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The Union Colony

Ditch Diggers - CSU ArchivesThe Colorado Territory offered a chance to start over and build a new life. Nathan Meeker, Union Colony founder, envisioned a middle-class community and sought settlers who abstained from alcohol, were literate, and possessed “high moral standards.” 

In April 1870, 144 families traveled westward on the railroad to settle in the “Union Colony.” This new society gained national publicity through the support and praise of Horace Greeley, editor-in-chief of the New York Tribune, who popularized the phrase, “Go west, young man.” 

These settlers ambitiously planned the first large-scale irrigation ditches in the region, utilizing the experience of Meeker, Benjamin Eaton, and others. Within three months of their arrival, the colonists had constructed a working irrigation ditch, dubbed the “town ditch” or “Greeley Number Three.” Greeley Number Three provided a reasonable amount of water to the families’ kitchens and backyards. At the same time, Greeley Number Two, built for watering crops, exceeded Three’s volumes.