COBWEB CORNERS: Pikes Peak or... Colorado City!
By Mel McFarland
The westward push that was led by the cry “Pike's Peak or Bust” did not actually go to the Peak. The real hot spot was where Cherry Creek met the Platte River. Prospectors soon headed from there into the mountains looking for the source of the “mother lode.” Kansas Territory extended west to the foot of the mountains. The gold rush brought so many people to the west, but the gold itself was rather scarce. Many then started to look into the mountains.
Many old Indian trails provided foot or horseback access into mountain mining camps in the late 1850s. One of the available routes was Ute Pass. The earliest settlers had given it that name because of the tribe that regularly traveled it.
A group from Lawrence, Kansas, settled across the river from the old Fort Pueblo ruins in 1858 at the junction with the Fountain River. They called their community Fontaine (or Fountain) City. Some of the remaining adobe blocks from the old fort were incorporated into new buildings.. Later another camp started south of the river and west of Fontaine City. It was called Pueblo.
An unorganized camp near the mouth of Ute Pass was called El Paso City. It grew out of the white man's attempts to use the Indians' mountain trail. Later a camp named El Dorado was equally short-lived. In August, 1859 Colorado City was started near the site of the earlier unsuccessful communities. The camp turned into an organized town. It was formally platted by R. E. Cable, Melancthon S. Beach, and several others.
Colorado City became a pivotal point for travelers heading into the mountains. California Gulch on the upper Arkansas River boomed in 1860 at Ore City. At the time there were only a few settlements of any kind between Denver and Trinidad: Colorado City, Pueblo, Grey's Ranch (on the Santa Fe Trail above present day Trinidad) and Hicklin's (between Pueblo and Grey's Ranch). Colorado City became a jumping-off point for a shorter, but more difficult route to the diggings. Many of the early travelers through Colorado City paused to wonder at the soda springs near the mouth of the pass. In 1861 Colorado was approved as a territory, and tiny Colorado City was selected as county seat for El Paso County. A location for the capital of the territory had not been decided. In 1862 Colorado City was among the suggestions that were rejected in favor of Denver.