The iron gates at the entrance of the Milk Creek Battlefield Park were designed and created by Meeker native Mark Scritchfield and tell the story of the Milk Creek Battle.
Northern Utes and their ancestors inhabited mountainous Colorado and Utah for centuries. White settlers in the Colorado Territory brought competition and conflict for the land. The Ute Reservation and Agency at White River were established by the treaty of 1868. Settlers violated the treaty encroaching onto Ute lands. Utes and local traders previously engaged in a friendly “buckskin” economy through trading posts along the Yampa and Little Snake Rivers.
In 1878, White River Indian Agent Nathan Meeker imposed a mandatory lifestyle conversion upon the traditionally nomadic Utes to agriculture which was resented and resisted. Finally, Meeker ordered the plowing of the Ute horse racing track which resulted in a quarrel that put fear into Nathan Meeker. When Meeker requested military assistance, Major T.T. Thornburgh and troops were dispatched to aid Meeker, and crossed Milk Creek onto reservation land, where they were engaged by the Utes in a fierce battle September 29th – October 5th 1879. Thornburgh, many soldiers and Utes were slain. Concurrently, at the Indian Agency, Utes attacked and killed Meeker and all the male employees.
A military cantonment was subsequently established in the present site of downtown Meeker. By 1883, congress ordered the eviction of all Utes from their beloved homeland onto reservations in Eastern Utah and Southern Colorado where they remain today. When the U.S. Cavalry received orders to leave, the buildings were sold and the town of Meeker began its own chapter of history.
To commemorate the last major battle engagement with a Native American Tribe and the United States Army, a memorial park has been built in honor of all those who lost their lives in the Battle of Milk Creek in 1879. The memorial is located on County Road 15, approximately 17 miles northeast of Meeker, and attracts heritage tourists from throughout the world as an historic destination.