The Founding of Greeley, Colorado


A Visit to Greeley History Museums in Weld County in Northeast Colorado

Listen to the Big Blend Radio interview with Peggy Ford Waldo, recorded onsite at the Greeley History Museum. Hear the fascinating story of how Nathan Meeker envisioned Greeley as a utopian colony of temperance, plus, the visitor experience at the Greeley History Museum, Meeker Home Museum, and the Centennial Village. Listen here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on PodBean or SoundCloud.

Perfectly situated on the high plains with panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, Weld County is home to growing cities, charming towns, thriving businesses, and thousands of acres of prime agricultural land. As Colorado’s third-largest county, it covers 3,996 square miles in the northern part of the state and is larger than the size of Rhode Island, Delaware, and the District of Columbia combined. Greeley is the county seat.

Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, popularized the phrase, “Go West young man, go West,” but it was his visionary agricultural editor, Nathan C. Meeker, who spearheaded one of the most successful colonization experiments ever attempted in the “Great American Desert.”

When the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, a spur from Cheyenne to Denver was built, opening this part of the country for settlement. Meeker was inspired to create an agricultural utopia. Where the railroad crossed the confluence of the Platte and Cache la Poudre Rivers, the city of Greeley was born – an ideal location where both natural resources and transportation were abundant. Early in the settlement’s development, an irrigation canal became priority construction, turning the high desert into an agricultural oasis. Throughout its history, this area has been known for growing sugar beets, corn, and onion, among many other crops – all made possible on irrigated farmland.

Today if you take a drive around Weld County’s farming and homesteading country and up into the rugged Pawnee National Grassland, you’ll get a taste of what inspired James Michener’s critically acclaimed 1974 novel, “Centennial,” which tells the history of Colorado from the Mesozoic Era up to the early 1970s.

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