Weld County Combined Courts - History of the 19th Judicial District

A color photograph of the Weld County Court House

The history of the courts provides a glimpse into Weld County's past. Through the years, courtroom drama has been the source of anger, anxiety, fear and joy. We invite you to look with us at milestones that have marked the court’s history.

Early settlers ventured west induced by stories of gold and free land opening the pathway to Weld County as we know it today. Many communities started as Union Colony as individuals and families acquired land in the vicinity. Laws were simple - fulfilling the immediate needs and conditions.

Colorado was admitted to the union as a state on Aug. 1, 1876. The state’s original constitution provided for a Supreme Court with a bench of three justices, as well as four judicial districts, with one judge serving each. Justices of peace settled basic civil cases while the judges rode the circuit traveling between the counties hearing more serious cases. At the time our Court House was completed, Weld County shared judges with Larimer and Boulder counties. 

Join us in journey through time looking at court cases that have captured the attention of the nation, a pictorial history of the Court House building and its unique architectural features, the influence water court has had on Weld County’s journey into the Twentieth Century, and educational information for all ages.

Historic Cases of Interest

An Evans resident was shot and killed December 14, 1888, and the man who allegedly killed him was hanged from a tree near the Weld County Court House in Greeley on December 29, 1888 – the only hanging ever to occur in Greeley. The story of W.D. French.

The 1955 Airplane Bombing: Curiously, the biggest murder case in the history of Weld County did not occur in Weld County; it happened in the sky several thousand feet above. Nor was the criminal case prosecuted in Weld County; it was tried in Denver District Court. However, the people and places of Weld County played an important role in the case. A case summary by Andrew J. Field, author of  “Mainliner Denver: The Bombing of Flight 629.”

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.

On Dec. 14, 1961, Weld County was changed forever after a school bus accident southeast of Evans in which 20 children will killed and another 16 were injured. The bus accident is among the deadliest traffic accidents in Colorado history. The bus driver was charged with manslaughter and later was found “not guilty” in a jury trial. As a result of this accident, federal legislation was passed by Congress requiring the drivers of certain commercial vehicles, including school buses, to stop, look, and listen for a train at all railroad tracks prior to crossing the tracks. 

Water Division 1

The Water Right Determination and Administration Act of 1969 created seven water divisions based upon the drainage patterns of various rivers in Colorado. Each water division is staffed with a division engineer, appointed by the state engineer; a water judge, appointed by the Supreme Court; a water referee, appointed by the water judge; and a water clerk, assigned by the district court. Water judges are district judges appointed by the Supreme Court and have jurisdiction in the determination of water rights, the use and administration of water, and all other water matters within the jurisdiction of the water divisions.

The Weld County Court House is home to the Division 1 Water Court, Water Court Clerk's Office and Water Referee. It also serves the Upper Crow Creek Designated Ground Water Basin. To learn more, please click here.

Did You Know?
Colorado's deadliest traffic accident occurred in Weld County in 1961.

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