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Rocky Ford

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In Rocky Ford (1871, 4,178 feet) George Washington Swink (1836–1910) first planted watermelons as a crop in 1877 and helped to develop the hybrid orange-fleshed cantaloupe in 1884, as well as the honeydew melon, developed in 1916. Melon production peaked at 3,000 railroad carloads in 1928. Today, Rocky Ford melons are grown in several states, but the town remains the “Melon Capital of the World” by virtue of being the seed source. The Holly Sugar Company, which George Swink also helped found in Rocky Ford in 1900, was another major producer until the 1960s.

Originally founded at a stony ford of the Arkansas River in 1871 by storekeeper Asa Russell, the town was moved three miles south to meet the Santa Fe Railroad's route to Pueblo. Swink, who joined Russell in 1874 as a partner in his store, laid out the present town on his own homestead. The original six-block plat, following the diagonal of the tracks, was expanded with additions platted along compass points. Main Street's one-and two-story commercial buildings exhibit noteworthy brick-work in the elevations above storefronts. So does the First Presbyterian Church (c. 1906), 303 South 9th Street. Rocky Ford's large new water tank atop Play Park Hill is emblazoned with the high school team name, The Meloneers. The Arkansas Valley Fair Grounds, located north of town on a part of Swink's 1876 timber claim, retain a 300-foot-diameter octagonal frame exhibition hall (1901).

Writing Credits

Author: 
Thomas J. Noel

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