Click on the pictures above to go to the next section. In the below section, click on the highlighted letters

Revised 27 December 2010



It is said that Colorado was named for the great river that raises in the snow banks of her western slope.  It is a Spanish word meaning "red", bestowed upon the river by Spanish explorers a century before it was applied to the Colorado Territory.  Click on the underlined word for more information from the Colorado State website.  Use your back arrow to return to this page.

Early Spanish explorers passing through Mexico heard the natives telling tales of cities of gold and silver to the north.  To find these precious metals, many of these fortune hunters traveled northward, some coming into sections of what is now New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.  They were the first white men to see the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, the Rio Grande Valley and other wonders of the Rocky Mountain Territory.  Escalante, a Catholic priest who tried to find a short cut from Santa Fe to the Pacific coast, came through there in the summer of 1776, but was unsuccessful in his quest.

By the early 1800s, the trappers and fur traders swarmed through the area seeking furs for the large fur companies of the eastern United States and Canada.

The first real settlers of Colorado showed up around 1858, making the state the last to be occupied by permanent settlers.  Many were attracted by the early discovery of gold and other metals, but most who came were not all that successful, and stayed on to till the soil and build the ranges.  

In 1859, a group of individuals voted to form the territory of Jefferson, but it was never recognized by congress.  Because of this some of the counties have organization dates and records prior to 28 February 1861 when the actual Territory of Colorado was finally recognized.

There was a census in 1860 showing a population of about 33,000 men and about half as many women.  At the time this census was taken, Colorado was still part of Kansas.  Colorado was admitted to statehood 1 August 1876.  It was called the Centennial State because it became part of the union 100 years after the formation of the United States.

Colorado has some of the most beautiful country in the United States.  It also has an unusual climate structure.  When crossing the Rocky Mountains, it can be snowing on one side of the mountain and perfectly clear and warm on the other.  It is also the location of the Continental Divide, which is where the direction of the water flow from our water shed changes direction in its race to the ocean.  If you travel there to do research, be aware of the sudden altitude changes.  The constant altitude changes of going up and down the mountain roads can make you really sick.  Take your time traveling and enjoy the scenery.  Its well worth the trip


Name Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Adams 1902 Arapahoe; It was created from the north half of the previously existing Arapahoe County. Brighton
Alamosa 1913 Costilla, Conejos Alamosa
Arapahoe (First formed in 1855 as a Territorial County) 1861 Original County; Formed from the northern portions of Conejos and Costilla counties. Originally, the county extended all the way to the Kansas/Colorado border. Denver then Littleton
Archuleta 1885 Conejos; It was divided to form Archuleta county. Pagosa Springs
Baca 1889 Las Animas Springfield
Bent 1870 Greenwood Las Animas
Boulder 1861 Original County Boulder
Carbonate (See Lake) 1861 Renamed Lake  
Chaffee 1879 Lake Salida
Cheyenne 1889 Bent, Elbert Cheyenne Wells
Clear Creek 1861 Original County Idaho then Georgetown
Conejos (See Guadalupe) 1861 Original County Conejos
Costilla 1861 Original County San Miguel then San Luis
Crowley 1911 Bent, Otero (Otero County  was divided to form Crowley) Ordway
Custer 1877 Fremont Westcliffe
Delta 1883 Gunnison Delta
Denver (Denver has annexed territory from Arapahoe, Adams & Jefferson County on several occasions) 1902 Arapahoe (When Denver was founded it was located in Kansas Territory. The City of Denver prior to 1902 was located in old Arapahoe County. Denver
Dolores 1881 Ouray Dove Creek
Douglas 1861 Original County  Franktown then Castle Rock
Eagle 1883 Summit Eagle
Elbert 1874 Douglas, Greenwood Kiowa
El Paso 1861 Original County Colorado City then Colorado Springs
Fremont 1861 Original County Canon City
Garfield 1883 Summit Glenwood Springs
Guadalupe (See Conejos) 1861 Renamed Conejos  
Gilpin 1861 Original County Central City
Grand 1874 Summit Hot Sulphur Springs
Gunnison 1877 Lake Gunnison
Hinsdale 1874 Conejos Lake City
Huerfano 1861 Original County Autobees then Walsenburg
Jackson 1909 Grand Walden
Jefferson 1861 Original County; Took its name from the unofficial Jefferson Territory, the extra-legal government that preceded the Colorado Territory. Golden City then Golden
Kiowa 1889 Cheyenne, Bent Eads
Kit Carson 1889 Elbert Burlington
Lake (See Carbonate) 1861 Original county Oro City then Leadville
La Plata 1874 Conejos, Lake Durango
Larimer 1861 Original County La Porte then Fort Collins
Los Animas 1866 Huerfano Trinidad
Lincoln 1889 Elbert Hugo
Logan 1887 Weld Sterling
Mesa 1883 Gunnison Grand Junction
Mineral 1893 Hinsdale Creede
Moffatt 1911 Routt Craig
Montezuma 1889 La Plata Cortez
Montrose 1883 Gunnison Montrose
Morgan 1889 Weld Fort Morgan
Otero 1889 Bent (Otero County  was divided to form Crowley) La Junta
Ouray 1877 part of San Juan with a small piece of Hinsdale added; In 1881 the southern portion was split off to form Dolores County. In 1883 the western part became San Miguel County.
Also in 1883, Ouray County was briefly renamed Uncompahgre County.
Park 1861 Original County Tarryall City then Fairplay
Phillips 1889 Logan Holyoke
Pitkin 1881 Gunnison Aspen
Prowers 1889 Bent Lamar
Pueblo 1861 Bent Pueblo
Rio Blanco 1889 Summit Meeker
Rio Grande 1874 Conejos, Costilla Del Norte
Routt 1877 Grand Steamboat Springs
Saguache 1866 Costilla Saguache
San Juan 1876 La Plata Silverton
San Miguel 1883 Ouray Telluride
Sedgwich 1889 Logan Julesburg
Summit 1861 Original County Parkville then Breckenridge
Teller 1899 El Paso Cripple Creek
Uncompahgre 1877 Changed to Curay in 1883  
Washington  1889 Weld, Arapahoe Akron
Weld 1861 Original County St. Vrain then Greeley
Yuma 1889 Washington, Arapahoe Wray
For books on Colorado History, visit the THE COUNTRY STORE.  Proceeds from sales of books through this link-over to Amazon.com will help to support this website.


The Colorado GenWeb Project  Colorado Historical Society
Brief History of Colorado History of Colorado
Colorado Information and History Colorado Lore, Legend, and Fact
Gilpin Historical Society, Central City, Colorado � History Museum ... Colorado History in Photos, Primary Sources, and Virtual Tours - Doing ...
Colorado History - The Santa Fe Trail and Fort Union Old Colorado City Historical Society
HISTORY OF COLORADO  (a PDF pamphlet) Colorado - The States - The History Channel
Colorado Postal History Society Colorado Kids Page - Colorado History - Colorado Legislative Council