Dearfield Ghost Town – Orchard, Colorado - Atlas Obscura
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Dearfield Ghost Town

Orchard, Colorado

In the early 1900s, hundreds of Black Americans found opportunity in this now-abandoned rural community. 

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Dearfield is the ghost town of a former Black American farming community on the plains of Colorado, established by entrepreneur Oliver Toussaint Jackson. Jackson was born to formerly enslaved people and spent his early years in Ohio before moving to Denver in 1887. Working as a caterer, Jackson eventually earned enough money to purchase a small farm outside Boulder. Jackson went on to run two successful restaurants in Boulder and Denver, manage the catering and concession service at the historic Chautauqua Dining Hall, and serve as messenger for a number of Colorado governors, over 20 years.

In 1909, the Homestead Act was amended to grant double acreage to land claims filed in marginal areas. Jackson filed for a homestead east of Greeley and put out a call to others, hoping to establish a community for Black Americans. Named Dearfield, the town had around 700 residents by 1920, with two churches, a school, a blacksmith shop, a dance hall, and a restaurant. To sustain the community, Jackson planned to build a cannery and soap factory.

The establishment of Dearfield came just over 50 years after the Civil War and coincided with the creation of Denver’s chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Despite this, Dearfield and the agricultural communities around it served for a time as a rare example of racial integration, with people relying on each other to survive the harsh seasons of the plains.

Like so many other farming communities on the Great Plains, Dearfield fortunes declined with the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. By 1940, its population had dwindled to just 12. The last resident, Jackson’s niece, passed away in 1973. Today, only a couple dilapidated buildings remain. Several attempts have been made to preserve the town’s history, with little success, though there is a historical marker on the site. 

Know Before You Go

The ghost town can be found 28 miles east of Greeley, off Highway 34.