Rufus “Potato” Clark, a vegetable farmer from Iowa, arrived in Colorado with his wife and child in 1859. He settled on a 160-acre homestead in the present-day location of Highlands Ranch, a suburb south of Denver, and began farming potatoes.
The potato industry in Colorado had already taken off, particularly in the Pikes Peak region, where a town named Eastonville dubbed itself the “Potato Capital of the World.” According to local legend, two-pound potatoes were commonly pulled from the ground. Their seeds were in high demand.
For Rufus “Potato” Clark, farming potatoes proved to be an immediate success—a banner year produced enough potatoes to earn him a sizable fortune and the title “Potato King of Colorado.” To transport his crop to the city, Clark carved out the original footprint of the north-south road that would later become Broadway Street. He also participated in efforts to expand irrigation for Douglas County’s agricultural industry by way of the Castlewood Canyon Dam.
Shifting gears, Clark turned to Denver politics and philanthropy. He served as a member of the Territorial Legislature before Colorado became a state, and donated a whopping 150 acres of land south of downtown Denver to establish the University Park campus of the University of Denver (DU). The land offered stunning views of Pikes Peak and Longs Peak, and came with three stipulations: trees must be planted, roads laid out, and the sale of alcohol prohibited.
Clark passed away in 1911, though his legacy lives on. DU continues to honor Clark as one of their key early beneficiaries. It’s also said James Michener took inspiration from Rufus “Potato” Clark when writing the character Hans “Potato” Brumbaugh in his novel “Centennial”.