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How the state of Colorado Came To Be.
You'll also find the County Timeline below, which shows when each county was established in Colorado.

Dinosaurs once roamed North America, and what is known today as Colorado was no exception. Evidence of fossils of oysters, shellfish and crustaceous fish have been located in southeastern Colorado; fossil insects, seeds, and leaves in perfect detail as well as petrified stumps of sequoias have been located near Florissant (Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument); and of course perhaps Colorado’s most famous monument attesting to the presence of dinosaurs, is Dinosaur National Monument, located north of Grand Junction where a variety of dinosaur skeletons have been located and are on display.

The cliff dwellers, ancestors of the Pueblo Indians, were among the first civilized inhabitants of Colorado, and what remains of their culture can be seen at Mesa Verde National Park located in Montezuma County in the extreme southwestern section of Colorado. They were called Anasazi, an Indian word for "Ancient Ones". What became of them remains a mystery, but the Anasazi disappeared from their cliff dwellings about the year 1300 A.D.

Coronado may have crossed the southeast corner of Colorado searching for gold as early as 1541, but it wasn’t until the 1600’s that Spain actually sent out formal expeditions. In 1706 a Spanish expedition from New Mexico claimed the land for Spain, however French fur traders had also been coming into the area for some time, and France too claimed the land that is now Colorado, especially the eastern part. Fort Vasquez on the South Platte River near Greeley, is a replica of a fur trading post and commemorates French trapping days.

In 1762 France ceded all its claims west of the Mississippi River to Spain, but in 1800 Spain gave the land back to France. This led to the famous 1803 Louisiana Purchase, and it was then that the United States acquired eastern Colorado.

The U.S. was anxious to learn more about this new land and in 1806 sent Zebulon Pike to explore the area. He discovered the peak which bears his name, located near present day Colorado Springs, but was unable to climb it. His reports however, brought trappers and other explorers into the area, and trading posts were established throughout eastern Colorado and the spectacular Rockies. Bent’s Old Fort National Historic site near La Junta has been preserved to show what that early outpost for trappers (and later a center for the fur trade) was like.

At the close of the Mexican War in 1848, Mexico ceded to the United States the rest of what is now Colorado. For a time it was part of the Kansas Territory.

Although settlers were moving into the area, taking advantage of homesteading opportunities, it was the finding of gold near the present site of Denver in 1858 that led to the gold rush of 1859 which brought thousands and thousands into Colorado. During the years that followed, gold seekers settled in Denver and formed countless mining and boom towns throughout the high mountain regions.

But many of Colorado’s early arrivals elected to capitalize on the trade, ranching, lumbering and farming industries, rather than become one of the thousands who ultimately failed to locate gold and were forced to return back east, broke. The Colorado area was truly alive with new economic opportunities, and in 1861 Congress recognized this and created the Colorado Territory.

The railroads arrived in the 1870’s which opened up quick travel and cheap freight to the mining areas. Gold mining prospered and a growing population made statehood possible in 1876.

The growing towns and smelters needed coal, and coal mining increased into the 1920’s with companies like the Colorado Fuel and Iron building coal towns wherever the supply could be found. As you scan through the ghost towns section of this web site, you’ll find evidence of these towns. However petroleum began to replace coal, and many of the smaller coal towns and mines shut down. Mining itself has, for the most part, been replaced by agriculture as the primary land use of Colorado’s soil, although tourism flourishes here. The rich history of Colorado attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, hiking to the ghost towns and other historical sites.

Colorado’s legacy of mining and the boom towns that sprang up made millionaires out of paupers overnight, and senators and presidents out of miners. Ohio born John Evans accepted President Lincoln’s appointment as the second territorial governor of Colorado (1862-1865). He was responsible for promoting many of Denver’s banks and other businesses that made Denver an important city. He encouraged the railroads, and was a founder of the University of Denver.

William J. Palmer, a Civil War soldier from Delaware came to Colorado to help survey for the Union Pacific Railroad which was to cross the west. He eventually became president of the new Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and helped form the cities of Colorado Springs, Alamosa, Durango and Grand Junction.

Otto Mears, a Russian immigrant, came to Colorado by way of California and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He operated a saw mill in the San Luis Valley, but while crossing Poncha Pass on the way to the mining camps he spilled a full load of wheat: his first lesson about the roads in Colorado. The toll roads and amazing railroads he later built opened up many inaccessible areas in the mountains for further development. He even helped negotiate treaties with the Ute Indians to help open lands for further gold exploration.

Horace Tabor and his world famous wife Baby Doe Tabor also arrived here from Kansas and Wisconsin respectively. Tabor at one time was a US Senator, but his claim to fame was the huge fortune he amassed in the silver mines in Leadville and his scandalous affair with Baby Doe.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown, also of Leadville and Denver residence, was famous for her Titanic adventure, and later her social and cultural contributions to Colorado.

The many famous people and their early pioneer tenacity are represented here at through our books and videos and the information about the 4,000+ ghost towns listed here. Many were nothing but stage stops or railroad sidings, but in themselves they tell the tale of early Colorado history. Our ongoing compilation of historical information and photos will hopefully bring a better understanding of this great State we call Colorado and admiration to those who formed it.

1803: The United States acquired most of eastern Colorado as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
1806: Zebulon M. Pike explored Colorado.
1848: Mexico ceded western Colorado to United States.
1858: Gold discovered in Denver.
1861: Congress established the Colorado territory.
1867: Denver chosen as permanent capital.
1870: Railroad connections established with the East.
1876: Colorado became the 38th state on August 1st.
1899: First beet-sugar refinery began operating at Grand Junction.
1906: Denver Mint issued its first coins.

Origin of Name: Colorado is from the Spanish term "color red" or "reddish color" and was first given to the Colorado River and then to the state.

It was the 38th state to achieve statehood and has been called the Centennial State because it was admitted to the Union 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

It is made up of 63 counties and their formation is re-capped below.

Colorado County Organization Timeline

The original 17 Colorado counties were organized by the First Territorial Legislature on November 1, 1861. That initial organization lasted only six days and then changes to county names and boundaries were started. This listing attempts to summarize those changes.

· 1861

* Feb 28 - Colorado Territory authorized by Congress.

* Nov 1 - Original 17 counties organized: Arapahoe, Boulder, Clear Creek, Costilla, Douglas, El Paso, Fremont, Gilpin, Guadalupe, Huerfano, Jefferson, Lake, Larimer, Park, Pueblo, Summit, and Weld. (Of these, only Clear Creek and Gilpin still have their original borders.)

* Nov 7 - Guadalupe renamed Conejos.

· 1866

* Feb 9 - Las Animas created from Huerfano. Borders of Huerfano, Fremont, El Paso, and Pueblo adjusted.

* Dec 29 - Saguache created from lake and Costilla.

· 1870

* Feb 11 - Bent created from Huerfano and former Indian lands.

* Feb 11 - Greenwood created from former Indian lands. (This Indian land was previously reserved for the Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes.)

· 1872

* Feb 9 - Platte created from Weld.

· 1874

* Feb 2 - Grand created from Summit.

* Feb 2 - Elbert created from Douglas.

* Feb 6 - Greenwood dissolved. Split between Elbert and Bent.

* Feb 9 - Platte Rescinded (voter ratification failed).

* Feb 10 - Hinsdale created from Lake, Conejos, and Costilla.

* Feb 10 - La Plata created from Lake and Conejos.

* Feb 10 - Rio Grande created from Costilla and Conejos.

· 1876

* Jan 31 - San Juan created from Lake.

* Aug 1 - Colorado becomes a state with 26 counties.

· 1877

* Jan 18 - Ouray created from Hinsdale and Lake.

* Jan 29 - Routt created from Grand.

* Mar 9 - Custer created from Fremont.

* Mar 9 - Gunnison created from Lake.

· 1879

* Feb 8 - Carbonate created from renaming Lake.

* Feb 10 - Lake recreated by rescinding Carbonate.

* Feb 10 - Chaffee created from Lake.

· 1881

* Feb 19 - Dolores created from San Juan.

* Feb 23 - Pitkin created from Gunnison.

· 1883

* Feb 10 - Garfield created from Summit.

* Feb 11 - Delta created from Gunnison.

* Feb 11 - Eagle created from Summit.

* Feb 11 - Montrose created from Gunnison.

* Feb 14 - Mesa created from Gunnison.

* Mar 2 - San Miguel created from San Juan.

· 1885

* Apr 14 - Archuleta created from Conejos.

· 1887

* Feb 9 - Washington created from Weld.

* Feb 25 - Logan created from Weld.

· 1889

* Feb 19 - Morgan created from Weld.

* Mar 15 - Yuma created from Washington.

* Mar 25 - Cheyenne created from Elbert and Bent.

* Mar 25 - Otero created from Bent.

* Mar 25 - Rio Blanco created from Garfield.

* Mar 27 - Phillips created from Logan.

* Apr 9 - Sedgwick created from Logan.

* Apr 11 - Lincoln created from Elbert and Bent.

* Apr 11 - Kiowa created from Bent.

* Apr 11 - Kit Carson created from Elbert.

* Apr 11 - Prowers created from Bent.

* Apr 16 - Baca created from Las Animas.

* Apr 16 - Montezuma created from La Plata.

· 1893

* Mar 27 - Mineral created from Hinsdale, Rio Grande, and Saguache.

· 1899

* Mar 23 - Teller created from El Paso and Fremont.

· 1901

* Mar 18 - Denver created from Arapahoe. (Act later declared unconstitutional by the Colorado Supreme Court.)

* Apr 15 - Adams created from Arapahoe.

· 1902

* Nov 4 - City and County of Denver created.

· 1903

* May 12 - Washington absorbed part of Adams and Arapahoe.

* May 12 - Yuma absorbed part of Adams and Arapahoe.

· 1908

* Park absorbed part of Jefferson.

· 1909

* May 5 - Jackson created from Larimer. (This area is called North Park and was also claimed by Grand until 1886.)

· 1911

* Feb 27 - Moffat created from Routt.

* May 29 - Crowley created from Otero.

· 1913

* Mar 8 - Alamosa created from Costilla and Conejos.

· 2001

* Nov 15 - City and County of Broomfield created from part of Adams, Boulder, Jefferson, and Weld.

Dates from Colorado Post Offices 1859-1989 published by the Colorado Railroad Museum, 1990.
Geographic information derived from The Historical Atlas of Colorado, by Thomas Noel, Paul Mahoney, and Richard Stevens. Pub. and copyright University of Oklahoma Press, 1994. This book contains great maps showing these divisions occuring as well as descriptive text about what lead to the divisions.

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Your Best Source for Colorado History information, ghost towns, mines, mining camps, railroads, stage stops, Doc Holliday, information about each county, museums, historical societies, Chambers of Commerce, and Colorado history related books and videos. A Taste of Colorado History.

If you’re looking for a ghost town, mine, mining camp, museum, historical society, chamber of commerce, library, books, videos, or other historical / community resource in Colorado, you have found the right web site. We have information on all Colorado counties:
Adams, Alamosa, Arapahoe, Archuleta, Baca, Bent, Boulder, Chaffee, Cheyenne, Clear Creek, Conejos, Castilla, Crowley, Custer, Delta, Denver, Dolores, Douglas, Eagle, El Paso, Elbert, Fremont, Garfield, Gilpin, Grand, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Huerfano, Jackson, Jefferson, Kiowa, Kit Carson, La Plata, Lake, Larimer, Las Animas, Lincoln, Logan, Mesa, Mineral, Moffat, Montezuma, Montrose, Morgan, Otero, Ouray, Park, Phillips, Pitkin, Prowers, Pueblo, Rio Blanco, Rio Grande, Routt, Saguache, San Juan, San Miguel, Sedgwick, Summit, Teller, Washington, Weld, and Yuma counties.

Choose a county from the menu on the left of the home page to view a map of the county including major cities. You'll also find information on the history of that county, as well as info on ghost towns in that county and where to find museums, chambers of commerce, historical societies, etc.

If you’re looking for a video related to Colorado history, you can find videos like:
Above and Beyond - A Hero's Story, Baby Doe Tabor - LIVE!, Climb The Rockies (2 volumes), Colorado Gold Boom of 1860: California Gulch, Colorado’s Ghost Towns and Mining Camps (3 volumes), Divide Country, Faith and Fortitude, Faith & Fortitude, Here Lies Colorado Springs the Video, A Landmark For All, Leadville’s Story of Doc Holliday, Leadville’s Story of Baby Doe Tabor (4 volumes), Milestones, A Town is Born, The Treasure of the Cripple Creek Mining District, The Village on the Divide, Voices of Cripple Creek,
videos written by:
E.J. Gene Amitrani, Steve Antonuccio, Jan MacKell, Jerry Presley, Dane Rhodes, Jim Sawatzki, David Wright
videos directed by:
Jerry Presley, Jim Sawatzki, David Wright
videos produced by:
Colorado 14'ers, Encore Video Productions, Palmer Divide Productions, Jim Sawatzki, Universal Systems, David Wright
These videos cover key topics like: ghost town, ghost towns, mine, mines, mining camp, mining camps, railroad, railroads, stage stop, stage stops, Doc Holliday, Fairplay South Park City museum Dyer South Park bank saloon livery blacksmith railroad educational school California Gulch Leadville Mountain City Arkansas Valley Slater Stevens Lee South Park ghost towns Mary Murphy Mine St. Elmo Romley Hancock Alpine Tunnel Chalk Creek Canon Granite Latchaw Mine Little Annie Mine Columbia City Mt. Princeton Four Mile Beaver City Vicksburg Rockdale Silverdale Clohseys Lake Winfield Tasmania Fortune Swiss Boy Banker matchless baby doe harvey augusta silver horace leadville Augusta Pierce Horace Tabor HAW Elizabeth McCourt Harvey Doe Leadville Matchless Mine Little Pittsburg Silver Lake Denver El Paso matchless mine Horace Tabor Elizabeth McCourt Harvey Doe central city gilpin silver matchless sandelowski jake sands Augusta matchless denver senator tabor doe harvey horace silver little pittsburg leadville baby central city globe smelter matchless mine silver horace augusta tabor baby doe gold Doc Holliday tombstone John Henry Glenwood Springs Leadville Denver gun gunslinger Hymans saloon Billy Allen

If you’re looking for a book related to Colorado history, you can find books like:
4WD Adventures, Alfred Packer's Wilderness Cookbook, Augusta Pierce Tabor - Leadville's First Lady, Bent's Fort, The Bitter Days of Baby Doe Tabor, A Calf In The Kitchen, Cripple Creek Conflagrations, Fading Past - The Story of Douglas County, First Governor, First Lady, Ghost Towns Colorado Style (3 volumes), Helen Hunt Jackson, Out the Back, Down the Path - Colorado Outhouses, Parks and Mountains of Colorado, The Mining Camps Speak, Silver Dollar Tabor - A Leaf In The Storm, The Tabor Opera House, Tomboy Bride
Books written by:
Susan Consola Appleby, Harriet Fish Backus, Melvin Bacon and Daniel Blegen, James E. Banks, Samuel Bowles, Evelyn E. Livingston Furman, Kenneth Jessen, Joyce B. Lohse, Peter Massey and Jeanne Wilson, Theresa O'Brien, Beth and Bill Sagstetter, Elizabeth Gumbel Vorenberg, Mark I. West, Lester L. Williams, M.D.
These books cover key topics like: ghost town, ghost towns, mine, mines, mining camp, mining camps, railroad, railroads, stage stop, stage stops, Doc Holliday, four wheel drive wheel drive 4 WD trails hiking backpacking camping SUV GPS maps map wildlife wd suv gps ranching farming eastern rural livestock ranch farm cattle agriculture cow calf calves calving women woman routt Eliza John woman voter vote agriculture governor governors territory first lady territorial bonanza politics political women's suffrage women mines mining camps ghost towns placer hard rock equipment blacksmith assay cabins hoist head frame boiler mill ore bin tram crusher winch grinding crusher arkansas river bailey bent's fort berthoud black hawk cache buckskin joe parks north south central samuel bowles arapaho twin lakes Twin Lakes Leadville women woman Leadville Tomboy Mine Leadville San Juan mountains san juan mountains telluride elk city colonel sellers