Although many locals are familiar with Seely’s (Seeley’s) Lake, few are aware of its colorful history. Union Colony member Joseph Sylvester Seely arrived in Greeley in May 1870 and acquired property northwest of town. Around 1873, a reservoir was constructed near Seely’s land to collect runoff water from Union Colony Canal Number Two. Two bankers, Hunter and West, allowed Seely use of the lake, prior to him purchasing it in 1891. Seely stocked the reservoir with perch, black bass and sunfish. After acquiring ownership, Seely set out to make the lake profitable and built a dance pavilion in the summer of 1894 “for the benefit of terpsichorean lovers,” followed by three ice houses in 1895 to store 2,500 tons of ice harvested from the lake.
Seely died in 1899. In 1900, Mrs. Seely sold the property to the Seely Lake Recreation & Amusement Company, a Greeley corporation that hoped to raise enough money to build bath and boat houses, summer cottages, and a road around the lake. Financial difficulties and a lawsuit ended this venture. In 1902, the S. L. W. Ranch Company purchased the Seely property (220 acres) and the lake (120 acres) from Mrs. Seely and heirs for $9,500. Company Manager, Harvey Witwer, enlarged the lake which was filled during non-irrigating months with runoff from the James Graham seepage ditch and the Canal Number Two. Witwer moved the 50’ x 150’ dance hall, bath house and other buildings onto the new dyke built at the lake. In 1903, L. Herbert Caywood became the manager of Seely Lake Resort which hosted weekly summer dances, vaudeville performances, fishing, boating, and bathing. Caywood had been a “rough rider” with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show for several seasons and staged exciting Frontier Day rodeos at the lake on the Fourth of July, and on Labor Day, September 7, 1903, when, according to a Greeley Tribune article, “everybody and his wife went to Seely’s Lake.”
For over 40 years, Seely Lake Resort was a popular summer “hot spot,” and hosted Northern Colorado Bathing Beauties Contests in the 1920s and 1930s. On June 26, 1939, however, an accidental fire following an evening wedding party attended by 150 Windsor people destroyed the dance hall, manager’s residence, four outhouses, concession stand, and several large trees. The Ogilvy Irrigating and Land Company, owners of the lake and resort, decided not to rebuild.
Written by Peggy Ford Waldo, former Curator of Development