Dearfield Special Resource Study

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The National Park Service (NPS) is conducting a Special Resource Study of the historic Dearfield settlement in Weld County, Colorado, to identify whether it meets criteria to be recommended for potential inclusion as a unit of the national park system. Established by Oliver Toussaint Jackson in 1910, Dearfield was the largest African American homesteading settlement in Colorado, reaching its peak in the late 1910s and early 1920s. This study was authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 (Public Law 117-328), signed into law by President Biden on December 29, 2022. The authorizing legislation provides for a three-year time frame to complete the study and submit it to Congress. Once received by Congress, the final study will be made available to the public.

The study area consists of a 162-acre portion of the former Dearfield townsite, as described in the 1995 National Register of Historic Places registration form. Dearfield is located along Colorado State Highway 34, eleven miles west of Wiggins, and approximately 25 miles east of Greeley.

Enabled by a succession of homesteading legislation and rooted in the practices of dryland farming, Dearfield grew to become a profitable settlement, covering nearly 19,000 acres, producing significant marketable crops, and becoming home to as many as 300 residents. At its peak, the townsite also boasted several churches, a school, dance hall, blacksmith shop, grocery, and other businesses. By supporting individual land ownership and self-determination, the site exemplifies the African American self-help movement inspired by educator Booker T. Washington and is indicative of black contributions to settlement of the West.

Despite many successes during its heyday, the Great Depression and Dust Bowl ultimately led to Dearfield's downfall. Today, two original buildings remain in the former townsite area: a filling station and the Jackson residence, as does the main street alignment, historic building ruins, and numerous archeological resources. In 1995, Dearfield was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its representation of the African American colonization movement and association with leader and entrepreneur, Oliver Toussaint Jackson.

The 1998 National Parks Omnibus Management Act (54 United States Code 100507) established the process for identifying and authorizing studies of new national park units. Under the law, a study area must meet four criteria to be recommended as an addition to the national park system, including: 1) national significance, 2) suitability, 3) feasibility, and 4) need for NPS management. The study process is linear, and each of the four criteria are evaluated sequentially. If the study finds that Dearfield does not meet one of the criteria, the study process will be curtailed. Regardless of the outcome of the study, new units of the national park system can only be established by an Act of Congress or by presidential proclamation.

The NPS thanks the public for the comments submitted to support the study. The study team is currently conducting the criteria analysis.

If you would like to receive additional information about the study as it progresses, consider sharing your contact information with the study by signing up on our mailing list, available under the "links" tab to the left.

Thank you for your interest in Dearfield!

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