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About Greeley, Colorado
Greeley, Colorado began as an experiment; it was a planned town.
Nathan Meeker was a journalist living in New York and wrote the agricultural column for the New York Tribune, owned by Horace Greeley. The Tribune was the highest-circulating newspaper in the country.
Greeley had traveled west in 1859 and wrote about settlement of the American West. Despite Stephen H. Long’s characterization of Colorado’s eastern plains as “the Great American Desert,” Greeley saw opportunity. Greeley was quite interested in associationism and in 1869 became involved with Nathan Meeker and financially supported the idea of a utopian society (Union Colony) on the eastern plains of Colorado.
Nathan Meeker spearheaded colonization of Union Colony. He sought land rich that was rich in natural resources. During his exploration of the front range, Meeker had met Benjamin Eaton and Eaton suggested land near the confluence of the south Platte and Cache la Poudre rivers. Meeker purchased land that included Latham, an Overland Trail station and originally known as Cherokee City Station. Latham was headquarters for government troops in 1860-1864 during Indian conflicts.
Upon his return to New York, Meeker placed and advertisement in the Tribune on December 14, 1869, calling for adventurous pioneers to travel and open up the west. Over 3,000 responded and of those, he chose 700. They had to pay $155 to become a part of the new settlement in the Jefferson Territory; a little over 600 accepted.
All those involved, particularly Meeker, R.A. Cameron and H.T. West, sought establishment of their colony with expectation of high moral standards. Their standards were rooted in temperance, religion, education, agriculture, irrigation, cooperation, and family values. Union Colony was officially organized in March of 1870 and the first settlers arrived in April.
In addition to Horace Greeley’s financial support, his friend P.T. Barnum was an ardent supporter and built a hotel in Union Colony. Greeley made one visit to the city in 1870; he never returned.
In David Boyd’s 1880 book, “A History: Greeley and the Union Colony,” Boyd wrote: “It is true that in a technical and strictly literal sense, no one man founded Greeley. The whole Union Colony in its organized capacity founded the town and settled the adjacent county, and the site of the town and the colonial lands were selected by a committee elected by the colony for this purpose. The colony, according to the scheme of its projector, was a co-operative movement, and the very first sentence in Mr. Meeker’s call in The New York Tribune states this, and hence all the colonists who settled here founded the town. This first sentence is — “I propose to unite with the proper persons in establishing a colony in Colorado Territory.” This shows that Mr. Meeker regarded it as a united effort, and hence its name was Union Colony — the honor of first proposing this name belonging to John Leavy.”
Nathan Meeker was appointed Indian Agent at the White River Ute Indian Reservation in 1878. He attempted to impose farming and agriculture on the Utes. Horses were considered the Utes source of wealth and status. Meeker had their horse race track plowed under; this intentional sight had deadly consequences.
Meeker wired for military assistance but they failed to arrive before the “Meeker Massacre” on September 29, 1879. He and ten of his male employees were murdered. Meeker’s wife and daughter and other females and children were taken captive. they were released twenty three days later.
In retaliation for the killings, Congress passed the “Ute Removal Act” in 1880. Utes were forcibly removed from their “Shining Mountains” on August 28, 1881 and taken to a new reservation in Utah. Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta negotiated the release of the women and children.
Nathan Meeker is buried at the Linn Grove Cemetery in Greeley. You can learn more about the history of Greeley and Nathan Meeker at the Meeker Home Museum and Greeley History Museum.
Greeley was incorporated on November 15, 1885. It is a Home rule Municipality and the Weld County Seat. Because of the colony’s position on temperance, Greeley remained a dry municipality until 1972!
The City of Greeley operates four museums
The Greeley History Museum showcases and preserves Greeley and Weld County’s history through exhibitions, programs, permanent collections and research and includes three floors of permanent and changing galleries.
Experience the home of Greeley’s founding family. Learn the fascinating story of the Meekers and their vision for a Utopian community during a guided tour of this National Register Historic home.
Centennial Village Museum is an 8-acre living history experience featuring over 35 architecturally unique structures, costumed interpreters, heritage farm animals, beautifully landscaped grounds and interactive experiences.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, White-Plumb Farm Learning Center is a Colorado Centennial Farm— run by the same family for over 100 years!
Colorado Model Railroad Museum
Rave reviews from all over the world are flooding in about the Colorado Model Railroad Museum, located by the mainline of the Union Pacific Railroad in Greeley, Colorado.
This one-of-a-kind facility features over 600 railroad-related artifacts ranging from a Virginia and Truckee Railroad switch key to a full-sized Colorado and Southern wooden Caboose available for examining both inside and out. See our video on this page.
Vintage Greeley Photos
Enjoy our selection of Books about Greeley!
Greeley: So Much More
Colorado Model Railroad Museum