COBWEB CORNERS: When Did Colorado City Start?

By Mel McFarland

       I have spoken to several groups lately, and one question keeps coming up: When did Colorado City start? Some even think Colorado Springs started first. Just to share a little of it with you, today let's go to the first page!
       An unorganized camp, called El Paso City, started near the mouth of the Ute Pass in early 1859. It grew out of the white man's use of an Indian trail into the mountains. Gold had been discovered on Cherry Creek near Denver, and several other camps started up wherever there was water. El Paso quickly died out because there was not much gold to be found in Fountain Creek. Other men started a camp named El Dorado, believed to be around present-day 21st Street, but it was equally short lived. In August, 1859 Colorado City was started near the site of the earlier communities. The camp turned into an organized community. 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. The early success was as a stopping off point and supply base for trips into the mountains, rather than as a mining camp. Several hot spots could be reached from this mountain pass. It is hard to imagine today, but back then there were only a few settlements of any kind between Denver and Santa Fe. In addition to Colorado City, there was little until Pueblo. South of that was Hicklin's, near present-day Walsenburg, then Grey's Ranch on the Santa Fe Trail above present day Trinidad. Maxwell's Ranch and then Las Vegas were about it south of Denver.
       Colorado City became a jumping-off point for a shorter but more difficult route to the diggings up near Leadville and Fairplay. Many of the early travelers through Colorado City paused to wonder at the soda springs near the mouth of the pass. Things changed quickly at this time; more little towns started popping up as more adventuresome people moved west. 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. (But I already told that story!)