Evans / Dearfield / Colonies and Crusaders / Evans Country

Evans / Dearfield / Colonies and Crusaders / Evans Country (HM2L65)

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N 40° 22.325', W 104° 41.725'

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Centrally located, in the midst of one of the finest and most productive sections of northern Colorado;...occupying a position on the river and railway convenient to the business centre of the territory; and commanding other numerous advantages, [Evans] cannot fail now to enjoy a vigorous and healthy growth,.... and to be numbered among the first of Colorado's cities.
-Rocky Mountain News, August 5, 1871

Bands played and banners flew when the first Denver Pacific Railroad engine steamed into Evans in December 1869. The town had good reason to celebrate. As the railroad's end point (and, at that time, the closest depot to Denver) it became Colorado's main transportation hub, the very center of the action. But the party ended abruptly the following spring, when the railroad bridged the South Platte and headed toward Denver, taking most of the commercial activity with it. Evans stood nearly empty until the following summer, when the St. Louis-Western Colony brought four hundred settlers to the area. For the next several decades Evans made a steady living as an agricultural supply town and highway service stop; when the Front Range suburbs expanded dramatically in the late twentieth century, the town became more residential without sacrificing its rural character.

The Denver Pacific

On June 22, 1870, former territorial governor John Evans presided over ceremonies in Denver to mark the Denver Pacific Railroad's completion. The silver spike intended for the occasion was misplaced, forcing Evans to substitute an ordinary iron one wrapped in white paper. That gesture aptly symbolized the Denver Pacific-not the glittery first choice, but a workable alternative. It was built only because the transcontinental railroad bypassed Denver, threatening to turn that young and ambitious town into a commercial backwater. The well-connected Evans helped save the day by marshaling the funds for the Denver Pacific, a 106-mile branch linking Denver to the transcontinental line in Wyoming. Though briefly headquartered here, in Governor Evans's namesake town, the DP was always Denver's road. As much as anything else, it enabled that city to become the region's economic capital.


The settlers at Dearfield-Colorado's largest African American colony-experienced most of the same triumphs and disappointments as their white counterparts. They, too, struggled with arid soils, insufficient capital, and fickle commodity markets; but they also faced the additional burden of racial prejudice. They met all those challenges and prospered, at least for a time. Founded in 1910 with just

seven families, Dearfield grew into a town of seven hundred by 1920, with 15,000 acres under cultivation. Over the next decade, however drought and falling prices hammered eastern Colorado, and Dearfield's farmers fared as poorly as their neighbors. Debt forced most of them off their land, and by 1930 the colony's population stood at just twelve.

We want our people to get back or the land, where they naturally belong, and to work out their own salvation from the land up.
-Dearfield incorporator, Denver Post, June 1909

Though it shared most of the aspirations of other colonies, Dearfield carried one additional promise. Oliver Toussaint Jackson, the Denver businessman who launched the settlement, considered it nothing less than "a foundation for the future of the race." Here, he believed, African Americans could achieve true freedom-from wage labor, urban slums, and racial prejudice-and control their own destinies. The Dearfield colonists had ample cause to doubt those propositions in the early years of the project; many had to take jobs on neighboring farms to make ends meet. Eventually they began to taste the independence Jackson envisioned for them. Though hard luck turned the colony into a ghost town, Dearfield's founder never abandoned his dream. He died in the nearly deserted town in 1948, still committed to the ideal of African

American self-sufficiency.

Colonies and Crusaders

The Colony Movement
Colorado's dozen or so agricultural "colonies" belied the Western lore of rugged individualism. These communal enterprises, most of them founded between 1869 and 1872, pooled labor, capital, and other resources (most notably water) for the mutual benefit of their members. Many also imposed strict moral guidelines, seeking not just to farm the West but to cultivate a more perfect society. Perfection ultimately lay beyond their grasp, but settlement did not. The Union and Chicago colonies evolved into sizable towns (present-day Greeley and Longmont, respectively), and although the others-including Evans's St. Louis-Western Colony-disbanded within a few years, they had long-lasting effects. Their members often remained in place and helped form the basis of permanent communities. Moreover, mirroring other irrigation efforts elsewhere in the state, the colonies' cooperative approach to irrigation made this region the state's most fertile.

As a temperance community, Evans failed to distinguish itself-its prohibition law of 1874 was lifted after just two years-but it hardly deserved its reputation as a drunkard's paradise. That stigma came largely from critics in teetotaling Greeley, which banned alcohol in 1870 and remained

dry for the next century. The temperance crusade, one of the most potent national reform movements in U.S. history, was particularly active in the West, where drinking led too often to gun violence, domestic abuse, and other social ills. Many Coloradans heartily embraced the cause; the voters even approved a statewide liquor ban in 1915, five years before national Prohibition took effect. Although that experiment ended in 1933, Greeley continued to enforce its liquor taboo until 1971, but to little effect-residents could simply enjoy a drink at one of Evans's bars.

Evans Country

{Map of Evans area highlights}
HM NumberHM2L65
Year Placed2002
Placed ByThe Colorado Historical Society, Colorado Department of Transportation
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, September 24th, 2019 at 8:02pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)13T E 525857 N 4469100
Decimal Degrees40.37208333, -104.69541667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 40° 22.325', W 104° 41.725'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds40° 22' 19.5" N, 104° 41' 43.5" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling North
Closest Postal AddressAt or near , ,
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