State History

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Colorado State History:


Colorado's first inhabitants were probably the Anasazi Indians who, four centuries before Columbus, lived in multi-story cliff dwellings in canyons in the southwestern corner of Colorado. At the end of the thirteenth century, these Indians abandoned their cliff dwellings and apparently moved southward. The first Europeans to venture into Colorado were the Spanish.

In 1800, Spain ceded a vast area, including Colorado, to Napoleon Bonaparte and the French. Three years later, the same parcel of land was sold by Napoleon to the United States as the "Louisiana Purchase". In 1806, President Jefferson commissioned Lieutenant Zebulon Pike to explore the recently purchased territory. Among the sites mentioned by Pike in his report of the expedition was the 14,110-foot peak, which today bears his name. Katharine Lee Bates wrote the original version of America the Beautiful 1893 when she was near the top of Pikes Peak. She said, “All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse."

Many Indian tribes roamed Colorado. The most dominant of the nomadic plains tribes were the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and Kiowa. The Spanish found Navajo in southwestern Colorado. The Apache frequently came into the state from New Mexico and Arizona. The Ute tribes inhabited the state’s mountains and appear to have been the only indigenous tribe of Colorado.  They were placed on two reservations in southwestern corner of Colorado, Southern Ute and Ute Mountain.         

The Sandcreek Massacre of 1864 has been known as the shame of Colorado.  Peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho were massacred and mutilated in a very disgraceful way. Col. John Chivington a former Methodist minister and high-level mason led the charge and used God’s name in justifying it. Because of that, Native Americans throughout North America have used the Sandcreek Massacre as a reason to not acccept the “white man’s God.”         

In the early 1800’s a small farming settlement had been established in the San Luis Valley, but most settlers pushing westward across the Great Plains continued on to the more fertile lands of Oregon, Washington, and California.  It was the discovery of gold that brought large numbers of settlers to Colorado.  In July of 1858, William Green Russell, a Georgia miner, discovered several hundred dollars worth of gold at the mouth of Dry Creek near Denver. Russell's find started the "Pike's Peak or Bust" gold rush of 1858-59. Historians estimate that approximately 50,000 people came to Colorado in search of gold in 1858-59.  Along with the gold diggers came the houses of prostitution.