Watch the Lost Man Video for a recount of the story from 1941.
Clyde Dillon was born on January 25th, 1896 in Alden, Kansas. He was the son of John S. Dillon, the original founder of J. S. Dillon and Sons grocery store which later turned into the Dillon’s grocery store chain with stores throughout Kansas. He grew up in Sterling, Kansas and later attended the University of Kansas. He and his younger brother, Ray Dillon Sr. both fought in World War I. In 1920 he married Flora “Flo” Jones and moved to Hutchinson, KS. They had two children, Paul and Betsy, both living today. Clyde was the Construction Executive of Dillon’s, responsible for the design of the stores.
Forty Five year old Clyde Dillon left Rifle, Colorado, the last place for supplies before the Cathedral Bluffs on his annual fall hunting trip on September 29th, 1941. This was a few days before hunting season opened, as Clyde enjoyed roaming the areas in which he hunted without a gun before the season officially opened. The camp he stayed at was near Yellow Creek and will be referred to as the lower camp. The upper camp was made about eight miles from the lower camp in the place where the memorial is now located. An early season snowstorm hit the area on October 5th, dropping as much as 15 inches of snow across northwestern Colorado. That evening, Clyde was attempting to travel in his car from the lower camp to the upper camp. His car apparently got stuck about two miles from the upper camp.
Word of the missing executive spread quickly back to his hometown of Hutchinson, KS. Ray and John Dillon, brothers of Clyde, called Dave Peterson, a pilot, and flew to Rifle to join the search. The plane, and later another plane were used while trying to find Clyde. Air searches were extremely rare in 1941, and this one was particularly difficult because of the terrain. Sheriff’s deputy Roy Harper directed search parties of 50 cowboys and hunters on horseback and on foot. Betsy, Clyde’s 12 year old daughter, and Flo both arrived and stayed for the duration of the search. Several Dillon family members and friends arrived to help with the search at different times, including Paul, Clyde’s 15 year old son. Fifteen boy scouts from various troops in Hutchinson also joined the search effort. The search covered a 40 square mile area of very harsh terrain and was not helped by bad weather. At one point there was a report that Clyde was safe at a building known as “Bobcat Ranch,” but that turned out to be false. The first newspaper articles about Clyde’s body being found appear on November 10th, which was after a period of unusually warm weather that allowed the snow to melt. His body was discovered about two miles from the upper camp about half way down a ridge.
After his car was stuck on a ridge that leads to the upper camp (County Road 70 in Rio Blanco county is on this ridge today), Clyde remained in his car with the heat on until it ran out of gas. Knowing he was not far from the upper camp, he decided to proceed on foot. He walked at least a mile, possibly coming as close as a quarter of a mile away from the upper camp before apparently deciding he was lost in the blizzard and turning around to return to his car. At a point on his return trip, there is a fork in the ridges. He had come from his car which was on the south fork, but walked back along the north fork. He then moved down the ridge, presumably to find some kind of shelter, and tried but failed to start a small fire. He then either fell or passed out from the cold, breaking one of the lenses in his glasses on the fall.
After the Discovery
Within hours of the discovery, Ray and Flo arrived at the location, Ray having flown in from Hutchinson. The place where the body was found was marked, and the body and the family returned to Hutchinson. The following spring after the snow had melted, Flo returned to the Cathedral Bluffs and placed the hubcap from Clyde’s car on top of a pole at the location where Clyde’s body was found. She inscribed in the concrete base: “We will always love you Clyde, -Flo” . The memorial was built soon after at the location of the upper camp.
This page was written by Jake Esau, Clyde’s great grandson, using information from The Hutchinson News, The Hutchinson Harold, and The Denver Post. Other information came from Paul Dillon, as told Mary Dillon and Jake Esau.