Weld County (1861), named for Lewis L. Weld, the first secretary of Colorado Territory, is one of the richest agricultural counties in the United States. It has led the state in production of barley, beans, oats, sugar beets, hay, and cattle. Wheat, corn, hogs, and sheep are also important commodities. The South Platte River and several major tributaries—the Cache la Poudre River, Boulder Creek, St. Vrain Creek, the Big and Little Thompson rivers—facilitate irrigated farming.
Greeley, the county seat, was founded as the core of the 72,000-acre Union Colony, the most successful agricultural colony in Colorado. Farming and ranching were furthered by the sugar beet factories at Eaton, Fort Lupton, Greeley, Johnstown, and Windsor, as well as the huge Monfort cattle feedlots.
A long Native American history surfaced in 1932 at Dent, a stop on the Union Pacific near Greeley. A flood unearthed woolly mammoth bones with fluted Clovis points among them, suggesting that prehistoric people lived and hunted in the region more than 10,000 years ago. Much later, Native Americans traded at four fur trade forts—Jackson, Lupton, St. Vrain, and Vasquez—erected along the South Platte River during the 1830s.
Surviving vernacular architecture, ranging from cattle herders' line camps to granaries to rammed earth houses, shows how settlers built in the Great American Desert. Among local architects was a pioneer woman in the field, Bessie Smith of Greeley.
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