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Dossier: Emmett A. Bromley, "Father of Adams County"

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Sleuthing Brighton Colorado, with a full Investigative Report by the Brighton History Detective® (aka Robin Kring)

Case Number: 000017, Identify Mural Subject

Mural Location: “Historic Brighton at Founders Plaza” by Hans Joseph Geist

Subject Identified: Emmett A. Bromley, Introduced Bill to form Adams County

EMMETT A. BROMLEY (1858-1922), Introduced Bill for New Adams County (1901). A prominent Brighton rancher, popularly known as the “Father of Adams County,” for his honor of introducing the bill in the Colorado State Legislature to create Adams County. Voters ratified the amendment on Nov. 15, 1902, officially establishing the new Adams County [named in honor of Colorado’s popular governor Alva A. Adams (1850-1922)]. The amendment created three separate counties from the existing Arapahoe County, including: the City and County of Denver, South Arapahoe County, and Adams County.

Both Bromley and fellow state legislator Daniel F. Carmichael (who had both been elected to Colorado State Legislature in 1890), along with many other leaders, campaigned for years for the formation of a separate county. This local leadership, along with a large number of supporters, had earlier made repeated efforts in 1887 and 1889, and later in 1891 and 1898, that failed.

Because of its excessive size (extending from Sheridan Avenue on the west to the Kansas border on the east), and the fact that Denver dominated political affairs (in what some said was a “high-handed” fashion), the county was often referred to as “the Prussia of Colorado.” According to historian, Albin Wagner, “what finally assured the idea of (Adams County) was a growing movement for the formation of a metropolitan government in Denver.”

Bromley and His Family

Emmett A. Bromley was a prominent and successful livestock rancher and farmer, whose property eventually expanded to more than 1,100 acres. His livestock herd was so large, Bromley was known to graze his cattle from his ranch south of Brighton (approximately 4th Ave. and Bromley) to as far as Barr Lake.

He had originally moved to Denver with his brother Martin in 1877. The brothers had been living in New York with relatives, as the boys had lost both their parents to typhoid fever when Martin was 10 and Emmet 9. After working in Denver for about a year, Emmett bought his own cattle and rented a farm to get started in the dairy business. By 1883 he was able to buy his own land in Brighton, purchasing 200 acres to the south of what is now known as Bromley Lane (a name used by early visitors when traveling up the lane to Emmet’s and Martin’s adjacent farms).

Emmett married Maria (Dickson) Bromley on Dec. 24, 1892. The couple had six children, including two that died in infancy (Albert and Margaret) and Maria, John, Clinton, and Emmett. None of the siblings would later have any children of their own.

His Career Beginnings

Bromley was active in local and Denver businesses, serving as president of the First National Bank of Brighton, the Gibraltar Oil Company, and the German Ditch and Reservoir Company.

He was a strong advocate for ranchers and farmers, and dedicated a large part of his life to public service. He held the positions of Arapahoe County deputy sheriff and assessor. He served two terms (1890 and 1892) in the Colorado House of Representatives and a four-year term (1896) in the Colorado Senate. He then served as the Adams County District Court Clerk for twelve years.

In addition to supporting a separation from Arapahoe County, while serving in the State Legislature in 1901, Bromley was involved in the state farm-loan act that permitted loans to farmers from state school funds. He also introduced the bill to the Colorado State Legislature that created an official Columbus Day holiday.

After experiencing major success in these early beginnings, Emmet’s financial situation would drastically change. He traded some of his land for Denver investment properties that ended up performing poorly. He then had to sell even more land to cover his debts. In 1922, Bromley died deeply in debt and in 1926 his wife had to give up the deed to their farm. The family moved in with Anna’s parents, the Dicksons. The family of Martin Bromley, Emmet’s brother, say Maria (pronounced Mariah), who later married Charles T. Allen, later went to work at for Adams County Government, where she eventually earned enough to pay off the $40,000 Emmett Bromley still owed creditors.

Farm’s Later Years of Significance in Japanese American History

Years later, the farm complex, in which the Bromley family once lived, would hold an important place in the Colorado Japanese American History for its association with the farm’s later owners, two Japanese-American families who made a major contribution to local agricultural and social history. The Koizuma and Hishinuma families purchased the property in 1947. Their raising of sugar beets, cabbage, alfalfa, and corn played a major role in the economic well-being of the community by regularly supplying the Great Western Sugar Company and local canneries, such as Kuners.

Japanese-Americans had long been a part of Brighton’s history having farmed along the south Platte as early as 1880. The area was a much desirable location, in part, as one of the few states without an alien-land law. During WWII, Colorado’s Governor Ralph Carr’s open opposition to internment camps and welcome to evacuees made the area especially favorable. The established Japanese-American community and Governor Carr’s continued encouragement against racial prejudice are credited with making Colorado a popular post-war relocation area.

The Koizuma and Hishinuma family stories, as well as the Roberts family story (who farmed the land for interim owner I.B. James (one of the founders of the Trailways Bus System and the Grand Lake Lodge), are shared along with Bromley family stories, at the historic Bromley Farm / Koizuma-Hishinuma Farm (1594 E Bromley Lane). The site was purchased by the City of Brighton in 2006 and was placed on the State Historic Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. The site is now open to the public as a living farm, education center, and special events space.

©2019-2023 Robin Kring, including excerpts from A Stroll through Elmwood, A History Detective’s Tour of Adams County Courthouse, and A Postcard History of Brighton

Discover More About the Artist and the Detective

Learn more about the Artist, Hans Joseph Geist, behind the Historic Brighton at Founders Plaza mural, in the Brighton History Detective® dossier, The Case of the New Mural and its Artist (Hans Joseph Geist). See more of Hans art at: Art by Hans Geist on Facebook.

Find more Investigative Case Reports, by Brighton History Detective®, each revealing the identity of one of the 20 intriguing Brighton characters and places, painted on the mural. Investigate the sleuthing and writing stories of yesteryear, mystery, and intrigue on the Clear Creek Publishing Authors Blog site, including: New Fiction, Victoriana, Event Planning Extraordinaire, Colorado History, and Cemetery Chats.

The Historic Brighton at Founders Plaza mural is located on the southwest corner of Main St. and Bridge St., in Brighton, Colorado. The mural is a project of the Brighton Cultural Arts Commission, whose mission is to increase arts and culture awareness and promote cultural and scientific opportunities in our community. It has been made possible with funding from the SCFD and Brighton Lodging Tax Grants.

®Brighton History Detective is a registered trademark of Clear Creek Publishing.

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