This section is from the book "The Potato: A Compilation of Information from Every Available Source", by Eugene H. Grubb, W. S. Guilford. Also available from Amazon: The Potato: A Compilation Of Information From Every Available Source.
Greeley, Col., and vicinity, was settled by a colony of professional and business people who were attracted to the West and to the soil by the forceful writings of Horace Greeley. The early history of the colony chronicles considerable of that element which the Western cow-puncher calls "grief." They had a new business to learn under hard, pioneer conditions. Those who stayed, however, prospered. This has been true of all who have brought to the business of farming trained minds and broad experience.
Many of the advanced cultural methods used to-day by the best potato growers originated at Greeley.
The story of the Greeley district is to be told by Senator H. C. Watson, one of Greeley's most influential men and one of the first in the business; by Lord Ogilvy, agricultural editor of the Denver, (Col.) Post, one of the best informed men in agriculture in the world and an old-timer at Greeley; and I. Rothschild, the leading dealer in the Greeley market. Senator Watson says:
The colonists commenced to arrive here early in May, 1870. I came on the first day of May of that year, and am now the oldest inhabitant in point of continuous residence. The necessity of raising something to feed the people was very apparent, so I hired a man who had a yoke of oxen, to plow up some lots on the higher ground but under the ditch we proposed to dig, and bought some Early Rose potatoes of a merchant in Evans, Col., the town which was, at that time, the terminus of the Denver-Pacific Railroad (now the Union Pacific Railroad), about four miles from Greeley. I paid 3 1/4 cents per pound; had them planted, but unfortunately for the success of the experiment, I joined a party of men who proposed and did go to the mountains for the purpose of floating logs down the river to supply the very great need of lumber to house the people. The man I left in charge of the crop did not do much, and as a result I did not get much of a crop, although I did demonstrate the fact that we could raise potatoes on the uplands of Colorado, and received enough money from my venture to pay the actual cost of raising. I believe these were (with the exception of some that were raised on the Ames place near Fort Collins the same year) the first potatoes raised on the uplands of Colorado.
In the years following 1870 there were increasing acres planted around here, principally Early Rose. A little later, Morten Whites (these did not make a good potato; they seemed to be lacking in starch and would not cook soft), a few Peachblows, and some Snow Flakes were planted. The latter were the very best eating potatoes, as, in fact, they are yet, but they did not yield heavily enough to be profitable.
In the course of five years or so we had sufficient potatoes to sell to make it necessary to do something to market them. I was then employed as clerk in a large store here. We built a warehouse on the railroad track, which stands there yet, and went at the business systematically. I had charge of that department and had to make frequent trips to Denver to sell our stuff. On one of those trips I wrote about a column article describing how we handled potatoes in Greeley - took them in loose, sorted, and sacked them ourselves. I published this in the News of Denver. The result was that Greeley ' spuds ' got a reputation that was of value.
In the year 1881 I went into business for myself. A part of this business was the handling of potatoes, which by this time had become an industry of larger dimensions and kept increasing every year. In the season of 1886 a number of business men and bankers concluded that the potato business had become so large that it was necessary to organize the selling end, so that we could extend our markets. To that end, the Greeley Mercantile Company was organized with a capital of $40,000. Mr, O. P. Gale was president and I was vice-president. We paid cash and handled our product on its merits, as every business should do. About this time, or in fact several years before, we found that the Early Rose were not growing in paying quantities, and some farmer shipped some seed of the Rose Seedling variety from New York; also some Mammoth Pearls, Carmans, Mammoth Prolines, and Rurals. All of these varieties were more or less successful, especially the Pearls, which are yet the principal crop raised here. In the summer of 1887 our president died and I was compelled to take charge of the business. We sent a man to Texas and kept him there a whole season at considerable expense, being careful to ship only good stock. We did not make much, but we created a market for the future. That year there were about 1,500 cars of potatoes raised in the territory north of Denver. We found that we had about reached our limit, as the water from the streams would not hold out for late irrigation; that is, in August. This made it necessary to build reservoirs to store flood waters and the winter floods of the streams.
We were not raising much over 100 bushels to the acre, as the soil lacked humus and nitrogen. A farmer from Iowa by the name of Bliss concluded that he would try turning under alfalfa as they did clover in the East. Now our farmers were of the opinion that you could not get it to rot, as it came right up again, but he managed, by putting chains on the plows, to turn the plant under. The result was astonishing, as it just about doubled the crop, not only of potatoes, but of everything else. 'A number of years ago I conceived the idea that we might increase our crop by shipping in some seed from a non-irrigated country; so we got a car of Mammoth Pearl seed from northern Wisconsin. We had some trouble in getting this car sold, as we had to get $1.25 per cwt. for it, but we scattered the potatoes over the country - five and ten sacks in a place. The result was a very-large increase in the crop and very much better stock. Now our farmers do not object to paying $2.00 per cwt. for seed."
Lord Ogilvy says: