WIGGINS, Colo. — You’ll pass plenty of small towns as you head northeast on Interstate 76 toward Nebraska, but Wiggins might be the only one that has so much pride that someone drew the high school’s logo on an abandoned trailer just before the exit.
It’s a town of roughly 1,000 people surrounded by the Eastern Plains – which is why the development of new homes just past the main drag might seem a little out of place.
With that being said, Wiggins is an hour from Denver, steps from the agricultural industry and a 20 minute drive from Jackson Lake State Park … meaning that it, like much of the state, is primed for growth.
Another reason the town’s excited? Dalton Risner, who played football in Wiggins, was drafted out of Kansas State by the Denver Broncos as one of the top right tackle prospects. He might also be one of the town’s biggest celebrities overnight.
"We have 800 to 1,000 people, no stop lights," Risner said in an interview with 9NEWS Broncos Insider Mike Klis. "It’s one gas station with the best chicken tenders in town, Stub’s Gas & Oil.”
We'll take his word for it.
This story is part of our 9Neighborhoods series. Check back on the 9NEWS Instagram starting at noon on Friday for a photo tour of Wiggins.
A little town with two names
Like many towns of the Eastern Plains, Wiggins’ history can be traced back to the railroad. In this case, the community was established in 1882 as a Burlington railroad depot. While it was originally called Corona, the name was changed to Wiggins in honor of Oliver P. Wiggins, who is alleged to have accompanied Kit Carson for 12 years on his expeditions.
Of course this fact, like many parts of history, is murkier once you really get into it.
Full disclosure: one of the most exhaustive online resources about Wiggins is Wikipedia, which prompted a frantic Facebook message to the Wiggins Historical Group. Darlene Ruyle, who has lived in town for 38 years (her family has been there for generations), is a member, and she’s been working to discern which parts of Wiggins’ history are true and which aren’t.
“The rumors are that [Oliver P. Wiggins] told bigger stories than things he actually did,” Ruyle said. “Sorting out some of that information is what’s kind of fascinating about his life.”
Wiggins today has a Main Street with a few restaurants, multiple gas stations and a rest stop, as well as a highly-regarded rural school district.
One stop worth making if you’re just passing through is to the Old Trail School, one of the last remaining examples of a one-room, wooden school house left in the area. It was built in 1922 and is three miles away from its original location.
The main strip of Wiggins is made up of the old, wood homes you’ll see in many towns on the Eastern Plains.
That’s why it’s a little interesting to look just past the community’s school and see Kiowa Park, a residential development with homes that look more like the ones that pop up all the time in Denver’s suburbs.
On its website, Kiowa Park touts its amenities, proximity to the state’s agricultural industry, and hour-drive to Denver as its benefits.
For what it’s worth, Wiggins is around a 20 minute drive to Jackson Lake State Park, and also happens to be one of the only towns on the Eastern Plains with a gigabyte internet connection.
“I think it’s exciting,” Ruyle said of Wiggins changes. “Brings new people into the area, have new and different ideas.
“They want to be in a rural area, and speaking of schools, one of the things that have brought people to the area is our school district.”
Ruyle was a teacher in nearby Weldona, and her family has lived in the Wiggins area since her great-grandparents were some of the first homesteaders there.
In addition to family, she said she’s had other reasons for sticking around.
“I like the rural, small community lifestyle,” she said.
"We’re just a big community that has a passion for football and they’ve supported me the whole way,” Risner said.
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