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In the development of the agricultural regions of the West, group migration has ever held a prominent place. This is true whether the Piedmont region, the basin of the Mississippi, the Southwest, or the lands of the Pacific slope be under consideration. One phase of the settlement of each of these districts has been that by more or less well-organized groups, companies or colonies.
The advantages of such a method of emigration and settlement were numerous and fairly obvious. By adopting this plan the men who made their living by the pursuit of agriculture were able to secure many benefits that they could not have gained if they had ventured alone. If the new homes were in the Far West, traveling by companies was the safest and often the only practicable method of reaching them. In almost any part of the West the danger from the depredations of Indians or outlaws was such that group settlement was desirable as a means of protection. During the later days of the westward movement the railroads granted special rates of transportation to colonists and land could be purchased to better advantage from the railroads by associations than by individuals.
If a group remained together after the migration many other advantages accrued. The social and economic centres of the agricultural communities, the towns or villages, with their stores, churches, schools, fraternal orders, farmers' clubs and other societies, grew up rapidly, far more rapidly than if the farmers had straggled into the country one by one. In regions of abundant rainfall a certain amount of co-operation was possible in breaking the wilderness. In the semi-arid belt the task of dig
ging irrigation ditches was lightened by joint labor. Though it took time for the prospective western settlers to become conscious of these advantages, this stage had been reached when Colorado was opened for agricultural settlement.
BACKGROUND OF THE COLONY MOVEMENT IN COLORADO.
For many years after the explorations of Pike and Long the resources of the western part of the Mississippi basin and of the Rocky Mountains were unexploited except by the trapper and trader. Then, in 1858, and the following years, Colorado became the home of thousands of men who sought gold in her streams and mountains. Of the many who entered the territory a few turned to agriculture, Farming on a small scale developed in the valleys of the South Platte and its tributaries and of the Arkansas. A number of short irrigation ditches were dug and a few of greater length. These small farming districts supplied the mining camps and the towns with a part of their food, but though prices were high, the distance to these markets was so great that agriculture attracted but few votaries. In 1867 more is heard of farming in the territory and during the next two years it took a more important place in the economic life of Colorado.2 But the absence of railroads, with the resulting expensive and time-consuming long hauls to the towns or camps, and the inaccessibility of all markets outside of Colorado, was a barrier in the way of further development. The migra
1 On the early development of agriculture and irrigation see: Smiley, J. C., History of Colorado, I, pp. 551-552, 573; History of Clear Creek and Boulder Valleys, pp. 53-54; Bliss, E., A Brief History of the New Gold Regions of Colorado Territory (1864), pp. 10-12; Bowles, S., Across the Continent, pp. 62-65; Taylor, B., Colorado, pp. 41-46.
2 See the reports of the commissioners of the General Land Office and of Agriculture for these years, and also: Colorado, a pamphlet issued by the Denver Board of Trade in 1868; Farrell, N. E., Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Gem (1868), p. 30 et seq.; Goddard, F. B., Where to Emigrate and Why (1869), pp. 160-175; Bowles, S., Our New West (1869), pp. 189-191.
tion of farmers was also hindered by the ignorance of the methods of irrigation that prevailed in the eastern states and by the survivals of the idea of the aridity of the "Great American Desert".
The year 1869 witnessed the beginning of the removal of the greatest obstacle, the lack of adequate means of transportation. During the course of that year the construction of the Denver Pacific Railway, designed to connect Denver with Cheyenne and thus with the Union Pacific, was resumed. On December 13, it reached Evans from the north. It was completed June 22, 1870, and Denver gained an outlet to the outside world.? In August another connection was made with the East when the Kansas Pacific Railway was finished. It extended from Kansas City to Denver. A part of the mining region was opened on September 23, when the first train left Denver for Golden City over the Colorado Central. The following year a narrow gauge railroad was projected to connect Denver with the southern part of the territory. This railroad, the Denver and Rio Grande, was opened to Colorado Springs for freight and passenger traffic on October 23, 1871.5 The railroads afforded means of transportation from the mines and towns of eastern Colorado to the markets of the Union. In addition they made available a large area of farming land. In this latter respect the Denver Pacific was of special importance, since it traversed the rich valleys of the South Platte and its tributary streams.
Despite the solution of the problem of transportation, it is hardly likely that any immediate emigration to
1 The Daily Colorado Tribune, December 14, 1869, p. 1.
2 Daily Rocky Mountain News, June 23, 1870, p. 4. For a history of the railroad see The Daily Colorado Tribune, June 22, 1870, p. 1.
3 Daily Rocky Mountain News, August 18, 1870, p. 2.
Colorado would have taken place had it not been for the well organized effort put forth in the years 1869 to 1871. The dread of the hardships of cultivating land in the semi-arid region had to be overcome and some positive benefits to result from migration had to be offered. Here again the railroads were of great service. Both the Denver Pacific and the Kansas Pacific had received from the government the grant of alternate sections of land for twenty miles on both sides of their right of way. They were, therefore, deeply interested in the problem of the disposal of this land to settlers who would increase the traffic over their lines. The Denver Pacific was first in the field. On October 29, 1869, it entered into a contract with the National Land Company of New York. The latter company was to act as the land selling agent of the railroad and was to receive in return ten per cent. of the gross receipts from all sales made by it. The Kansas Pacific later entered into a similar agreement with the same company.
In the subsequent opening up of Kansas and Colorado the National Land Company played an important part. It not only sold land on the partial payment plan, but was also prepared to arrange for the transportation of the persons and possessions of the emigrants at reduced rates and to map routes of travel to the West. It had offices in Chicago, St. Louis, Topeka and by March, 1870, in Denver and also in London and other foreign cities. It advertised extensively in the newspapers and issued an advertising magazine, the Star of Empire, in which were set forth the advantages of settlement in the West, especially along the routes of the Denver Pacific
1 These contracts are referred to in the Byers’ Correspondence relating to the National Land Company and in the advertisements of the company. See The Daily Colorado Tribune, May 20, 1870, p. 1.
2 See its advertisement, Daily Rocky Mountain News, July 4, 1870, p. 1, Cf, ibid., July 8, October 24, December 15.
and Kansas Pacific railways. The general agent of the company, C. N. Pratt, had his headquarters at 111 Dearborn Street, Chicago. William N. Byers, general manager for Colorado, was part owner of the Rocky Mountain News, a paper of wide circulation and influence in the territory. Through these agencies the company set on foot a vigorous campaign to induce migration, and its efforts were ably seconded by the Colorado press and by interested individuals.
Throughout this advertising campaign it is evident that the promoters of emigration felt the difficulty of overcoming a lack of knowledge of or aversion to the methods of irrigation. Consequently there was developed and spread through the land a highly idealized picture of the advantages, even the pleasures, of irrigation. In its most complete form, attained in 1870, this picture was one of Arcadian simplicity and prosperity. When irrigation was used water was always a certain quantity. The labor and cost of digging ditches was no greater than that of breaking and draining land in the eastern states. Once the crops were planted and during the winter the tasks of the farmer were less arduous and fewer than elsewhere. What is more, the land was being constantly enriched by the silt brought in with the water from the ditches. The crops that were raised on irrigated land were truly marvelous in quantity and quality. There were depicted yields of wheat as high as eighty bushels to the acre in favored communities, cabbages weighing sixty pounds each, potatoes five and six pounds, beets two feet in length and sweet potatoes weighing fourteen pounds. Some of these products were exhibited in Chicago and elsewhere for the edification of prospective settlers. Added to these attractions were those of a land where the grass for the cattle was cured by the sun as it stood on the plains and so could be used for winter pasture, where