Colorado History and Genealogy Project

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Union Colony Colorado ~  1870

The history of this colony is too generally known to require any extended notice.

Organized in New York city on the 23rd of December, 1869, by the election of a president, vice-president and treasurer, and the appointment of an executive committee of five persons, this movement has grown from an enrolled membership of fifty-nine persons, until now it can boast of a large settlement, a thrifty and substantial town ornamented with artificial lakes, parks and water-courses, and a harmonious community of several hundreds of intelligent and energetic people. It was an experiment, but the experiment, despite the predictions of croakers, has crystalized into a pronounced success.

The executive committee of this colony, after having investigated the advantages and inducements offered by Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, fixed upon the latter as in every way more desirable, while presenting fewer and less formidable drawbacks than any of the other sections inspected. After a careful and thorough examination of the various localities, a selection of lands was made along the valley of the beautiful Cache-a-la-Poudre River, in the northern portion of the Territory. The town site was located on the banks of this stream, a few miles above its junction with the South Platte.

In honor of one of its originators, the new town was named Greeley. The site of the town is a delta formed by the Cache-a-la-Poudre and South Platte rivers, and on the line of the Denver Pacific railway, midway between Denver and Cheyenne. It has an elevation of a little less than 4,800 feet, and is in latitude 40° 25' north; and longitude, 27° 48' west of Washington.

The colony purchased from the Denver Pacific Railway Company, and from private individuals, twelve thousand acres of land. The preliminary steps for the occupation of sixty thousand acres of government lands were also taken, and a contract made with the Denver Pacific railway to purchase, at any time within three years, fifty thousand acres more, at a cost of from $3 to $4 per acre, by paying interest from date of contract. Thus the colony at once gained control of nearly one hundred and twenty-five thousand acres, including some of the finest lands in the Territory, with charters for irrigating canals covering the entire area.

The town site was subdivided into 520 business lots, 25 x 190 feet; 673 residence lots, ranging in size from 50 x 190 to 200 x 190 feet; and 277 lots, reserved for schools, churches, public buildings, etc. The adjacent lands were divided into plats of from five to one hundred and twenty acre each, according to distance from the town centre, and each member allowed to select one of these plats under his colony certificate of membership. All the lands are to be supplied with water, and are not subject to assessment on any account, except for the nominal cost of keeping the irrigating canals and ditches in repair. A plaza or public square, of ten acres was laid out in the centre of the town, artificial lakes constructed, trees planted, and by June, 1870, the first canal was completed, and water running through all the principal streets. An island in the river, just above the town, comprising nearly fifty acres, and nicely shaded with native cottonwoods, was reserved for public uses, and named "Island Grove Park."

The usual experiences of pioneering, want of accommodations, remoteness from settlements, etc., were endured by the early arriving colonists; and the inevitable dissatisfactions and disappointments attending such novel enterprises followed. The faint-hearted and the visionary, those who could not at once realize their chateaux en espague, did the usual amount of crumbling, and some returned to the States in disgust.

Other canals were, in time, completed; the melted snows of the mountain tops came splashing through the town and over the sun-parched soil, and transformed the forlorn wilderness into a promise of paradise. The desponding took heart as they saw the cactus gradually supplanted by the cucumber, (columbine), and new comers were spared the disappointment and mortification experienced by the advance guard of the colony at the apparent desolateness of the country. Their doubts and prejudices respecting irrigation were soon dispelled. Buildings were completed, gardens began to bloom, and with the exception of a few discontents, who would find fault with the climate or the soil, or the sunshine, or something, if they were to be turned loose in Paradise, the colony became a community of cheerful, hopeful and industrious men and women.

This, the oldest of the new experiments in the colony line, is a success. Some mistakes have occurred in its management, and there has been some dissatisfaction with various officers and leading spirits. As is usually the case, self-aggrandizement and ambition have prompted over-reaching efforts on the part of prominent managers. But, in the main, the original plan of the organization has been as faithfully carried out as circumstances would admit. There is no doubt but that "the thoughts of men are widened by the process of the suns," especially western suns; and the Greeley colonists will broaden in their sympathies and views of life, after inhaling the mountain atmosphere of this region for a few years. In turn they may teach these recklessly extravagant; Coloradans a wholesome lesson of saving and economy. For, while the hospitality of the latter knows no bounds, their purses have come to be as open as their hearts. Scarcely a family in the Territory but wastes as much as would support a similar family in New England. They spend dollars where eastern-bred people are sparing of dimes.

Greeley is a fixed fact. It has its schools, churches, banks and established business houses. It has its newspaper, a sprig of its godfather, the N. Y. Tribune. Its Educational Board, Farmer's Club, Exchange Place, Its Lyceum and Library Association. The town now contains over three hundred and fifty buildings, ranging from board shanties to red brick fronts. There are seventeen stores, three lumber yards, three blacksmith and wagon shops, one printing office, and one livery stable. There is still opportunity to join the colony. All information can be obtained by addressing the "Bureau of Statistics and Information," Greeley, Colorado.

Rocky Mountain Directory & Colorado Gazetteer

Source: Rocky Mountain Directory and Colorado Gazetteer, 1871, S. S. Wallihan & Company, Compilers and Publishers, Denver, 1870.

 

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