Sunday, January 20, 2008

Canfield, Colorado

The Colorado state map in the Hammond's Complete World Atlas from 1952 shows the usual, familiar towns of Longmont, Boulder, Lyons, and Hygiene in Boulder County but it also shows a place called Canfield right on the eastern county border.

We've all heard of Broomfield. Where's the town of Canfield?

A little bit of digging showed that Canfield was named after Isaac Canfield, a promoter who discovered a coal seam around the year 1873 which he and his brothers named the "Rob Roy". (There appear to be multiple mines with this name; another one was in the Sugar Loaf area in the foothills. Let me know if you know any significance to this name). The town named after him was platted in 1875, and got a post office in 1878. Unfortunately, Isaac Canfield's mine did not do well under his operation, with the failure attributed to striking miners just at the time when there was a good market for coal. The mine had coal but they just couldn't get it out due to the labor problems. He lost everything , exited the coal business, and left the area. Canfield's coal mining investment partner, the proud banker H. T. West of Greeley who put in $12,500 and an additional $18,000 of collateral, was also left penniless and suffered mental and physical problems after this ordeal. Canfield would be heard of again when he returned to the area twenty-five years later to take part in the next boom, the oil drilling business.

For more information on coal mining in the Boulder County area, a good book on the subject is "Once A Coal Miner" by Phyllis Smith from 1989.

In the 1880s, there would be a very important connection between Canfield and Longmont in the form of one of Colorado's first narrow-gauge railroads, sometimes called Longmont's "Baby Railroad". This story is good enough that it will get written up separately in the next posting. In 1887, the recorded population of Canfield was 153 people.

Although Canfield no longer appears on any printed maps today, in 1984 it was listed along with Boulder and Longmont as "still alive" in the book "Atlas of Colorado Ghost Towns"by Leanne C. Boyd and H. Glenn Carson. Google Maps still knows about Canfield, too. You can see what's left of the Canfield area if you take Jasper Road east from US-287, toward Erie.

View Larger Map

The Canfield crossroads, at Jasper Road and 119th Street, looking northeast. County Road 1, the border between Boulder and Weld counties, is not too far away from here

Looking east, the wall of development from Erie appears to be closing in on this area. Similar development is approaching from the city of Lafayette to the south.

On Jasper Road looking west at the intersection with 119th. The cluster of mature trees on the left part of the picture shows the location of Canfield, which was annexed by Erie a while ago.

The abandoned Union Pacific (formerly Denver and Boulder Valley Railroad) rail tracks just south of Canfield, looking west. This is marked on the Hammonds 1952 map above as the red line labelled "180" between Boulder and Erie). You may remember these tracks being removed from US-287 a few years ago (update on January 23: the tracks are still there across US-287 - what was I thinking?). There was some "rails to trails" activity for this railroad a while ago. Anyone know the status of it?

Same tracks, going east:

There are definitely some interesting buildings and structures in this area, most of which were probably around in Canfield's more populous times.


me said...

Hi, I saw your post on your blog. I am living in Longmont and trying to find these tracks. Do you know how to get to them?

thanks kindly,

Peter said...

Hi Rita,

If you are referring to the old Union Pacific tracks, you can find them just south of the intersection of Jasper Road and N. 119th Street. Go south from Longmont on US-287 about 6 miles, turn left on Jasper and then right on 119th St.

MissUnderstood said...

Yes! That's great! Thanks so much. I'm looking
For cool stuff to photo in the area!
Great Blog!