousand dollars was appropriated for their maintenance and extension. In political faith and allegiance he has always been an active working Republican, and in fraternal life has for many years belonged to the order of Odd Fellows. His parents were William and Laura Langstaff, the former a native of Yorkshire, England, and the latter of Michigan. They located in Wisconsin at an early period and the father built the first smelter in that state. He was a successful business man and died in 1871, his wife also passing away. Both belonged to the Methodist church. Six of their nine children are living: William, at Cripple Creek; Mary A. (Mrs. James Wilson), at Beloit, Wisconsin; John J., at Rifle; Jennie, at Boulder; Margaret (Mrs. Edward Crane), at Beloit, Wisconsin; and Bartholomew, at Parachute, this state.
Source: Bowen, A. W. Progressive Men of Western Colorado. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., Publishers. 1905.