Black History Highlight: Weld County ghost town used to be thriving African-American community

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DEARFIELD, Colo. – Twenty miles east of Greeley, in the heart of Northern Colorado, is a small ghost town called Dearfield. “It’s out in the country, pretty much,” said Dr. Geroge Junne, a University of Northern Colorado professor. Drivers might miss Dearfield if they aren’t paying attention while driving down Highway 34. Don’t let the overgrown grass and broken barns fool you: the town is full of history. “This was a black community that was started in 1910 for African-Americans who wanted to own their own farms, their own houses and so forth,” said Dr. Junne. A man by the name of OT Jackson started Dearfield. His idea was to give African-Americans a place to succeed — a place they could call their own, have jobs and own land during a time when that was usually impossible for African-Americans. “Even though it’s 1910, it’s not that far away from the Emancipation Proclamation and things like that. And there were many African-Americans who came out here to the Denver area and they wanted to own their own and this was an opportunity,” Dr. Junne said. “Everybody knew about Dearfield. It was a very successful community.” The crumbling wood on site is remnants of the town’s lunch cafe. Some of the boarded up areas are what’s left of the town gas station. Hundreds of people, mostly black, called Dearfield home. The reason we even know what each building was is thanks to Dr. Bob Brunswig. He also works at the University of Northern Colorado. “We’ve done a number of small excavations around the town site,” said Dr. Brunswig. “There are a lot of questions, a lot of mystery about what happened out here.” Dr. Brunswig and so many others found that Dearfeild was a short-lived dream. It was up and running for about 20 years, until the Dust Bowl came through in the early 1930s. “Everything just dried up and blew away,” Dr. Junne said. “Very gradually, this community disappeared.” The physical foundations may be wobbly and the people are all gone, but the story of Dearfield will always remain. Dr. Junne and Dr. Brunswig say they want to make Dearfield a historical destination. They are looking to raise money to make Dearfield’s remains a place that will never be forgotten.

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