Court House attic home of recently discovered hidden treasure
Water has played a pivotal role in Weld County since pre-statehood days. Many senior water rights in the area pre-date Colorado’s1976 statehood. Controversies regarding water were prevalent even when senior water rights were being established more than a century ago.
Original documentation of one such dispute that was filed in court on June 29, 1871, was an important day for C.W. Matteson and R.E. Dickerson. The complaint was filed by Nathan C. Meeker who, with Horace Greeley, conceived the idea of starting a utopian agricultural colony-- Union Colony-- which is present day Greeley.
The case is based upon an interference with a water right. Mr. Matteson was charged with willfully and maliciously damaging a flume gate on the No. 2 ditch. The case was from 1871 and brought upon the affidavit and complaint of N.C. Meeker (PDF 4). The damage was to the property of Union Colony, and it was two-fold: the gate on the flume, but more importantly the water was allowed to flow and was unavailable to the Union Colony. The case was brought by the “People of the Territory of Colorado.” We only have the justice of the peace transcript and this relates to the setting of a bond - $500 - and Mr. Matteson’s remand to the jail in Evans, Colorado. The case was transferred to the District Court for the 1st Judicial District.
This is an interesting case because it involved the Union Colony, it required the complaint be sworn to by an individual, and the injury was to a water right. The importance of water rights at the time was evident given the high bond amount for a misdemeanor charge.