Colorado has a rich history as colorful as the red rocks that dominate its landscape.
A Brief History of Colorado
There is evidence of Native America tribes settling into the area that would become Colorado as far as 13,000 years back, but the Colorado we know today didn’t get its start until the late 16th century. Spanish conquistadors founded the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico on July 11th, 1598, with many portions of the new province situated in present-day Colorado.
Over the next couple of centuries, the land that would eventually become Colorado traded hands between Spain, Mexico, and the United States. The Treaty of Hidalgo ceded a part of the territory to the United States in 1848. This newly gained land opened portions of present-day Colorado to American settlers but most settlers concentrated their westward journeys to Oregon and California until an accidental discovery in 1850 changed the landscape of the future state forever.
On June 22, 1850, Lewis Ralston dipped his gold pan into a stream that fed into Clear Creek and found $5 worth of gold in his first pan. Ralston continued his journey to California but returned with a party to the same spot 8 years later, founding the community of Auraria which is now part of the City of Denver. The rumors of gold began drawing prospectors to the Rocky Mountain region and in July of 1857, those rumors were confirmed when a group of Cherokee gold seekers led by Green Russell found 622 grams of gold near modern day Englewood, Colorado. The Pike’s Peak Gold Rush was on.
Over 100,00 prospectors made their way into the area that would become Colorado over the next 3 years, warranting the creation of an independent Colorado territory on February 28, 1861. Colorado would exist as a territory with largely the same borders as today until it was granted statehood on August 1, 1876.
Today’s Colorado is a mixture of the Colorado of the past and the Colorado of the future. You aren’t likely to encounter any prospectors panning for gold, but ranching and farming still have their place in Colorado alongside tech start-ups and a thriving food and culture scene. The promise of gold is what drew people to Colorado in the 19th century, and now the promise of outdoor recreation and a growing economy is what draws new residents today.
Colorado may be a simple rectangle on the map but the history of The Centennial State is pure gold.