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Indian, c. 1979
Indian, c. 1979

Early Settlement in the South Platte River Valley

The Mexican people were not the first people to reside in the South Platte River Valley of northern Colorado; nor were they the first immigrant population to settle there. Prior to the first pioneers arriving to the South Platte River Valley in the early 19th century, the first inhabitants were the native Indian populations. By 1900, however, the Indian population had been forced to leave the state or were extinguished in brutal military battles.

By the mid-1800s immigrant populations were arriving and utilizing the rivers in the Valley. The South Platte River Valley's waterways carried French fur trappers, European and American explorers, government expeditions and gold seekers. Many of these first pioneers settled in the Valley and indulged in stock raising as early as the 1860s. In 1861, the first farmers organized together to form the Union Colony in Weld County.

Early pioneers were followed by the English, who often ventured into ranching or mining enterprises; and the Scots and the Welsh, who were experienced in mining technology and brought valuable experiences to the mining communities in Colorado, especially the coal mines in Weld County.

The Japanese came as laborers and were recruited from the Northwestern United States for contract labor on the Larimer and Weld County Railroads. Some of the workers left the railroad to work on the sugar beet farms. Early Japanese families took up residence in Kersey, Ault, Platteville, Fort Lupton and Greeley.

Groups of Swedes settled in urban areas and worked in the stone quarries of Larimer and Weld counties (Hafen, 1948, p. 108). Dutch colonies came to Crook, Colorado from the San Luis Valley to engage in farming on land owned by the Holland Company. And the German-Russians, who were descendants of some 27,000 German peasants and craftsmen who immigrated to the western United States in the 1870s, settled in the wheat and sugar beet growing areas in the midwestern United States.. A shortage of labor for the new beet sugar industry drew many of them to the South Platte River Valley between 1890 and 1920 (Coen, 1926, p. 48).
Romero family c. 1953
Romero family c. 1953

Between 1900 and 1930, more than 1,000,000 Mexican people came into the United States from Mexico; 45,000 of them came into Colorado settling in fifty-two of Colorado's sixty-three counties (United States Census). These first immigrants were recruited by the Great Western Sugar Company to replace the German-Russian laborers who had acquired their own land for farming or who had moved to the cities. To a smaller extent, some Mexican individuals and families came to northern Colorado on their own, finding contract work on the farms or labor positions at the beet sugar factories, smelters and quarries, and on the railroads. It was in the beet fields however, that they made their important contributions to the economy of Colorado (Hafen, 1948, p. 100).

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