Friday, July 9, 2010
Dearly Departed Dearfield
From Mick Melvin:
While vacationing in Colorado, I had the pleasure of visiting the Black American West Museum in Denver. It was a great experience for me since one of my hobbies is learning about Black History. I spent about 90 minutes viewing the pictures, looking at artifacts and reading the captions documenting the lives of black folk. At the end of the self-guided tour, my wife and I were offered the opportunity to watch a 30-minute video, "Dearfield: The Road Less Traveled." Even though it was hot and I was tired from walking the exhibit, I'm glad we stayed.
The video told the story of Dearfield, Colorado. The all-black community was established in 1910 by a black businessman, O.T. Jackson. Mr. Jackson and seven African American homesteaders laid claim to the land. They started out living in tents, dugouts and caves. After 10 years, the population grew to 700 citizens. The town had a church, schoolhouse, gas station, dance hall and lunch room. The farmers grew hay, alfalfa and food crops. They also raised poultry and livestock.
The town didn’t last for long because of many factors. One major factor was the drop in food prices after the end of World War I. Approximately 400,000 US farmers lost their land because of the end of the war. In the subsequent years, the farmers in Dearfield who tried to hold on saw the land dry up in the Dust Bowl years of the Great Depression. O.T. Jackson tried to hold on to his dream, but by the late '40s, there were only 12 families remaining.
After listening to the story, I was intrigued as to the location and found out that it could be found along Route 34, approximately 10 miles west of Greely, Colorado. My wife and I took to the road and after an hour ride, found the site. Most of the buildings are in disrepair, but it was a thrill to know what once was in the location. What remained is the house of O.T. Jackson, the dilapidated lunch room, the filling station and some unidentified buildings. It was an extreme honor to take pictures of black history. I took far too many pictures to ensure that I got some good ones for the Backside. I hope you enjoy.