James B. Orman

  • Statehood Governor of Colorado from 1901-1903
    Governor James B. Orman
  • Party: Democrat

View a description of holdings


Early Years



Orman's Administration


Scope and Content Note

Series Descriptions

Early Years

James Bradley Orman, Governor of Colorado (1901-1903), was born November 4, 1849, in Muscatine, Iowa. His parents John and Sarah Josephine Bradley Orman were farmers. James Orman grew up on the family farm and was educated in the Iowa public school system. Upon his twentieth year, he and his brother, William, headed west to Denver in 1869.

At this time the west was experiencing the advent of the railroad age, and Denver was becoming a hub of railway activity.


The Orman brothers realized an opportunity in buying and selling horses to railroad building contractors. This interaction with the railroads and their builders led the brothers to form their own construction company. They were soon awarded the contract to build a section of the Kansas Pacific Railroad. This railroad ran from Sheridan, Kansas, to Denver and would later become a part of the Union Pacific Railway. This was the beginning of a successful career for the Orman brothers as railroad contractors and builders. They assisted in building many roads including portions of the following: Kansas Pacific, Denver &, Rio Grande over the Continental Divide, Canadian Pacific, Oregon Pacific, Colorado Midland, Denver, Northwestern &, Pacific, the Colorado &, Northwestern, Santa Fe &, Northern, and the Florence &, Cripple Creek. James Orman still holds the distinction of having built more miles of railroad in Colorado than any other man.

Besides constructing railroads, James Orman was also a builder of many of the state's irrigation projects. The Uncompahgre tunnel near Montrose was built by Orman as was the Bessemer irrigation project in Pueblo County.


Orman settled in Pueblo in 1874 which had become a major railroad center in the state. While he lived here, politics began to occupy his attention. He was one of the organizers of the street railway system in Pueblo and was the president of the Pueblo Street Railway Company for five years. He was elected to the Pueblo Common Council for several terms and was mayor in 1897 and 1898. He was sent to the state legislature in 1880 and was elected for two terms as a representative. He was the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate in 1883 but was defeated by three votes. He declined the Democratic nomination for governor in 1888 and 1890. In 1892 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Orman was nominated again for governor in 1900 and this time, he accepted. He was endorsed by the "silver" Republicans and the Populists which ensured his election.

Orman's Administration

Orman's administration was relatively uneventful except for labor problems at Telluride, Colorado. Owners of the Smuggler-Union Mines refused to negotiate with the Western Federation of Miners in a dispute over the contract system of pay. Recognition of the union was as important an issue to the miners as the abolishment of the contract pay system. Violence erupted which resulted in the murder of the manager of the Smuggler-Union Mining Company. Union members ultimately drove the non-union members out of the district.

Throughout his life, James B. Orman had many interests. Besides politics and his railroad work, he was president of the Bankers' Consolidated Mines near Ouray, Colorado and the Oro Hondo mine in Lead City, South Dakota. He owned extensive real estate holdings in Denver and Pueblo as well as in the coal fields of Huerfano County.

Three years after he moved to Pueblo from Denver, he married Nellie Martin on September 27, 1877, and they had two children: Frederick B. and Edna A. Nellie Orman died on December 14, 1917, when she had a stroke. James B. Orman died on July 21, 1919, and is buried in Pueblo. He has been remembered as one of the state's pioneer builders.


  • State Historical and Natural History Society of Colorado. History of Colorado. Denver, CO., Linderman Co., Inc., 1927.
  • Stone, Wilbur Fisk (ed). History of Colorado, 4 Vols. Chicago, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1918.
  • Ubbelohde, Carl, Benson, Maxine, and Smith, Duane. Colorado History. Boulder, CO, Pruett Publishing Co., 1972.
  • Colorado State Archives. Records of the Office of the Governor, James B. Orman, 1901-1903.
  • Rocky Mountain News, 7/21/1919, p. 1.

Scope and Content Note

This governor's collection comprises twenty-eight cubic feet of material related to James Bradley Orman during the two years (1901-1903) he served as governor of the state. Record series included in the collection are the Executive Record, correspondence, extraditions and requisitions, proclamations, speeches and messages, appointments, and reports. The materials date essentially from 1901-1903, although there are a few items that precede and post date the official term.

Related to this collection are twenty-one cubic feet of material originating with Ella Matty Orman who was married to James B. Orman's son, Frederick. This collection spans 1901-1969 and resulted from her involvement in the children's polio prevention program. Besides files concerning this topic there are diaries, correspondence, minutes, directives, reports, and other records originating with the Orman family, including Governor Orman and his wife, Nellie. There are also papers of various members of the Matty family.

Series Descriptions

  • Executive Record

The Executive Record contains executive orders, appointments, legislative messages, pardons, extraditions and requisitions, honorary citations, and proclamations which were issued by Governor Orman during his term of office from 1901-1903.

  • Correspondence

Included in this series is correspondence between Governor Orman and his constituents, state agencies, and other public officials. The correspondence is organized generally by subject.

  • Speeches and Messages

Orman's Inaugural Address, Biennial Address, and a Labor Day speech comprise this series.

  • Proclamations

This series consists of executive proclamations issued by the governor and deposited as filings in the Office of the Secretary of State. Orman proclaimed the City and County of Denver after the election in 1902. There is also a reward for the "assassin or assassins" of Arthur L. Collins, who was the manager of the Smuggler-Union Mining Company at Telluride, Colorado.

  • Applications and Appointments

Two cubic feet of records documenting gubernatorial appointments to state agency offices and various boards and commissions are included in this series.

  • Reports

This series consists primarily of annual or biennial reports to the Governor from state agencies.

  • Extraditions and Requisitions

This series includes documentation concerning the surrendering of alleged criminals to a different jurisdiction for trial. Documentation may include the application for extradition, the warrant for arrest, and correspondence from the Attorney General's office concerning the extradition.


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