Welcome to the Ferguson Teams Greeley Colorado History Page. My name is Mark Ferguson and I was born in Greeley in 1979. I have spent all my life here, except for 4 years at the University of Colorado at Boulder. My dad was born in Greeley, but grew up in Berthoud (30 miles South West of Greeley) where he met my mom. They relocated back to Greeley in the 1970’s. My grandmother grew up in Greeley and my Grandfather grew up in Johnstown. My great, great grandmother and grandfather lived in Fort Collins so I have quite the history in Northern Colorado. I created this page because I like history and I like writing.

Throughout this page you will find old pictures and stories about the history of Greeley. It really is a unique town with a lot of history and many beautiful buildings that were tragically torn down. Please come back often, because I will be updating the site as much as possible. I have many old pictures from my grand parents and their friend Louis Hickman, who was a Librarian at Greeley Central High School for many years. I will scan and post as many of those pictures as I can and I plan to post some before and after pictures as well to show how Greeley has changed.

How was Greeley, Colorado first started?

Greeley was named after Horace Greeley, editor of the New-York Tribune. Horace Greeley came to Colorado in 1859 to seek a fortune in gold, but only visited Greeley once. Greeley was originally named Union Colony in 1869, the name was later changed to Greeley and on April 6, 1886 Greeley became an official town.

Greeley was built along the Overland Trail, which was a wagon trail that connect the West to the East. Latham, was one stop on the Overland trail and located just East of Greeley where the Cache La Poudre and South Platte Rivers meet. This was an important stop where travelers could choose to go South to Denver or continue West towards the Rocky Mountains.

Greeley began as an experimental Utopian community. The town was based on temperance, religion, agriculture, education and family values. Nathan C. Meeker, a newspaper reporter from New York City purchased a site where the Cache la Poudre and South Platte Rivers meet formerly known as the “Island Grove Ranch”. Meeker started Greeley as Union Colony, but the name was then changed to honor of Horace Greeley, who was Meeker’s editor. Meeker convinced 700 settlers to come from the East Coast to form what he thought would be the perfect community. He envisioned a town with church-going, non-drinking people who lived off the land. Early settlers paid $155 (about $3,000 today) to take the journey with Meeker and start a new life. When the settlers arrived in Greeley, 70 asked for their money back and went home. 

The site for Greeley was chosen because of its proximity to the two rivers and the need for irrigation water. Greeley was to be a town where everyone could grow their own crops, but the area is very dry and with less than 16 inches of precipitation each year. One of the first tasks of the early settlers was to build irrigation ditches from the rivers. The first school was built in 1873 and was a grand structure and it is a shame it no longer exists. The state normal school was started in 1890 and became the University of Northern Colorado. Many churches were also built soon after the town was started. This was not a town that slowly grew from nothing over time, but a planned community that sprouted up very quickly. Greeley’s population grew to over 2,000 by 1876 and over 10,000 by 1920. Today Greeley has over 100,000 people and continues to grow.

Greeley was a highly publicized town when it first began because or Horace Greeley and Nathan Meeker’s News Paper position. Greeley even had a 450 page book written about it in 1890, when the town had only a few thousand people.

Fun facts about Greeley, Colorado

  • In 1883 Greeley had telephone service and one of the first towns to do so.
  • KFKA became one of the first radio stations to broadcast in the USA in 1922.
  • The Greeley Municipal Airport was built in 1928.
  • Alcohol was not legalized until 1969.
  • The Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra was started in 1911 (the oldest West of the Mississippi).
  • In 1958, Greeley became the first city to have a Department of Culture.
  • In the 1920 the Greeley sugar factory supplied more than 25 percent of the sugar for the entire country!
  • camfield hotel, Greeley Colorado

    The Camfield Hotel about 1920 phot credit http://cdm16079.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15330coll21/id/13092/rec/23

    Greeley had one of the grandest hotels in the state called the Oasis Hotel and then the Camfield Hotel. It was said to be the third best hotel in Colorado behind the Brown Palace and the Broadmoar. The hotel was razed in 1964.

  • Greeley had two POW camps in World War II.
  • Mammoth and Mastodon lived in the Greeley area 11,000 years ago. The Dent site was one of the first indications that people and mammoths lived in the same time period.
  • The Clovis culture were the ancient people who hunted the mammoth in the area
  • Weld County was the first to move the melted snow from the mountains that would have flowed west to the Pacific Ocean to the eastern slopes of Colorado for use in irrigation.
  • Sprinkler technology (systems) and use was also developed here.
  • Greeley is the largest community not located along the interstate highways. Greeley chose not to be located along Interstate 25 because it did not want to waste the farmland.

Articles on the History of Greeley

The History of the University of Northern Colorado

Greeley, Colorado’s historic old buildings

More information and pictures coming soon!

Original Meeker School

Meeker school sometime around 1890. Photo credit http://cdm16079.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15330coll21/id/11702/rec/41

If you have any more fun facts or old pictures to share please email Mark at [email protected]