GREELEY, Colo. — There’s only a small sign about it off the side of a highway in rural Weld County, yet Dearfield is worth knowing about.
More than 100 years after it was settled, Dearfield has nearly fallen apart over the decades. It was once the largest African American homesteading settlement in the state. Now, it’s a part of Colorado history that people like George Junne are fighting to preserve.
"For historical purposes, it is very, very important," said Junne. "It’s also important for people to understand that this Black community existed and existed with mostly whites around, and they got along together."
Junne is the coordinator of Africana studies at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). He was just awarded a grant worth nearly a half million dollars to preserve and restore Dearfield.
"There [are] a lot of people who just don’t know about Dearfield," said Junne. "Today there are only a few buildings that are standing, but it’s very unique because Dearfield is one of the few African American agricultural communities that still has some of the original buildings."
There are only two buildings still standing at the settlement, with others torn apart over the years on the Eastern Plains.
Bob Brunswig is an emeritus professor at UNC and Junne’s partner in the project. He uses his expertise in archeology to dig through history and find hidden information. The settlement was built around 1910 and was home to several hundred people.
"Now what we’re doing over the past decade is preserving what’s there and learning from what’s in the soil," said Brunswig. "Our ultimate plan, and I may not live long enough for this, is to create a partial recreation of the old Dearfield that people can visit."
The archeology aspect of this project is so important because a lot of the clues that will help them learn more about Dearfield are buried beneath the ground. They’ve already found things like plates and silverware that help them determine how society was set up back then, as well as exactly how many people may have lived there.
"Right now we’re working very hard just to keep the remaining buildings from falling down," said Junne.
Now, Dearfield has a chance to finally be restored.
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