Colorado in the 1860s

Originally Published March 20, 2010

In the late 1850s, the gold rush hit Colorado. Because of this, the state population explodes, more towns are established. Leadville is established in 1860 thanks to an abundance of placer gold being found in California Gulch. Boulder gets its first school house, and in1861, Colorado officially becomes a territory. President Lincoln appoints William Gilpin as the first territorial governor, and the formal lines of the state are drawn.

1861 continues to be a momentous year for Colorado; the supreme court of Colorado is established in July and the first congressional delegates are chosen. By September, these men, given the responsibility for forming the state as we now know it, meet and establish the first 17 counties (Colorado now has 64). The Colorado legislature also sets up the university system, selects Colorado City (Colorado Springs) as the territorial capital and the population of Colorado territory is listed as 25,371.

Just one year later, the territory population has grown immensely to 34,227 and the town of Trinidad has the largest population. Within the past year, the manufacture of mining equipment has started, mainly to serve the mines of Colorado.

Denver becomes incorporated as a city, replacing the old name for the area, Cherry Creek. Cherry Creek is still a part of the city, but it becomes a subdivision instead. The short lived Pony Express starts delivery to Colorado.

The second territorial legislature meets in 1862 for a few days in Colorado City, but soon adjourns to Denver and selects a new territorial capital – Golden. This will change again in the years to come. Although schools already exist in Colorado, the legislature establishes some of those as the first tax supported schools, lifting the burden from the individual communities.

Volunteer troops from Colorado aid in defeating Confederate General Sibley’s army at La Glorieta Pass in New Mexico. While these are not the only soldiers from Colorado that get involved in the Civil War, this is the closest the war comes to Colorado.

Another large step is the drilling of the very first oil well – but not the last – near Florence.

The beginning of the 1860s is off to a momentous start – but the 1860s are far from over.


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