In Colorado, United States
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35mm Bring your Geopen to sign log. Turn off on South side of Rd. Don't go into any buildings.
Colorado’s Most Endangered Places, 2000
When O. T. Jackson decided to found a Negro agricultural colony, he considered homestead tracts in Larimer, Elbert and Weld counties, deciding upon the Weld location 30 miles east of the county seat, Greeley. In 1910, he filed on the homestead and began advertising for colonists. The name Dearfield was suggested by one of the early settlers, Dr. J. H. P. Westbrook, a physician from Denver. The name was adopted because the land was to be very dear to the hearts of the settlers.
The autumn of 1911 found seven families and three teams of horses in residence. The struggles of the colonists, most of whom had no agricultural experience, taught them techniques of dry land farming, livestock and poultry raising.
By 1921, the Weld County News (Nov.) proclaimed a colony of 700 people with improved lands worth circa $750,000, livestock and poultry worth $200,000 and an annual production of $125,000. Then came the Great Depression and the years of the dust bowl. By 1940, only 12 people lived in Dearfield. O. T. Jackson put his mind to turning circumstances to a more positive position. He offered the colony to Governor Ralph Carr for use as an internment camp for Japanese prisoners of war. This failing, he even offered the townsite for sale, but there was no buyer. After his death his niece, Jenny Jackson stayed on in Dearfield.
In 1998, a few deserted buildings still stand to remind those who knew its history, of the grand dream. Attempts to preserve the townsite are being undertaken by the Black American West Museum in Denver, which submitted an application to the National Trust for Historic Preservation through the Colorado Historical Society.
The former 1910-1930s African-American farming community of Dearfield needs attention from the preservation community now. The buildings that remain, including the O.T. Jackson home (a National Register site), are in desperate need of stabilization. Dearfield survives as the only African-American agricultural colony on the Colorado High Plains. The Black American West Museum owns some of the structures, including the O.T. Jackson home, but needs the assistance of the Colorado preservation community to acquire other sites and raise the funds necessary for stabilization and maintenance.
O. T. Jackson
O. T. Jackson was born in Oxford, Ohio, April 6, 1862. He and his wife Minerva arrived in Colorado from Cleveland on April 4, 1887. Until 1894, they lived in Denver where they had a catering business. O. T. was also employed by the State of Colorado as a messenger for several of the early governors.
Jackson was active and well connected in Colorado politics. Throughout his life he was a Democrat and encouraged voters to elect Democratic candidates. In a letter written in 1942 (UNC Archives RG SC57), he lists ex-Governors William H. Adams (1927-33), William E. Sweet (1923-25), and Teller Ammons (1937-39) among the prominent Coloradoans who could speak for his character.
From 1894-1910, the Jacksons farmed east of Boulder. They enthusiastically supported Booker T. Washington's philosophy as expressed in his autobiography, Up from Slavery. This led them to undertake the founding of an agricultural colony where self governing and hard working Negroes could share in the prosperity resulting from their own efforts.
In 1910, Jackson homesteaded land 30 miles east of Greeley in Weld County and began efforts to recruit colonists. Land transactions involving sales by Jackson to colonists are entered in the Weld County Deed Books. These sales are listed in the Historic Survey of the Townsite of Dearfield, Colorado, 1985 (Greeley Municipal Museum).
After World War I and during the dust bowl and Depression, Jackson and the other colonists struggled to thrive in dry land agriculture. They advertised their community facilities and attractions which included a lunch room, a gas station, and a barn pavilion that hosted good music and dancing. They proclaimed Dearfield to be "a valley resort." In spite of their efforts, the population of the community continued to decline.
In 1942, at age 80 and in poor health, O. T. Jackson offered Dearfield to Colorado Governor Ralph Carr as an internment camp for Japanese prisoners of war. He noted the community was sparsely settled and the region thinly populated. This proposal came to nothing.
Minerva Jackson died December 9, 1942. After her death, O. T. advertised the Dearfield townsite for sale, but there was no buyer. O. T. Jackson died on Wednesday, February 18, 1948. News of his death was published in the Greeley Daily Tribune 2/19/1948 p.12. He is buried beside his wife in Linn Grove Cemetery, Block H-L, Greeley, Colorado. The Jacksons had no children.
"O. T. Jackson Papers." University of Northern Colorado Libraries, Special Collections
"Weld County's Negro Colony." Weld County News. Nov., 1921. P.60, Greeley Municipal Museum
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Last Updated: on 8/29/2017 6:47:32 PM Pacific Daylight Time (1:47 AM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum