Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ovid, Colorado Sugar Factory (1926-1985)

Next long-overdue visit on the ghost tour of empty northern Colorado sugar beet factories takes us to the small town of Ovid (population 318), in Sedgewick County, in the very northeast corner of the Colorado, along I-76 and the South Platte river.  Not many have heard of Ovid but it was in the news for a few days this past September 2013 as the rushing flood waters of the South Platte made their approach and threatened to flood the town. Ovid is also known by its stop on the Pony Express trail.

1940 Census Map of Ovid (population 650) showing the river and Union Pacific railroad to the south.    US-138 was the highway access to Ovid, long before I-76 opened in 1970.

Of all of the factories we've seen, Ovid's factory looks the most haunted as it sits on the lonely eastern plains with all of its windows boarded up with weathered plywood.  Adding to the striking effect is a large graveyard of arranged farm equipment in front of the factory and a surrounding town that has seen better days. 

[Shameless disclosure on all the pictures here:  they are six years old, from January 2008! I thought I would be going through NE Colorado again since then, with a chance to get newer pictures, but that hasn't happened.  Going by modern satellite views, I don't think much has changed]

 The factory administration building in front:

Ovid was a true company town and became incorporated in 1925 while the huge Great Western Sugar Company factory was still being built just east of town.   With irrigation from the South Platte, the surrounding area had proven that it could successfully grow beets but the crops had to be transported to Sterling or Eaton for processing.  When Great Western decided to build a new state of the art factory to accommodate the NE Colorado area growers, Ovid was chosen among two neighboring towns, Julesburg and Sedgewick. 

Ovid is the only northern Colorado sugar beet town that has lost population since their factory was shut down. Unlike most of the other factory towns (Ft. Collins and Sterling would be the exceptions), Ovid still celebrates their factory town history, including having their Dinky on display in a small park:

Amalgamated Sugar retains factory ownership today, which they use as a storage facility.  The silos were freshly painted when I was there and these can easily be seen from I-76:

Outside of the factory is a boneyard of vintage agricultural implements:

A quick look at the 1940 Ovid census shows a wide variety of jobs and pay grades provided by the factory.  A foreman who worked all year round in 1939 (a recovery year from the Great Depression) made $2200/year while a chemist pulled in $1950.  Some positions were only seasonal, during beet-processing campaigns, which usually lasted five months out of the year.  A sampling of the many factory roles from the census includes: "elevates coal", electrician, "blowup man" (?), carbonater, "cooler man", master mechanic, and pipe fitter. 

And for a Longmont connection with Ovid, Longmont's head librarian in 1926, Genevieve Dorsett, mysteriously left her position to move to Ovid when the factory opened there, with her new husband who was a Great Western employee.  They lived in Ovid for ten years before moving to Ft. Collins.  You can read more about her in my hack genealogy effort back when I was a library volunteer.

The quiet little town of Ovid (in 2008):

 Ovid's art-deco style Platte Valley High School:

And how it looked in the early 1920s: 
Photo credit:  Denver Public Library Digital Collection

Ovid's Public Library:

One final look, closed for almost thirty years now:

Continuing series on the northeastern Colorado beet sugar factories:


Unknown said...

Took some pic s of the beet factory yesterday..we live close

Unknown said...

I was just there yesterday I wish I known it was to be torn down that's too bad

Peter said...

Didn't know that it was being demolished! Thanks for the info.

Gregs h. said...

Seen this today as I passed through! Makes me sad, our little town in Nebraska had an awesome factory whom we were all proud of but they (the corps) abandoned us 5 years ago and now it is being torn down!

Peter said...

What town in Nebraska? I know Great Western had some factories there, as well as one or two in Wyoming.

herco2 said...

Thought it was Guering(sp). My dad was to transfer to there, but didn't, had too many kids in school in Ovid.

Unknown said...

Back in the early 80's and well into the 21st century I hunted the abundant pheasants on the factory and other land around Ovid. I had made friends with the Ewan family who had long since relocated to the northern Front Range, but maintained friendship and hunting privileges with Ovid landowners. I recall exploring the long abandoned, but still standing (at that time) company hospital across 138 from the factory. The 8 or 10 beds were still in it. Spooky! The factory was still operating as a depot and had a yellow diesel descendant of a Blinky you had to watch out for.