James Benton Grant

  • Statehood Governor of Colorado from 1883-1885
    Governor James Benton
  • Party: Democrat

View a description of holdings.


Early Years

The Grant Smelter



Scope and Content Note

Series Descriptions

Early Years                                                                                    

Grant was born on January 2, 1848 on a plantation in Russell County, Alabama to parents of affluent heritage. He was educated in local schools and eventually joined the military service of the State of Alabama. It was during this time that his interests in agriculture and mining began to appear. Upon leaving the military, he went to Davenport, Iowa, to attend Iowa Agricultural College. From there, Grant went to Cornell College in New York for a year and shifted his focus of study to civil engineering, and more specifically mineralogy. He then traveled to Germany to study at the Freiberg School of Mines, where he studied metallurgy. Upon completion of this training Grant returned to America. The expansion of the mining industry in the West provided a natural opportunity for him to utilize his mining training, and thus brought him to Leadville, Colorado in 1877.

The Grant Smelter

His uncle was just beginning the construction of a lead smelter in Leadville and Grant joined him as a partner in the project. In 1882 they moved the smelter to Denver to take advantage of the economies of rail transportation. The smelter was to be called the Omaha and Grant Smelting Company. It was later bought by the Guggenheims of New York and simply referred to as the Grant smelter. A significant landmark this smelter was to become, with a smokestack towering some three hundred and fifty feet in the air. The Denver coliseum and stock show arena now sit on the site of this former smelter. The success in the mining and smelting business brought Grant considerable wealth. He built a "mansion" at 770 Pennsylvania Street in Denver, which still stands today. The financial responsibilities of managing the smelter, earned him a vice president's seat on the board of directors of the Denver National Bank. He was also elected as the president of the Denver School Board for eight years.


The general election of 1882 brought a major political change to Colorado politics. The citizens elected their first Democratic governor to the statehouse since the state was created in August of 1876. James

Benton Grant was chosen to lead the affairs of state much to the chagrin of the Republican Party. As Governor of Colorado, James Benton Grant gave great impetus to the expansion and development of the mining industry. His technical knowledge of mining techniques and metallurgy was well respected by many Coloradoans. It was during Grant's term that many of the mines in the southwestern part of the state were opened for development, especially the "Gunnison Country" which had been previously part of the Ute Indian reservation. Grant also proposed the legislative bill to authorize the building of the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver.

Grant died on November 1, 1911 in Excelsior Springs, Missouri and is buried at Fairmont Cemetery in Denver.


  • Brown, Ronald. Hard-Rock Miners: The Intermountain West, 1860-1920. College Station, TX.: Texas A&,M University Press, 1979.
  • James B. Grant Collection, 1848-1911. Denver, CO.: Colorado Historical Society Collection.
  • James B. Grant Collection, 1848-1911. Denver, CO.: Denver Public Library Western History Collection.
  • State Historical and Natural History Society of Colorado. History of Colorado. Denver, CO: Linderman Co., Inc., 1927.
  • Stone, Wilbur Fisk. History of Colorado. Chicago, IL.: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918.
  • Voynick, Stephen M. Leadville: A Miners Epic. Missoula, MT.: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1984.
  • Wyman, Mark. Hard Rock Epic: Western Miners & the Industrial Revolution, 1860-1910. Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1979.‚Äã

Scope and Content Note

This governor's collection comprises just two cubic feet of material related to James B. Grant, during the two years (1883-1885) 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 1883-1885, although there are a few items that precede and post date the official term. The physical condition of the collection is generally good.

The strengths of this governor's collection are several files dealing with mining in general, law enforcement issues across the state and education. A separate file exists concerning the "Ouray Lynching Troubles" and is dated February 1884.

Series Descriptions

  • Executive Record

The Executive Record contains executive orders, appointments, legislative messages, pardons, extraditions and requisitions, honorary citations, and proclamations that were issued by Governor Grant.

  • Extraditions and Requisitions

This record series includes documentation concerning the transfer of alleged criminals to a different judicial 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.

  • Correspondence

Included in this series is correspondence between Governor Grant and his constituents, state officials and other public officials. There is a file located within this series which is identified as Ouray Lynching Troubles, one dealing with the New Orleans World Exposition [n.d.], and other various subjects.

  • Proclamations

The Thanksgiving Day proclamation given by the Governor is included in this series.

  • Speeches and Addresses

Addresses and messages to the General Assembly are the primary focus of this record series. It includes Grant's inaugural address of 1883 and the biennial message to the 5th Colorado General Assembly in 1885. These speeches reflect the vision and importance of programs that the Governor deemed necessary.

  • Reports

These reports consist primarily of reports from state agencies with a few others mixed in. One dated in 1883 is titled a "Prospectus on the American Irrigation System". The creation of a facility for the blind and mute are documented. The building of the state capitol building is outlined in a report dated in 1883 that Governor Grant sought desperately to have built. Another significant report is that of the first report of the Railroad Commissioner (1885).

  • Applications and Appointments

This record series converges on three general areas of public concern, that of agriculture, mining and water. The Governor made appointments to the Cattle Inspection Commission to deal with the possible spread of cattle disease from Kansas. There were also issues dealing with what was called "Texas Cattle Fever", and preventing it from infecting Colorado herds. Grant made a number of appointments to State Mine Inspectors to provide some measure of safe operating standards for mines. He also made a number of appointments to the posts of "Water Commissioners", who were to ensure that the proper and legal entitlements to water usage were correctly applied.



To Request a Record

To search our records, please see Archives Search.

To request a record from the Archives, please submit a formal request.