Centennial (novel)

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James A. Michener - Centennial (novel).jpg
First edition cover
AuthorJames A. Michener
CountryUnited States
PublisherRandom House
Publication date
Media typeprint

Centennial is a novel by American author James A. Michener, published in 1974.[1]

Centennial traces the history of the plains of northeast Colorado from prehistory until the early 1970s. Geographic details about the fictional town of Centennial and its surroundings indicate that the region is in modern-day Weld County. Since the novel was written, the Denver suburb of Centennial has been incorporated in 2001, although its location in Arapahoe County is far from Michener's fictional town of the same name. Much of his book was based on the Weld County city of Greeley. Many episodes in the book are loosely based on actual historical events in eastern Colorado and southeast Wyoming, which for novelistic reasons are brought to a single locale. For example, "The Massacre" is based on the Sand Creek Massacre which took place in Kiowa County, Colorado in 1864. Other parts of the book are loosely based on a family from Sterling in Logan County.[2]

Centennial was made into a popular twelve-part television miniseries, also titled Centennial, that aired on NBC from October 1978 through February 1979, and was filmed in several parts of Colorado. NBC Universal released a six volume DVD set in 2008.[3][4]


  • "The Commission": The fictional preface for the book.
  • "The Land": The formation of the Earth, specifically the Rockies and the land directly around Centennial.
  • "The Inhabitants": A series of stories about animals that supposedly lived near what would become Centennial, from the dinosaur Diplodocus to the arrival of man.
  • "The Many Coups of Lame Beaver": A biography of Lame Beaver, an Arapaho Native American.
  • "The Yellow Apron": The lives of the beaver trappers Pasquinel and Alexander McKeag.
  • "The Wagon and the Elephant": Describes Levi Zendt's journey out of Pennsylvania in search of a new life in Oregon.
  • "The Massacre": Frank Skimmerhorn leads the militia to massacre a group of Arapaho.
  • "The Cowboys": Chronicles a cattle drive from Texas to Centennial and the establishment of the Venneford Ranch.
  • "The Hunters": Describes three separate Buffalo hunts which led to the near extermination of the Buffalo in the west.
  • "A Smell of Sheep": The arrival of sheepmen in Colorado and the fights between them and the cattlemen.
  • "The Crime": Describes the arrival of the Wendell family in Centennial and the crime that they commit.
  • "Central Beet": Describes the establishment of the sugar beet industry and the arrival of Chicanos to Centennial.
  • "Drylands": The arrival of dryland farming to Colorado from the perspective of the Grebe family.
  • "November Elegy": A snapshot of the life of Paul Garrett, a descendant of many of the characters from previous chapters.


  1. ^ Albin Krebs (October 17, 1997). "James Michener, Author of Novels That Sweep Through the History of Places". The New York Times. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  2. ^ Amy Zimmer (November 29, 2012). "The History Behind the Fiction: James Michener's "Centennial"". Colorado State Publications Library. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  3. ^ "Centennial mini-series". imdb.com. Retrieved April 1, 2017.
  4. ^ Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph.D. "Centennial (1978)". vernonjohns.org. Retrieved April 1, 2017.

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