Greeley is a city in northern Colorado, United States. It is the county seat and the most populous city of Weld County, and one of the main cities in the northern Front Range Urban Corridor.
The population was 105,155 at the 2010 census, an increase of 16.7% since 2000. Greeley is a major agricultural center of Colorado and is home to the University of Northern Colorado.
The area was originally populated by Native American people known as Ute Indians who moved into eastern present-day Colorado periodically for short periods over thousands of years from their home base in Utah and New Mexico areas.
In 1868 settlers led by William Carter established several houses along Fountain Creek; later that same year Carter and his associates established the settlement of Greeley’s Central Park on land that was owned by Jim LX Eaton (Eaton Hill) just south of present-day 8th Avenue.
In 1871 these settlers met to form a town, which was named after Horace Greeley, editor of the New-York Tribune and a leading candidate for President at the time with a strong interest in westward expansion. Later that year, Tappan Adney became the first settler to build a house in the area “roughly around what is now 4th Street between 9th & 10th Avenues”.
Greeley began as an agricultural community; its fertile land provided access to an expansive irrigation system that made it profitable to grow sugar beets, beans, and other root crops.
Due to the high fertility of the soil, farmers were able to produce large yields of these crops for decades, long after most other areas of Colorado had been deforested. Agriculture still remains a key part of Greeley’s economy today; however, it is no longer growth-oriented as it once was during its early history.
With settlement and development in the late 19th century, Greeley residents realized that their water rights could create a source of great wealth for the town. In 1889 many prominent Greeley businessmen established the Rocky Mountain Power Company (a forerunner to Xcel Energy) to provide hydroelectric power to the growing region surrounding Greeley.
The company generated and sold electricity until 1947. Although several other energy companies of varying success have attempted to operate in Greeley over the years, none has been as successful as Rocky Mountain Power.
As the agricultural economy grew with the settlement, many workers migrated to the area to take advantage of high-paying jobs. Some people initially arrived at work sites on foot and later moved their families into housing near the farmland; however, within a few years, many workers found it easier to live in communities closer to town.
In 1889 residents established several small neighborhoods (Creekside, Happy Hollow, North Park) south of 10th Avenue between 9th & 6th Streets. In 1891 members founded what would become downtown Greeley; soon a train station was established and more homes were built around 5th Street between 8th and 10th Avenues.
In the late 1890s, the community spread south of downtown when citizens laid out a public square in what is today’s Lincoln Park on 15th Street between 9th and 7th Avenues.
This early growth was fueled by the booming agricultural economy, which created jobs that attracted thousands of new residents; however, many workers struggled because they were unable to save enough money to buy land or pay for materials to build houses.
Although most could not afford property in Greeley itself, some chose to settle outside town limits and commute daily via horseback or train until they could afford land near the city center. As a result, communities such as Milliken (1893), Evans (1895), Eaton (1896), and North Greeley (1903) were established well before the incorporation of Greeley in 1902.
Along with agriculture, coal mining became a major industry in the late 1890s and early 1900s during the height of western expansion. In 1894 F C Allen along with several other investors formed the Greenwood Fuel Company to mine coal from deposits near what is today’s West 10th Avenue between 3rd & 8th Streets.
By 1899 they constructed an incline railroad that followed Coal Creek Canyon south to where present-day Main Street crosses over it (a grade crossing still exists at this location). In 1903 residents built another passageway over the tracks for pedestrians and horse-drawn wagons at Main Street; this was replaced by an underpass just south of 8th Street in 1913.
Around this same time, the north halves of streets adjacent to these crossings were renamed to reflect the new street pattern; prior to this, the 4th and 5th Streets were part of “North” Greeley, and 6th and 7th Streets were part of “South” Greeley.
As the population grew in northern Colorado following World War I, many people began moving away from small villages and into larger cities with better opportunities for work and education.
In addition, at this time there was a national push towards consolidation that resulted in hundreds of smaller communities consolidating into much larger towns or cities by the late 1920s (examples include Denver absorbing Englewood & Sheridan).
As a result, many towns including Eaton and Evans merged into Greeley in 1929 and 1935 respectively. Additionally, other communities such as North Greeley remain independent but are surrounded completely by the city limits.
These factors have contributed to the area’s growth and development, including the construction of major highways (including Interstate 25) and airports; before this most people relied on railroads, stagecoaches, or horseback since roads were few and far between.
Few remnants of these past developments remain today; however, a series of open spaces near 10th Avenue & 23rd Street was once home to an amusement park called Steamboat Springs (1908-1928). This land is today owned by the City of Greeley parks department.