Working on the archives in Wheat Ridge’s original Post Office is a rewarding endeavor – but, at the same time, quite challenging. The old building in the Historical Park is chocked full of fascinating information on all sorts of historical topics, ideally on the history of the area, but in reality, ranging far beyond those borders.
One group of volunteers is currently sorting old newspapers, which isn’t terribly hard: save single copies, discard duplicates. It’s the clippings – thousands of them – where one falls prey to the need to read beyond the headline. Most articles have been clipped for a valid reason, but those folks who lack a strong will can find themselves hours later with only a handful of clippings categorized.
That said, I must admit to my own occasional transgression. One clipping of a 1958 Denver Post news item piqued my interest the other day. “Wheat Ridge Urged as Name of City” the headline blared. Knowing the city didn’t legally become Wheat Ridge until it was hurriedly incorporated in June of 1969 (to avoid being absorbed by land-hungry Lakewood, which was also incorporated that year), I was amused that the name debate had been raging for over a decade. Had we actually come dangerously close to becoming Ridgewood, Lakeridge, or (ick!) Wheatwood?
I felt the need to read grip me and descended further down the rabbit hole.
It’s pretty common knowledge that some pioneers who arrived from the East during the mid-1800s hoping to strike it rich as miners decided farming was a better calling and settled on the fertile ridges between Denver and Golden. Wheat was their first crop. The area became known as the wheat ridges, and the informal reference stuck.
Prominent local dentist and one of the Historical Society’s original organizers, Dr. Clarence R. Jacobson, wrote a news-making, fiery letter to the Jefferson County Committee for Incorporation in 1958 in which he stated, “Lakewood…was probably still inhabited by buffaloes and Indians when Wheat Ridge was an organized and established community.” He supports his argument by stating that a Wheat Ridge School District had been on record as early as 1867; the Wheat Ridge Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1874; and the Wheat Ridge Farmers’ Club had been around since 1872.
The origin of the name Wheat Ridge is unique, he argued. ”There is no community or post office by that name in the whole United States.
“Wheat Ridge has a deep-rooted meaning that dates back to pioneer territorial days. To change it now would be like changing the name of Pikes Peak, Central City or Cripple Creek. Due to its historic background, the name should be continued in honor of the sturdy pioneers who selected such an appropriate name.”
Well stated, Dr. Jacobson. It beats Wheatwood by a long shot.