Presentation on theme: "Dearfield, Colorado “Get a home of your own. Get some property….get some of the substance for yourself.” Booker T. Washington."— Presentation transcript:
Dearfield, Colorado “Get a home of your own. Get some property….get some of the substance for yourself.” Booker T. Washington.
Washington’s advice, coinciding with an African- American “back to the land” movement at the turn of the 20 th Century, inspired O.T. Jackson to invest his own money to buy land for a black colony located on Highway 34, ninety miles north of Denver. Photo Source: Colorado Historical Society Jackson established Dearfield as a self- sufficient all-black agricultural colony.
In 1910, Dearfield’s first seven homesteaders established land claims, initially living in tents, dugouts, and even caves.
Source: The colony’s first recruit was an elderly man and friend of Jackson, J.M. Thomas. On August 20 th, 1910, James Smith and J.M. Thomas of Denver planted 100 acres of winter wheat. Home of late J.M. Thomas, first settler of Dearfield
In 1911, the first full year of settlement, seven families moved to Dearfield surviving that year’s severe winter in only two frame houses. By 1915, the town’s population had grown to include 27 families, 44 wood cabins, a concrete block factory, dance pavilion, lodge, restaurant, grocery store, and boarding house.
Settlers dry farmed corn, oats, barley, alfalfa, hay, potatoes, Mexican beans, sugar beets, cantaloupes, strawberries, and a wide variety of truck garden products. They also raised cattle, horses, hogs, turkeys, geese, ducks, and chickens. Some farmers went beyond subsistence farming and grew crops for the Kuner’s factory, the Beatrice Creamery, and Green Brothers in Denver.
Grain, both Wheat and Corn (seen here), were Dearfield’s Most Important Cash Crops Source:
Photo Source: Denver Public Library A Dearfield farming family in their cornfield Dr. Jones and three women, viewing a cornfield
In 1920, Dearfield farmers produced the colony’s largest crop, one third greater than in the previous year. By 1921, 200 to 300 people lived in Dearfield. It’s net worth that year was appraised at $1,075,000 USD. By 1921, 15,000 of the community’s 20,000 total farm acres were farmed by sixty families and the town had two churches and a gas station.
Many Dearfield colonists came from Denver, others from as far away as Missouri, Arkansas, and Virginia. Aside from farming, people worked in retail businesses and truck gardening.
Many Dearfield residents worked in Denver during weekdays and farmed their homesteads on weekends. Advertisements of Dearfield’s entertainment offerings were placed throughout Denver’s Historic Five Points. Many Denver residents traveled to Dearfield on weekends for great food, fun, and dances at the Barn Pavilion.
Source: s/2008/jul/04/48051/ Advertisement on a Greeley Museums Collection poster
Photo Source: Barn Pavilion
Photo Source: Denver Public Library (Left) The boarding house and (Right) the store.
Source: Dearfield’s Dining Hall
Source: Post Office (relocated from Chapelton)
Source: Service Station
Photo Source: Minerva Jackson and an unidentified man at the Dearfield Conoco Gas Station
Photo Source: Dearfield Public School
Union Presbyterian Church Photo Source:
Pentecostal Minister Thomas Russell and his wife. Photo Source:
Photo Source: Dearfield residents dressed in their finery
Photo Source: Denver Public Library Dr. W.A. Jones and his patients Mrs. T.H. Bailey and her sister
Jackson’s dreams turned to dust as eastern Colorado farming communities suffered economic downturns beyond their control. Inflated food prices of World War I fell suddenly when the war ended and over 400,000 U.S. farmers lost their land. In Dearfield, those who lived through the 1920s suffered economic downturns as their soil dried up and blew away in the hot, dry winds of the Dust Bowl.
Dearfield residents drifted away to find better opportunities and, by 1940, the town’s population had decreased to twelve, only two percent of the town’s greatest (1921) population. O.T. Jackson desperately attempted to revive interest, even offering Dearfield for sale, but there were not takers. Jackson lived on at Dearfield until his death on February 18 th, 1948.
Today, little evidence remains of the tenacious individuals who brought life to Dearfield. In 1995, Dearfield became a National Register of Historic Places site. In 1999, Colorado Preservation, Inc. (CPI) listed Dearfield as an endangered site.
The Black American West Museum, with other community and university partners, is actively working to preserve Dearfield’s heritage by stabilizing existing structures and features and documenting its past. An archaeological research program is planned in the coming year. With care and support, Dearfield’s past can be preserved for future generations and, hopefully, may will become a future tourist destination. With stabilization of existing structures, creation of a historic park and working farm is a dream by 2010, the 100 th anniversary of the town. The Preservation of Dearfield
Photo Source: In 2002, the Black American West Museum joined CPI and Colorado State University’s Architectural Preservation Institute in stabilizing Jackson’s home, and, in 2004, BAWM acquired the site. O.T. Jackson House
For more information on how to help preserve the Dearfield heritage, contact the Black American West Museum at Donations to help preserve and study Dearfield and its contribution to the American West can be made online through the Black American West Museum web link at: te.html te.html