Article published July 2, 2001
It must have been a shock for the German prisoners, one day fighting in the North African desert campaigns for Field Marshal Rommel, then, just a short time later, working the beet fields of northern Colorado. Those German prisoners-of-war were housed in a large POW camp between Greeley and Windsor from 1943 to 1946 when World War II ended. As many as 4,000 Germans and Austrians were brought to the camp from the North African campaign and the Normandy Invasion, where they were captured by the Allies. About half the prisoners stayed in the Greeley-Windsor POW camp, while others were shipped out to Camp Hale in the mountains, Camp Carson at Colorado Springs, Deadman Mountain lumber camp west of Fort Collins or to other areas where they were put to work for private or government agencies.
But in Weld County, the German POWs mostly worked the wheat, corn and beet fields for area farmers. Although the Greeley-Windsor camp was the largest, there were several other POW camps in the county:
POW's were also kept in various camps in Galeton, Keenesburg, Pierce and Kersey.
In addition, four miles north of Buckingham, now a nearly abandoned town between Briggsdale and New Raymer, the government operated a conscientious objector camp for three years during the war. Men who refused to serve in the military during the war were apparently taken to this camp. Little is known about it.
With 4,000 prisoners and 200 staff members and guards, the POW camp was the second largest "city" in Weld County. Only Greeley, with a population of 16,000, was larger. The Greeley-Windsor camp consisted of 320 acres surrounded by tall, barbed-wire fences, patrolled by guards on horseback and police dogs. Guard towers were equipped with machine guns and search lights probed the grounds all night.
Each morning, a truck would pick up the prisoners in their fatigue uniforms with "PW" written in large letters on the back and front, then deliver them to the farmer's home or fields, where they would work a full day, then return to the camp that night. A lunch would be sent with them from the camp, but some farmer's and their wives violated camp rules and would feed the prisoners who worked for them.
George Brug had a farm in the Severance area, and said POWs worked for him in the spring and fall for two years. "We'd drive the truck down to the camp in the mornings and pick them up about 7 o'clock. They'd work the day in the fields and I'd take them home about 4 in the afternoon. We paid them 80 cents a day in script, which could be used to buy things in the camp commissary."
Brug spoke German, so he could communicate with the prisoners. "They were just like most of us ... they wanted to be home with their families. Most were good workers, except for the real Nazis. But I found most of them didn't support Hitler and didn't want to be in the war in the first place. The prisoner help was a big help to the farmers, because most of the young men in this area were overseas, fighting. Brug said the prisoners were treated well and ate well, most of the time."
"That first year, " Brug said of the camps, "there was plenty of food for the prisoners. They would bring so much food to work with them that they'd feed leftovers to our horses. But then when our soldiers got into Germany and found out how the Germans were treating the Allied prisoners, the food here wasn't as good. They didn't have any leftovers that second year."
Helen Stansbury was a secretary at the camp from 1944 until it closed in 1946, while her husband Floyd was overseas, fighting in Europe. She was in the Quartermaster Department, which issued clothing to the prisoners and soldiers stationed at the camp. She said the prisoners were well accepted by the people of Greeley: "The guards and army officers that were stationed at the camp were worried that the Greeley people were too friendly with the prisoners," Stansbury said. "People needed help in the fields, and many of the prisoners went out to work for them. It was natural being nice to them."
Stansbury said she remembers only two attempted escapes. In one, a prisoner was being transported from Greeley to Camp Hale when he jumped off the truck and ran away. They found him later, looking for New York. One prisoner once walked away from the Weld County work detail, but was recaptured when he stopped at a bar for a beer. In another apparent escape attempt, the guards found a hole had been cut in the fence around the camp. They placed guard dogs near the hole until it was fixed the next day, and nobody came out to the hole that night.
When the war ended, many of the prisoners were sent back to Germany, but a few stayed for the next harvest. The camp was eventually closed and the buildings sold at public auction. The city of Greeley purchased 49 of the buildings, 16,000 feet of wire fencing, a guard tower and spot light for the airport and one of the large latrines, which was moved to Island Grove Park and use as a public "comfort station" for several years. The officer's club from the camp was purchased by the American Legion and is still the home of American Legion Post No. 109 in Windsor. Several barracks were purchased by Colorado State College and served as married student housing for more than 20 years. Some of the barracks are still standing at 23rd Avenue and 10th Street in Greeley, where they are now motel units.
Update: The two stone pillars stood side-by-side at the edge of U.S. 34, the only markers remaining to locate the old POW camp. The pillars once formed the entry gate to the camp. They will be reset west of their previous location in 2009 to accommodate the widening of US 34.
#3 Ditch Marker, Greeley:
Description: A black metal plaque 12 1/2" w x 10" h located on the southeast end ofthe bridge spanning 14th Avenue at 13th Street in Greeley. The plaque was dedicated October 22, 1990. Faces west.
How to get there: From northbound Business US-85 in Greeley, which is 8th Avenue turn left (west) at 13th Street for 6 blocks to 14th Avenue. The bridge is on the left.
#3 DITCH MARKER
WATER ENTERED THIS #3 DITCH, 9 MILES LONG,
JUNE 10, 1870. MARCH 13, 1875 UNION COLONY DEEDED
TO THE TOWN OF GREELEY WATER SUPPLIED BY DITCH #3
FOR THE SUM OF $488.00.
IN 1882 THIS DITCH WAS DEEDED TO THE GREELEY
IRRIGATION COMPANY FOR THE SUM OF $1.00.
IRRIGATION MADE FARMING A SCIENTIFIC INSTEAD OF
AN UNCERTAIN PURSUIT
DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
CENTENNIAL STATE CHAPTER
HISTORY: In 1869, Union Colony was organized in New YorkCity with Nathan C. Meeker, agricultural editor of the New York Thbune, as president, General Robert A. Cameron as vice president, and Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Thbune, as treasurer. Meeker was to be massacred at the White River Agency in western Colorado in 1879. Early in 1870 Meeker, Cameron, W.C. Fisk and H.T. West went to Colorado and selected an area near Evans, then the terminus of the Denver Pacific Railway. They bought about 11,917 acres of land, 9,324 from the railroad, the balance from private individuals. Individual members were persuaded to file on an additional 60,000 acres of public land. In May of 1870, the first 50 families of the 500 members of the colony arrived. That same year, the colony constructed Ditch #3, running from the Cache la Poudre River to the South Platte River, a distance of about nine miles. It was to supply water to the houses of Greeley and 5,000 acres of local farmland. It is considered to have played a significant part in the growth of Greeley. Immediately thereafter, another ditch, #2, was constructed on the north side of the Cache la Poudre to irrigate 50,000 acres of outlying farmland. Ditch #3, now known as Union Colony #3 Canal, runs from the Cache la Poudre at 71st Avenue on the west to Fern Avenue near the Greeley-Weld County Airport on the east. It is presently owned by the Greeley Irrigation Company. It is still in use.
Fort St. Vrain:
Description: A magnificent granite pillar 40"w x 50”h with a polished face mounted on a granite base 46”w x 16”h set on a concrete platform 120"w x 15”h with steps cast into the front edge, located southwest of Gilcrest. The monument was dedicated June 10, 1911. On September 23, 1952, the land deed of Fort St. Vrain was presented to the Weld County commissioners who guaranteed upkeep of the land. Faces W
How to get there: From US-85 just south of Gilcrest, which is between Fort Lupton and Greeley, drive west on Road 40, a gravel road, for a total of 3.7 miles. Cross one paved north-south road enroute. Continue on past Road 23 down what appears to be a driveway to a white frame farmhouse. Continue on past the farmhouse to the top of a very short, steep hill at the bottom of which is a cattle guard. At the top of this hill is a lane to the right (north) distinguished by a pair of short power poles supporting a power line. The monument is about 50 yards down this lane on the right. Road 40 deteriorates to some extent near its end, and just west of the paved road, forks. ‘Take the right fork, which is the more traveled of the two.
FORT ST. VRAIN
BUILT ABOUT 1837
BY COLONEL CERAN ST. VRAIN
GENERAL FREMONT RE-ORGANIZED HIS
HISTORIC EXPLORING EXPEDITION HERE
THIS FORT WAS ALSO VISITED BY
FRANCIS PARKMAN AND KIT CARSON
CENTENNIAL STATE CHAPTER
DAUGHTERS OF THE
HISTORY: Fort St. Vrain(originally Fort Lookout, then Fort George, and finally Fort St. Vrain), was established in 1837 by Ceran St. Vrain of Bent, St. Vrain and Company as a fur trading post. Its history includes a stopover in July of 1843 by John Charles Fremont’s second expedition to the Rocky Mountain area. In the party were Kit Carson, and William Gilpin, later governor of Colorado. Reportedly, on July 4th, Fremont’s party celebrated there by dining on macaroni soup, buffalo meat, fruit cake, and ice cream.
Overland Stage and Express Marker :
Description: A granite marker 32"w x 60"h with a concrete base, guarded by pipe posts and rails. Situated at the Colorado-Wyoming border on U.S. 287. It faces west.
How to get there: Take US-287 west from Fort Collins about 40 miles to the Colorado/Wyoming state line. The marker is on the right (east) side of the road.
Inscription: THIS STONE MARKS THE PLACE WHERE THE OVERLAND STAGE LINE ON ITS WAY TO THE WEST, JUNE 1862 - 1868 CROSSED THE COLORADO-WYOMING BOUNDARY LINE. ERECTED BY THE STATE OF WYOMING AND CHAPTERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION: CACHE LA POUDRE, FORT COLLINS, COLORADO. THE CENTENNIAL, GREELEY, COLORADO. THE JACQUES LARAMIE, LARAMIE, WYOMING. JULY 4, 1917.
HISTORY: A branch of the Overland Stage Line (later called the Holladay Overland Mail and Express Company) ran from Denver to Salt Lake City and the West via Laporte, Virginia Dale, North Platte, Bridger's Pass, and Fort Bridger. From Laporte it followed closely the present-day US-287.
In the mid-1860's, the line, which was owned by Ben Holladay at that time, was a vast empire operating 3145 miles of stagecoach and freight lines and boasting 15,000 employees, 20,000 wagons and 150,000 draft animals.
In 1866 Holladay sold out to Wells, Fargo. The coming of the railroad signaled the doom of stage travel, and the branch was abandoned in 1868.
Elbridge Gerry and Family Grave Site Marker:
Description: A metal plate 6”w x 2”h fastened to a chain link fence 129"w x 108”d x 48”h surrounding the grave plot of Elbridge Gerry and his family, located near Kersey. The grave site contains six gravestones, two of which are modern and four of which are the original gravestones of the Elbridge Gerry family. The original gravestones are badly eroded and difficult to read, but all the more interesting because of the erosion. One modern marker, 24”w x 8”h, of polished red granite, was placed in 1934 (donor(s) unknown). The other one, 36”w x 12"h on a ground level concrete base 44-1/2”w x 22”d, of unpolished red granite, was placed in 1989 through the efforts of the Beets family, owners of the property on which the grave sites are located, and Norman’s Memorials and Greeley Monument Works, two Greeley monument manufacturers. Faces S.
How to get there: Drive east from Greeley on US-34 to Road 61, which is 4.6 miles east of Kersey, thence 2.0 miles north on Road 61 to where the road — curves sharply to the left. Do NOT follow the curve. Drive straight ahead, which is the driveway of the owner of the farm on which the grave site is located. The grave site is about 380 feet east of the house. The grave site is on private property. Do not trespass. Get permission from the property owner. WARNING — there are rattlesnakes in the area at times. Do NOT attempt to locate the grave site unless wearing substantial boots.
FENCE DONATED BY
Centennial State Chapter
Daughters of the American Revolution
HISTORY: Elbridge Gerry, first permanent white settler in Weld County, is said to have been the grandson of Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, governor of Massachusetts, ambassador to France and vice president of the United States. He was born in Massachusetts on July 18, 1818 and came to the Rocky Mountains in the 1830’s as a beaver trapper. He went to Wyoming to trade with the Indians, married a Sioux girl, and later developed a fine horse ranch on the South Platte about ten miles east of Greeley. He earned the sobriquet of “The Paul Revere of Colorado” when, on August 19, 1864, two old Cheyenne Indians came to his ranch and warned that 800 to 1000 Indians were going to raid the settlements and — ranches, dividing into several parties and striking simultaneously. Gerry mounted his horse and rode 65 miles to Denver with the news. Messengers were promptly dispatched to all threatened localities, thus avoiding what could have been one of the most horrible massacres in the history of Indian warfare.
Elbridge Gerry Store Marker:
Marker placed where the store of Elbridge Gerry stood.
HISTORY: Marker unknown at this time - possibly on private land near Kuner. Owner doesn’t know where it is.
"Unknown Child" Marker:
In 1919-1920, Centennial State Chapter repaired the grave marker of the “Unknown Child” who died on the Overland Trail near Dixon’s Bridge, northwest of Greeley. The child had been buried there before Greeley Colony was settled.
The “unknown child” was a Dixon
child and brother of the first white child born in Greeley.
USS Maine Memorial Tablet:
A metal tablet 17-1/2"w x 13"h mounted on a
marble slab 23"w x 18-1/2"h mounted on an oak stand with a slanted
top, 29"w x 18" h at the front, and 31"h at the back, in the main
reading room of the Weld County Library in Greeley. There is
also a small (3-1/2"w x 2"h) black plaque at the upper right hand
corner of the marble slab. The commemorative tablet was
presented to Centennial State Chapter, which in turn presented it to
the Weld County Library in 1916. Memorial tablet unveiled in City Public Library in
to get there:
was dedicated on Friday, May 10, 2007 at a ceremony at Linn Grove
Cemetery. It is located in Soldiers Field, Linn Grove Cemetery at 1700
Cedar Avenue, Greeley, Colorado.
At the top, the marble (actually granite) slab reads D.A.R. At
the bottom the slab reads
PRESENTED BY THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.
The tablets face depicts in the background, the sinking USS Maine.
In the foreground is a bust of a helmeted woman with a shield on her
left arm and with her right arm upraised. In bold letters
opposite her head - IN MEMORIAM. In bold letters opposite her
shield - U.S.S. MAINE. Immediately below - DESTROYED IN
HAVANA HARBOR FEBRUARY 15TH 1898. At the bottom of the tablet
the words THIS TABLET IS CAST FROM METAL RECOVERED FROM THE USS MAINE.
The small black plaque is inscribed: Presented to WELD COUNTY
LIBRARY by Centennial State Chapter Daughters of the American
HISTORY: In the latter part of the 1890's, Cuban rebels
revolted against the Spanish government of Cuba. Spurred on by
the "Yellow Journalism" of William Randolph Hearst's Journal
and Joseph Pulitzer's World, Congress gave belligerent's rights
to the rebels in 1896. On January 25, 1898, the new United
States battleship Maine paid a "courtesy" visit to Cuba,
anchoring in Havana's harbor. On the night of February 15th, at
9:40 pm, a tremendous explosion destroyed the battleship at anchor.
Of the 350 officers and men aboard, 260 died. To this day it
remains a mystery exactly how the destruction was accomplished.
USS Maine Memorial Tablet:
Description: A metal tablet 17-1/2"w x 13"h mounted on a marble slab 23"w x 18-1/2"h mounted on an oak stand with a slanted top, 29"w x 18" h at the front, and 31"h at the back, in the main reading room of the Weld County Library in Greeley. There is also a small (3-1/2"w x 2"h) black plaque at the upper right hand corner of the marble slab. The commemorative tablet was presented to Centennial State Chapter, which in turn presented it to the Weld County Library in 1916. Memorial tablet unveiled in City Public Library in 1917.
How to get there: The memorial was dedicated on Friday, May 10, 2007 at a ceremony at Linn Grove Cemetery. It is located in Soldiers Field, Linn Grove Cemetery at 1700 Cedar Avenue, Greeley, Colorado.
Inscriptions: At the top, the marble (actually granite) slab reads D.A.R. At the bottom the slab reads PRESENTED BY THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT. The tablets face depicts in the background, the sinking USS Maine. In the foreground is a bust of a helmeted woman with a shield on her left arm and with her right arm upraised. In bold letters opposite her head - IN MEMORIAM. In bold letters opposite her shield - U.S.S. MAINE. Immediately below - DESTROYED IN HAVANA HARBOR FEBRUARY 15TH 1898. At the bottom of the tablet the words THIS TABLET IS CAST FROM METAL RECOVERED FROM THE USS MAINE. The small black plaque is inscribed: Presented to WELD COUNTY LIBRARY by Centennial State Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution 1916.
HISTORY: In the latter part of the 1890's, Cuban rebels revolted against the Spanish government of Cuba. Spurred on by the "Yellow Journalism" of William Randolph Hearst's Journal and Joseph Pulitzer's World, Congress gave belligerent's rights to the rebels in 1896. On January 25, 1898, the new United States battleship Maine paid a "courtesy" visit to Cuba, anchoring in Havana's harbor. On the night of February 15th, at 9:40 pm, a tremendous explosion destroyed the battleship at anchor. Of the 350 officers and men aboard, 260 died. To this day it remains a mystery exactly how the destruction was accomplished.
Greeley Tribune Article Published May 7, 2007
Piece of famed battleship finds home in Linn Grove Cemetery
A much-traveled memorial and piece of a battleship sunk more than a century ago has finally found a home in Greeley.
While the cause of the explosion that sunk the U.S.S. Maine remains one of the great naval mysteries, a part of that ship is now embedded in stone at Linn Grove Cemetery.
The sinking of the Maine and the start of the Spanish-American War was once one of the most famous battle cries: "Remember the Maine!" And it also is a long-unsolved mystery.
When the ship exploded in the Havana Harbor in 1898, 260 sailors went down with it.
Controversy haunted the sinking of the battleship. To this day, it's still unknown who actually sabotaged the ship, or if it was a victim of an accidental coal fire near the ship's munitions storage.
And the explosion, in the midst of a newspaper war between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, showed that the press could actually start a war.
The bombing incident produced one of the most infamous incidents in journalism history. When illustrator Frederic Remington wired Hearst about leaving Havana after the Maine's explosion, Hearst's return telegram stated, "Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." Hearst stayed true to his promise, using headlines and stories about the sinking of the ship to fire up a war.
After the war, parts of the ship were cut out, emblazoned with the memorium and sent to groups around the country. In Weld County, the Daughters of the American Resolution received a plaque and donated it to the Weld County Library in 1916.
It then traveled to the Greeley Museum, back to the library, and finally ended up at Offen Ace Hardware, 10th Street and 18th Avenue. Owners of the store, Bill and Chris Ruth, kept the plaque on display in the store for several years to keep it from being placed in some storage area and not seen again.
And now, thanks to several people in Greeley, the plaque stands at Linn Grove Cemetery, at the end of Soldiers' Field. "We're so happy to have a permanent place for it," said Donna Hoffman, regent of the Centennial State Chapter of the DAR. "Debbie Dalton of Greeley Monument Works, Ron Cobb of Norman's memorials and Tom VanBuskirk of Linn Grove all worked together to find a place for our plaque."
Meeker Museum Bench:
Description: A blue plastic marker 8”w x 2”h mounted on the top rail of a permanent bench placed on the grounds of the Meeker Museum in Greeley in celebration of the Bicentennial. Faces E.
How to get there: The Meeker Museum is at 1324 9th Avenue in Greeley. From US85 (8th Avenue in Greeley), turn west at 14th Street one block to 9th Avenue. Turn north on 9th Avenue. The museum is on the right (east) side of the street.
Centennial State Chapter
Daughters of the American Revolution
HISTORY: Nathan C. Meeker, who established the Union Colony which founded Greeley, was the agricultural editor of the New York Tribune who visited Colorado in 1869 and saw that there were attractive home sites and sources of water along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains.
Horace Greeley, the newspaper’s editor, agreed and in 1869 the colony was organized in New York City with Meeker as president, General Robert A. Cameron as vice president, and Horace Greeley as treasurer. Initiation was five dollars. Dues were $150. Members were entitled to a piece of farmland from five to eighty acres, depending on distance from town, and the right to buy a town lot at $25 or $50. Unfortunately, membership did not include canal rights.
Early in 1870, Meeker, Cameron, W.C. Fisk and H.T. West went to Colorado and selected an area near Evans, then the terminus of the Denver Pacific Railway. They bought 11,917 acres of land, 9,324 acres from the railroad, the balance from private individuals. Individual members were persuaded to file on an additional 60,000 acres of public land. In May, 1870, the first 50 families of the 500 members of the colony arrived. The town grew very rapidly, and was incorporated in 1871. Nathan Meeker was killed by Indians at the White River Agency in 1879. His home is now a nationally listed Historical House.
Charles Dixon Grave Site Marker:
Description: An engraved metal sign 10”w x 7~h fastened to the chain link fence 60”w x 9OWd x 45~h surrounding a grave covered with cobblestones, located at 1150 N 25th Ave. in Greeley. Faces W
How to get there: From US-34 in Greeley, take 23rd Avenue north to its end, thence left (west) to N 25th Avenue, thence right (north) for 0.4 miles to the grave-site, which is on the right (east) side of the road behind a fence. The gravesite can be reached by driving into the grounds of Western Mobile Northern.
Inscription: Grave of Charles Dixon. Born July 23,1875 and died one month nine days later. Son of Herbert and Agnes Dixon. Brother of Horace Greeley Meeker Cameron Dixon, the first child born in Greeley on June 21, 1870. Marked by Centennial State Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1989.
HISTORY: Charles Dixon (Dickinson) was the first white child to die in Weld (Union) County. He was born July 23, 1875 and died one month and nine days later. He was the son of Herbert and Agnes Dixon and the brother of Horace Greeley Meeker Cameron Dixon, the first white child born in Greeley.