In honor of Black History Month, we invite you to learn about Dearfield, Colorado; an historic agricultural settlement for African Americans located about 30 miles east of Greeley in the Platte River Valley.
Founded in 1910 by Oliver Toussaint Jackson, an entrepreneur originally from Ohio, Dearfield was Colorado’s only all-Black agricultural colony. Jackson had a vision to create a self-sufficient farming community for African Americans but there were not many opportunities for African Americans to own land in Colorado. The 320 acres of land that Jackson was able to buy for Dearfield was ill-suited for farming, especially without irrigation. And despite being close to the South Platte River, the settlers could not afford to buy water rights.
Despite the challenges, people came to Dearfield to dry-farm corn, hay, oats, barley, potatoes, and more. Due to above average rainfall and increased demand for these crops during World War I, the town grew to nearly 700 residents and thrived for over a decade. Dearfield was also a popular weekend destination for residents of Denver to enjoy fishing on the South Platte, hunting, and dancing at the town’s dance hall.
Sadly, the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s caused the land to dry up and without access to water for irrigation, residents could no longer farm. The town’s population dwindled and was finally deserted after Jackson died in 1948. Today, Dearfield is owned by the Black American West Museum and is a Colorado Registered Historic Landmark.
In addition to visiting Dearfield Ghost Town itself, you can also visit the Greeley History Museum and view a collection of paintings by Julie Vaught of original photographs of Dearfield by Paul Stewart in an exhibit called “The Faces of Dearfield”.
Today, just 1.4 percent of U.S. farmers identify as Black or mixed race down from 14 percent 100 years ago. Watch a short video about Wild Boyd Farm, a new Black-owned farm in Matheson, Colorado.