Explore Colorado history through our documents, photos, and records.
About Colorado History
Please click on each topic to discover a few notable Coloradans.
Please note: This list is not complete, nor is the inclusion of individuals meant to imply endorsement by the State of Colorado or the Colorado State Archives. The biographical information has been provided as a service only.
Thomas Hornsby Ferril - Poet Laureate of Colorado, winner of Robert Frost Poetry Award, and friend of Carl Sandberg.
Dalton Trumbo - Author of Johnny Get Your Gun and Academy Award winning screenwriter for his work in The Brave One. He also wrote the scripts for Spartacus, Exodus, Hawaii, and Papillion. His reputation was marred when he was blacklisted during the 1950’s McCarthy trials with the "Hollywood 10."
Allen Ginsberg - Beat Poet, Author of Howl and Kaddish, Co-founder of the Naropa Institute’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder in 1969.
Horace Greeley - Publisher & Editor of the New York Tribune. Organized Utopian Union Colony at Greeley in 1869.
Helen Hunt Jackson - Living in Colorado Springs in 1873 she began writing about the relationship between Coloradans and the Native Indian Tribes. Jackson is often remembered for her brave stance in novels like A Century of Dishonor and Ramona.
Enos Mills - Starting his career as a nationally recognized writer on outdoor subjects, he became an advocate of the National Park System and is considered the father of Rocky Mountain National Park.
James Albert Michener - Worked as a professor at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley where his archives are presently held. His 1,000 plus page novel, Centennial, is about Colorado History.
Eugene Field - Poet and Journalist known for his work in children’s literature, wrote such poems as Little Boy Blue and Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
Clive Cussler - Best selling novelist known for his work Raise the Titanic, Night Probe, and Deep Six. His shipwreck themed texts often are an extension of his National Underwater and Marine Agency’s shipwreck expeditions.
- Entertainment & Theater
Mary Coyle Case - Playwright who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945 for her play Harvey, which was later made into a major motion picture starring James Stewart.
Don Cheadle - Award winning actor in such films as Hamburger Hill (1987) and Devil in a Blue Dress (1995). While born in Kansas City, he moved to Denver and graduated from East High School.
Antoinette Perry - Namesake of the Tony Award for excellence in theater, Director and President of Experimental Theatre, Chairperson of American Theater Wing, and actress.
Hattie McDaniel - First African American to win the Academy Award for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind.
Roseanne Barr - Internationally known comedian who got her start in Denver in 1983 where she was recognized as the "Queen of Denver Comedy." Her show Roseanne in 1988 became the most watched show in America within one year of its inception. She has also won numerous awards including the Emmy, Golden Globe, and People’s Choice.
Alonzo "Lon" Chaney - Famous silent screen actor known for his work in early horror movies, best remembered for his work in the Hunchback of Notre Dane and Phantom of the Opera.
Harold Lloyd - Remembered as one of the world’s greatest silent screen comedians.
Douglas Fairbanks - Famous silent screen star often cast as the swashbuckling hero in such classics as the Thief of Bagdad, Robin Hood, and Three Musketeers.
Ralph Edwards - Master of Ceremonies for the classic television shows This is Your Life, Truth or Consequences, and the People’s Court.
Cleo Parker Robinson - Founder of the internationally renowned Cleo Parker Robinson Modern Dance Ensemble. Also founder of Project Self-Discovery, and co-founder of the National Dance Company of the Bahamas. She has taught workshops in a myriad of nations, collaborated on projects with many of the world’s greatest artists, and has received several honors including a position on the National Council on the Arts.
William Henry Jackson - Starting as photographer for the U. S. Geological Survey and Union Pacific Railroad, he created one of the largest and most expansive western photographic collections in the world. He opened his own private photo gallery in 1879, and died Colorado’s preeminent photographer.
Robert Adams - Photographer of the western landscape. Uses the images to express the relationship between man and the environment. Has received two John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships, the McArthur Foundation’s "genius" Grant, and has worked on the permanent collections of several museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Eppie Archuleta - Leader of the resurgence of the Hispanic blanket weaving tradition in the San Luis Valley. Her craft arts have been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts as they declared her a "national treasure". She contributed to a Smithsonian Institute permanent display, and received the National Heritage Fellowship.
Berke Breathed - Creator of the satirical comic strips Bloom County and Outlands.
George Elbert Burr - Celebrated etcher whose western themed work is in the permanent collections of many of the nation’s largest museums.
Antonia Brico - As a symphony director she was the first woman to be admitted into the prestigious Berlin Academy. She founded the Women’s Orchestra of New York and Denver Businessman's Orchestra. She conducted the Brico Symphony from 1947 until shortly before her death in 1989.
Judy Collins - Internationally known folk singer and anti-war advocate during the Vietnam War.
John Denver - Nationally known folk and pop musician. Wrote numerous songs about the western lifestyle. Best known for his song Rocky Mountain High, which is one of the Colorado State Songs.
Glenn Miller - One of the preeminent "Big Band" swing orchestra conductors. The Glenn Miller Orchestra produced such hits as Moonlight Serenade, In the Mood, and Chattanooga Choo-Choo. At the time of his death, one fifth of all music played on jukeboxes was a Glenn Miller creation.
George Morrison - Starting his jazz career in Boulder and Denver, Morrison moved on to play jazz in Chicago and New York. After signing with Columbia Records he went on a world tour in 1920 where he played for King George and Queen Mary of England. Upon his return he was one of America’s most important band leaders.
Paul Whiteman - Considered the "King of Jazz." After selling two million records with "The Japanese Sandman", Whiteman added to his fame by being one the first nationally broadcast jazz musicians. Whiteman is remembered for his ability to fuse jazz and classical in hits like Rhapsody in Blue and Whispering. After founding the Whiteman Award competition, he was made music director of the NBS’s Blues Network (now referred to as ABC).
Ace Gruening - Considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He and his teammate, Jack McCracken, were chosen for the A. A. U. All American Basketball Team ten out of eleven years.
Jack Demsey - Starting his career as the "Manassa Mauler", he became the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion from 1910 to 1926.
Babe Didriksen Zaharias - Broke four golf records in the 1932 Olympics. In 1947 was the first American to win the British Women’s Golf Championship. Also won the National Women’s Open Golf Tournament.
Alex English - After playing basketball for the Bucks and Pacers, English came to the Denver Nuggets. As a Nugget he became the leading scorer of the National Basketball Association, and played in the NBA All-star games several times.
Wallace Werner - One of the greatest skiers of all time. In 1962 was the first American to win a major European ski event, Austria’s Hahnenhamm. Won the Grand Prix, Holemkollen, Lauberhorn, Criterium, Roch Cup, Harriman Cup, and received the National Ski Hall of Fame Athlete of the Year Award.
Amy Van Dyken - First American woman to win four gold medals in a single Olympics in 1996. Her swimming career is even more amazing in that her asthma only allows her to use 65% of her lung power.
John Elway - Quarterback for the Denver Broncos from 1984 to 1999. Known for his last-minute, gamewinning scoring drives Elway led the Broncos to three Super Bowl losses before back-to-back wins in Super Bowl XXXII and XXXIII. Elway was also the 1987 NFL MVP, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, and one of only two quarterbacks in National Football League history to throw for over 3,000 yards in 12 seasons.
Jerome C. Biffle - Won gold medal in the long jump in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics with a jump of 24 feet, 10 inches. After the Olympics, he returned to Denver to become a coach and counselor at East High School for the next three decades.
Federico Pena – City and County of Denver Mayor from 1983 to 1991. Held Presidential Cabinet Positions in Transportation and Energy during the Clinton Administration. Advocated large civic projects, like Denver International Airport and the Denver Convention Center, to boost local economy.
John Evans – John Evans was the second governor of the Colorado Territory from 1862-1865.
Robert Speer - City and County of Denver Mayor from 1904 - 1912 and 1916 - 1918. Speer had an ambitious vision of Denver's civic and environmental resources. Through his influence, the Denver Mountain Parks System was developed, Civic Center Park was created, parks were added, trees lined the streets, and the history and arts were funded.
Chief Ouray – At age seventeen Ouray, "The Arrow", became Chief of the Uncompahgre Tribe of the Ute Nation, a nation that desperately needed a diplomatic leader. The multi-lingual Chief Ouray visited with President Grant, and in 1868 signed over the tribes' ancestral claims to the San Luis Valley in order to preserve further encroachment onto Indian lands in the San Juans. This uneasy peace was broken by miners who began blasting the mineral rich San Juan Mountains, or as Chief Ouray called them the "Shining Mountains." Chief Ouray believed that the Utes had no choice but to surrender these lands, but many tribes within the Ute Nation chose instead to fight. The infamous Meeker Massacre in Rio Blanco County was the result of the animosity that developed between the Utes and the encroaching white settlers. Ultimately, the United States forced the Native Americans onto new reservations. President Hayes never lost his respect for Chief Ouray, describing him in 1880 as the "most intelligent man I've ever conversed with." In a time of change, strife, and challenge Chief Ouray was honored by both Ute and non-Indian people.
Casimo Barela – Known as a highly respected legislator whose career in the State Senate spanned 25 continuous years. Casimo Barela also was a member of Colorado’s Constitutional Convention of 1875. Elected from Las Animas County, Barela was instrumental in ensuring the bi-lingual printing of Colorado laws.
Benjamin Lindsey - Pioneer of the Juvenile Court System, and child welfare advocate. Lindsey served as a Denver Judge from 1900 to 1927 promoting controversial views like juvenile rehabilitation, trial marriage, and sex education. He was almost disbarred during the 1920's by the Ku Klux Klan political machine when he spoke against their organization.
Wayne Aspinall – Colorado Congressional Representative for 24 years, and acted as Chairman of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee for 14 years. Aspinall was a power broker representing Colorado and the West’s use of public lands, water rights, and mineral resources. His most important single piece of legislation was the Colorado River Storage Project Act which provided many of the reservoir and dam projects after World War II.
General William Jackson Palmer – Founder of the Town of Colorado Springs. One of the railroad pioneers. Developed the first narrow gauge railroad system, the Denver and Rio Grande. Also owned the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, which for several decades was the economic center of Pueblo.
Horace Tabor – Miner, merchant, bonanza king, Tabor joined the gold rush to Colorado in 1859. He arrived in Denver, June 20, 1859, from Kansas. Engaged in prospecting, merchandising, and grubstaking in early mining camps and Leadville, Tabor achieved phenomenal financial success with discovery of silver in holdings in Little Pittsburgh Mine, May 3, 1878. He became a public figure, serving as first mayor of Leadville in 1878; and County Treasurer in 1880. He later made residence in Denver and served as postmaster of Denver, January 4, 1898, until his death. Tabor took an active interest in building up Leadville and Denver with gifts of land and buildings: Tabor Opera House (Leadville); Tabor Grand Opera House (Denver); site for Denver Customshouse and the Tabor Block.
William Bent – Along with his three brothers, William Bent developed the first trade empire in the Colorado Region at Bent's Fort in 1833. As tensions grew between white settlers and Indian natives Bent became a peace negotiator for both sides as his wives were Indian and he befriended the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.
Nathaniel P. Hill –Professor Hill was a student and teacher of chemistry at Yale and Brown University. He came to Black Hawk to research smelting techniques and developed a better way to smelt. He opened the Boston and Colorado Smelting Company in 1867 which was so profitable that he had to open another plant in Argo, North Denver in 1878. After being successful in academia and business, Hill entered the realm of politics, serving as a United States Senator from 1879-1885.
Adolph Coors – Based out of Golden, Coors established his now famous brewery in 1873 using the region’s famous mountain spring water. Coors is presently the nation’s third largest brewer, and the family has been active in Colorado politics and philanthropy.
Charles Boettcher – Made his initial fortune during the Leadville silver boom by providing miners with supplies. He took his money and made various fortunes in many Colorado industries such as meatpacking, sugar, and railroads. His name lives on through the philanthropic work of the Boettcher Foundation.
Barney Ford – Born a slave in Virginia, Barney Ford taught himself how to read and write. At the age of twenty five he ran away from slavery to Chicago, and two years later headed west to seek his fortune. Ford went to Nicaragua and became owner of two hotels, but when slavery was restored there, Barney and his wife returned to Chicago to help slaves escape into free Canada. In 1858 Ford headed west again, but this time he went to Denver. By the time the 13th Amendment passed in 1865, Ford was already being called the "Black Baron of Colorado." Not only was Barney Ford a successful miner, but he also owned three successful restaurants and a barbershop. He was a leading activist for the rights of African-Americans, and was a prominent member of the Republican Election Commission. Ford was also the first black man to sit on a Grand Jury in Colorado and is responsible for ensuring that the State Constitution allowed "all males" the right to vote.
Bob Magness – Founder of Tele-Communications Incorporated (TCI), and by doing so made Denver a telecommunication hub. Also remembered as a generous philanthropist in his numerous donations to the University of Colorado, Boy Scouts of America, and the underprivileged.
David H. Moffat – Arriving in Denver in 1860 to create a book and stationary store, Moffat died in 1911 with claims to over one hundred Colorado mines and nine railroads. Even though one of these railroads, the Denver Northwestern and Pacific line, only reached to Steamboat Springs at the time of Moffat's death, the development of the 6.3 mile long Moffat Tunnel through the Continental Divide soon after allowed important intercontinental railroad traffic to go over the daunting Rocky Mountains. Moffat's work with the transportation industry helped to make Denver the railroad hub for the West, and as such established Colorado as a nationally important commercial and industrial center.
The discovery of gold in 1858 brought people to the fledgling towns of Denver City, Auraria and other front range mining camps. The new inhabitants quickly realized the need for some form of government and movement began toward a territorial and a subsequent state government which led up to the admittance of Colorado as the 38th state of the Union on August 1, 1876.
- Chronology of the Colorado Constitution: Eighteen Years to Statehood
The following chronology describes the events that led up to the acceptance of Colorado's State Constitution in 1876.
November, 1858 Denver citizens formed the independent government of Arapahoe County within Kansas Territory and elected a delegate. First constitutional convention met in Blake and Williams Hall on Blake Street in Denver.
September, 1859 First constitution rejected, but a provisional territorial government called the Territory of Jefferson was formed.
February, 1861 Congress created the Territory of Colorado, headed by William Gilpin.
August-September, 1861 First Legislative Assembly elected and convened.
January 5, 1863 Territorial delegate Hiram P. Bennet introduced a bill to provide statehood for Colorado but it did not pass the House.
1864 Another constitutional convention elected and a constitution drafted but later defeated by public vote.
1865 A new constitution framed and approved in a general election but vetoed by President Johnson.
1869-1873 Each session of Congress received Colorado Statehood Bills but did not pass them.
December, 1873 President Grant recommended an Enabling Act for the admission of Colorado as a state.
January, 1874 Jerome Chaffee, Colorado Territory's delegate to Congress, introduced House Bill 435 for provision of a state government.
June 8, 1874 - March 3, 1875 Bill 435 passed the House, was amended and passed by the Senate and signed by the President.
October 25, 1875 Citizens of Colorado elected a constitutional convention.
December 20, 1875 Delegates for the constitutional convention assembled.
March 14, 1876 Final draft of constitution completed and signed.
- Colorado Enabling Act
- The Constitutional Convention of 1875
The year was 1876. Thirty-nine members of the constitutional convention convened on December 20th. The total population of Colorado Territory was approximately 100,000 and a major railroad connected the territory. Knowing the time was now right for statehood, many dedicated delegates traveled almost 1000 miles over mountains and through heavy snowstorms to attend the convention at the Odd Fellow Hall in Denver. They spent 87 days preparing the constitution, taking months longer than the two earlier attempts. Committees carefully examined such topics as the control of corporate bodies, the disposition of public waters and lands, the forming and maintaining of a public school system, taxation of property, non-residents against debts, and the right to suffrage.
The constitution, completed on March 14, 1876, was modeled after the Nation's constitution. Beginning with the Bill of Rights which guaranteed all national and civil rights, it set the terms and duties of government officials and the ways in which a law could be introduced and passed. It established the State Supreme Court, district courts and county courts. It provided for the supervision and maintenance of public schools. The constitution also determined that a state census be taken in 1885 and every ten years afterward. It designated the elimination of dormant corporations. It regulated railroad lines and set up a system for state tax. Finally, it allowed for future amendments of the constitution. When submitted to the citizens for vote, 15,443 favored the constitution from a total of 19,505 votes.
Colorado's original constitution was handwritten by Fred J. Stanton, the engrossing and enrolling clerk for the constitutional convention. A copy was then penned from the original by the assistant engrossing and enrolling clerk, W.A. Salisbury. On July 25, 1876, Governor Routt dispatched his secretary, John N. Reigart, to Washington, D.C. with the copy of the constitution along with certified ordinances, votes and proclamations. President Grant declared Colorado a state on August 1, 1876 and it became known as the "Centennial State." Since then, the constitution has been the foundation of the State's government and the citizen's freedom. Colorado's constitution today remains very similar to the original constitution conceived for statehood in 1876. The original is preserved in the Colorado State Archives.
Copies of the Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention can be accessed on our History of the Colorado State Constitution webpage.
- 1876 Colorado Constitution
- Creation of Colorado Counties
Colorado Territory was established by Congress on February 28, 1861. The first Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Colorado convened on September 9, 1861. They quickly enacted laws establishing the seventeen original counties.
The Original Territorial Counties and Their County Seats in 1861:
Arapahoe County, county seat in Denver
Boulder County, county seat in Boulder
Clear Creek County, county seat in Idaho
Costilla County, county seat in San Miguel
Douglas County, county seat in Franktown
El Paso County, county seat in Colorado City
Fremont County, county seat in Canon City
Gilpin County, county seat in Central City
Guadaloupe County (later named Conejos County), county seat in Guadaloupe
Huerfano County, county seat in Autobees
Jefferson County, county seat in Golden City
Lake County, county seat in Oro City
Larimer County, county seat in La Porte
Park County, county seat in Tarryall City
Pueblo County, county seat in Pueblo
Summit County, county seat in Parkville
Weld County, county seat in St. Vrain
- Present Counties in Colorado
The following list shows the dates of establishment of the present day 64 counties and the origin of the county names.
ADAMS COUNTY (1902) Named in honor of Governor Alva Adams, who served two terms and sixty days as governor of the state. It was created from the north half of the previously existing Arapahoe County.
ALAMOSA COUNTY (1913) Formed from the northern portions of Conejos and Costilla counties. Alamosa is a Spanish word meaning "cottonwood grove". Spanish pioneers gave the name to a creek within the existing county. The name was next given to the town and finally to the county.
ARAPAHOE COUNTY (1861) Named for the Arapaho Indians who had inhabited eastern Colorado. Originally, the county extended all the way to the Kansas/Colorado border.
ARCHULETA COUNTY (1885) Named in honor of Antonio D.Archuleta, who was the Senator from Conejos County when it was divided to form Archuleta county.
BACA COUNTY (1889) Named, at the suggestion of Senator Barela, for the Baca family of Trinidad. A member of this family had been the first settler on Two Buttes Creek.
BENT COUNTY (1870) Takes its name from Bent's Fort which was located on the north bank of the Arkansas River, near present day La Junta, and from the Bent brothers who founded the fort in 1828-1832.
BOULDER COUNTY (1861) Named after Boulder City and Boulder Creek, which were given their names from the abundance of boulders in the area.
BROOMFIELD COUNTY (2001) Broomcorn grown in the area originally inspired the name for the community called Broomfield. The city existed in 4 counties until it became the City and County of Broomfield.
CHAFFEE COUNTY (1879) Named in honor of Senator Jerome B. Chaffee who retired from the United States Senate the year the county was formed.
CHEYENNE COUNTY (1889) Named after the Cheyenne Indians who occupied much of eastern Colorado for many centuries.
CLEAR CREEK COUNTY (1861) Gained its name from the stream that traverses the county. The creek was first called Vasquez Fork, and later changed to the present name.
CONEJOS COUNTY (1861) Conejos is the Spanish work for "rabbit". The name was given to the river which flowed through the area by the early Spaniards of New Mexico long before non-Indian settlement of the region began. The name was then adopted by the town and then the county.
COSTILLA COUNTY (1861) Costilla is the Spanish word for "rib" and for "furring timber". The Costilla River was named by the Spaniards prior to 1800. The town and then the county took the name.
CROWLEY COUNTY (1911) Was one of the later counties created. It was named for John H. Crowley, who was the Senator from Otero County at the time that county was divided to form Crowley.
CUSTER COUNTY (1877) Named after General George A. Custer, who, along with his men, died at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana.
DELTA COUNTY (1883) Took its name from the city of Delta, which was named for its location on the delta of the Uncompahgre River.
DENVER CITY AND COUNTY (1902) Named after General James W. Denver, who was Governor of Kansas in 1858. When Denver was founded it was located in Kansas Territory. The City of Denver prior to 1902 was located in old Arapahoe County.
DOLORES COUNTY (1881) Derived its name from the Dolores River. The full Spanish name, which was reported by Father Escalante in 1776, was Rio de Nuestro Senora de los Dolores (River of our Lady of Sorrows).
DOUGLAS COUNTY (1861) Named in honor of Stephen A. Douglas, who died in the year of the creation of Colorado's first counties.
EAGLE COUNTY (1883) Acquired its name from the Eagle River which flows through the county. This river had previously been called Piney River by General Fremont who explored the area in 1845.
ELBERT COUNTY (1874) Named in recognition of Samuel H. Elbert, governor of Colorado when the county was formed.
EL PASO COUNTY (1861) El Paso is the Spanish word for "the Pass". Ute pass, west of Colorado Springs, was the famous pass the name references.
FREMONT COUNTY (1861) Named for General John C. Fremont, who explored the region before 1850.
GARFIELD COUNTY (1883) Named in honor of President James A. Garfield.
GILPIN COUNTY (1861) Named for Colonel William Gilpin, who was the first territorial governor of Colorado.
GRAND COUNTY (1874) Named after Grand Lake and the Grand River which are located in the County. The Grand River name was later changed to the Colorado River.
GUNNISON COUNTY (1877) Along with the town and river, this county was named after Captain John W. Gunnison, who explored the region in 1853 and was killed later that year in a battle with the Ute Indians in Utah.
HINSDALE COUNTY (1874) Named in honor of George A. Hinsdale, a prominent pioneer and leader in southern Colorado, former Lt. Governor of Colorado, who died during the month preceding the creation of Hinsdale County.
HUERFANO COUNTY (1861) Huerfano is the Spanish word for "orphan". The county was named after the Huerfano River which flows through the area. It was so named from Huerfano Butte which is an isolated, cone-shaped butte located in the river bottom area.
JACKSON COUNTY (1909) This county is thought to have been named after President Andrew Jackson.
JEFFERSON COUNTY (1861) Took its name from the unofficial Jefferson Territory, the extra-legal government that preceded the Colorado Territory. The name was adopted in honor of President Thomas Jefferson.
KIOWA COUNTY (1889) Derived its name from the Kiowa Indians who hunted and lived in eastern Colorado before European's arrived.
KIT CARSON COUNTY (1889) Named after the mountain man and Indian scout Kit Carson, who lived from 1809-1868.
LAKE COUNTY (1861) Assumed its name from the Twin Lakes, a large geographic feature of the area.
LA PLATA COUNTY (1874) La Plata is the Spanish word for "silver". Silver was discovered by the Spaniards in the region during the 18th century. The name La Plata was first given to the river and mountains. The name was subsequently adopted by the county.
LARIMER COUNTY (1861) Named in honor of General William Larimer, who was one of the founders of Denver and prominent pioneer of Colorado.
LAS ANIMAS COUNTY (1866) Took its name from the main river which flows through the area. The complete name of this river, discovered and christened by the early Spanish explorers, is El Rio de los Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio (River of the Souls Lost in Purgatory).
LINCOLN COUNTY (1889) Named to honor President Abraham Lincoln.
LOGAN COUNTY (1887) Named for General John A. Logan, who passed away shortly before the organization of the county.
MESA COUNTY (1883) Mesa is the Spanish word for "table". The county was named because of the mesas, or tablelands, which were quite common in the county. However, some say the name originated from the geographic feature called "Grand Mesa", which is the largest flat top mountain in the world.
MINERAL COUNTY (1893) Named for the many valuable minerals which were found in the mountains and streams of the county.
MOFFAT COUNTY (1911) Was one of the last counties created. It was named for David H. Moffat, who was a Colorado pioneer and railroad builder.
MONTEZUMA COUNTY (1889) Acquired its name from the famous chief of the Aztec Indians of Mexico. The prehistoric building ruins of Mesa Verde National Park, which are located in the county, were originally thought to have been built by the Aztecs.
MONTROSE COUNTY (1883) Received its name from the City of Montrose which is surmised to have been named after Sir Walter Scott's The Legend of Montrose was published in 1819.
MORGAN COUNTY (1889) Took its name from Fort Morgan. The original fort was in existence from 1865-1868. It was established as a protection post against the indians and was originally called "Junction" or "Camp Wardell". In 1866 the post became known as Fort Morgan in memory of Colonel Christopher A. Morgan, who died earlier that year.
OTERO COUNTY (1889) Named after Miguel Otero, one of the founders of the town of La Junta. He was also a member of a prominent Spanish family of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.
OURAY COUNTY (1877) Named for Chief Ouray, who was a distinguish Ute Indian chief. Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta were one of the several native American chieftain's who sought to live in peace with the non-Indian settlers and miners.
PARK COUNTY (1861) Was one the seventeen territorial counties and acquired its name from the geographic region known as "South Park". This area was named by the early fur traders and trappers who first explored the region.
PHILLIPS COUNTY (1889) Named for the secretary of the Lincoln Land Company, R.O. Phillips, who organized several towns in eastern Colorado.
PITKIN COUNTY (1881) Named for the Colorado governor Frederick Pitkin, who was in office at the time the county was formed.
PROWERS COUNTY (1889) Named after John W. Prowers, who was a leading pioneer in the lower Arkansas valley region.
PUEBLO COUNTY (1861) Pueblo is the Spanish word for "town" or "village". The group of adobe houses built at the site of the present City of Pueblo in 1841-1842 came to be known as "the pueblo". The name was then adopted by the city and then suggested as the name for the county.
RIO BLANCO COUNTY (1889) Rio Blanco is the Spanish name for White River. The county adopted the name Rio Blanco from the river which runs through the area. It is said that the Spanish explorer, Father Escalante, originally named the stream Rio San Clemente.
RIO GRANDE COUNTY (1874) Was one of the counties created before Colorado became a state. The county derived its name from the river of the same name which flows through the county. The original name given to the river by the Spanish was Rio Grande del Norte (Great River of the North).
ROUTT COUNTY (1877) Named in honor of Governor John L. Routt, the last territorial and first state governor of Colorado.
SAGUACHE COUNTY (1866) Acquired its name from a Ute indian word meaning "blue earth" or "water at blue earth". The name was initially applied to a stream in the area, then the town and eventually to the county. The county sits at the upper end of the San Luis Valley.
SAN JUAN COUNTY (1876) Was originally part of La Plata County. Its name is Spanish for Saint John. Early explorers to the region applied the name to the river and mountain ranges. Eventually, the name was given to the region and the county.
SAN MIGEL COUNTY (1883) San Miguel is the Spanish word for Saint Michael. The name was used by the early Spanish explorers to reference the main river of the area. It was later chosen as the name for this county.
SEDGWICK COUNTY (1889) Named for Fort Sedgwick, a military post along the Platte Trail, which existed from approximately 1864- 1871. This fort was located across the South Platte River, from the present day town of Ovid. The post was named in honor of General John Sedgwick who led Union military campaigns into the area.
SUMMIT COUNTY (1861) Was one of the seventeen territorial counties. The county derived its' name from the many mountain summits located within the county.
TELLER COUNTY (1899) Named to honor U.S. Senator Henry M. Teller, who served the state for a number of years.
WASHINGTON COUNTY (1889) Named in honor of President George Washington.
WELD COUNTY (1861) Named for Lewis Ledyard Weld, who was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as the first Secretary of the Colorado Territory.
YUMA COUNTY (1889) Was originally part of Washington County and named after the ancient Yuma Indians who inhabited the area.