When Greeley native and Weld County historian Carol Rein Shwayder began researching her family genealogy in the 1970s, she was “dismayed, and shocked” to find there was no book written for Weld County history. She began her quest for that information by collecting interesting facts in a card file of place names that grew into notebooks with thousands of entries that were, as she quoted newspaper columnist Sidney J. Harris, “Things I learned while looking up something else.”
In 1983 Shwayder self-published Weld County Old & New: History of Weld County, Colorado, Vol. I, Chronology 1836-1983. It is described by the author as “A chronological compendium of interesting, useful, and hard-to-find facts and information about the history and development of Weld County, Colorado. A major reference work for the northeastern Colorado from its earliest exploration to modern times.” Herein follows a sampling of excerpted entries bracketed by two significant events–the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II in the Pacific Theater (August 1945) and the declaration by President Harry Truman that a “State of war” with Germany had ended (October 1951).
1945 (October 24): The large evergreen tree in Lincoln Park was again to be decorated and lighted after the tradition was discontinued in 1943-44. The first official Greeley Christmas Tree was the result of a campaign by local women and was a gift to the City in 1915 by Mrs. Jerome F. Cooke, the daughter of Union Colony pioneer, Dr. Gulielmus Law.
1946 (September): “The Conscientious Objector Camp, which had been located at Buckingham, Colorado, was closed. The 28 men who had been detained there had served their time as laborers to help build fences, reservoirs, and make pasture improvement utilities (Tribune).”
1946 (December 7): “The Colorado Coal Mine Union Strike was called off in time for Greeley Christmas decorations to be turned on as planned. Business and street lighting had been curtailed, schools closed, and an emergency stockpile of firewood had been cut and stacked at Island Grove park by members of the American Legion (Greeley Tribune).”
1947: “A 25,000 year old Pleistocene-age mammal was found at Myer’s Pond on the Ball Ranch, west of Briggsdale, Colorado.” The Pleistocene is the geological epoch that lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago.
1948: The Warnoco Skating Rink in north Greeley opened a new and larger roller-skating rink continuing the business first known as “Sall’s Gardens” that were built to compete with Elitch Gardens. Later named in honor of J. Warrick Norcross, Warnoco boasted a roller rink, swimming pool, merry-go-round, and featured dances to big bands such as Lawrence Welk.
1949 (January): The first week of January brought the “’worst blizzard ever!’” Snow covered Northern Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. Many lives were lost, both people and livestock, and Rockport north of Nunn, Colorado became a haven for stranded motorists who were rescued by a work-party train from Greeley while the U.S. Air Force airlifted baled hay to stranded livestock.
Through these entries and others, Shwayder successfully created a chronological glimpse of past events, preserved for all who remember or for those to discover perhaps while they were “looking up something else”.
By JoAnna Luth Stull, Museums Registrar
First published in The Greeley Tribune