The Highest State, Second Edition
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University Press of Colorado
Colorado’s history, like the state itself, has had many ups and downs. Booms and busts in farming and ranching, in mining and railroading, in water and oil have carried Colorado as high as the state’s peaks and as low as its canyons. Our state’s fascinating history is made up of interesting characters. Fathers Domínguez and Escalante—two Spanish priests—first explored,...
Teachers and students from all over Colorado helped us with this book. Among others, we especially thank Chuck Woodward and Art Cordova of Gateway High School in Aurora, David Smith of Samuels School in Denver, Nancy Gregory and Ray Jenkins of Aurora’s Hinkley High School, Jerry Fabyanic and Pat Heist Ward of Aurora Hills Middle School, Dan Barber...
Timeline [Includes County Map]
1. The Highest State
The young college professor hoped to see the Colorado prairies and mountains from the top of Pikes Peak. For a young woman in 1893, that trip would have been quite an adventure. So Katharine Lee Bates and some friends hired a wagon and a driver and started up America’s most famous mountain. The trip thrilled Professor Bates. Atop Pikes Peak she wrote: “I was looking...
2. The First Coloradans
Evidence of the first human beings in Colorado dates back more than 17,000 years. These first people were hunters and food gatherers who had come to North America from Asia around 25,000 years ago. To find out more about these earliest Coloradans, archaeologists continue to excavate their sites and study the relics they find. The ancient past remains a giant puzzle for which...
3. Native Peoples of Colorado
While the Ancestral Puebloans were building and farming in southwestern Colorado, other Native Americans were exploring the eastern plains. Archaeologists have found rock shelters, camps, storage pits, artifacts, and burial sites in that region. Like the Ancestral Puebloans, these other early Indians were hunters and gatherers at first, and some later became farmers. They were related to Native American cultures in the East, perhaps even to...
4. Explorers, Trappers, and Traders
As early as the 1600s, the Native Americans realized they were not going to have Colorado to themselves. From the south came men riding strange beasts, practicing a different religion, and bringing tools and weapons the Indians had never seen. The lives of these foreigners as well as those of the Indians would never be the same. In 1598 the Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate commanded the expedition that brought European settlement to what...
5. Up the Rio Grande
Before the gold rush and the arrival of English-speaking people, the Spanish had already settled in Colorado. These pioneers came up from New Mexico along the Rio Grande, the third-longest river in the United States. The Rio Grande became the pioneer route from Old Mexico and New Mexico into what is now southern Colorado...
6. Natives Versus Newcomers
In the 1880s, natives who had long occupied Colorado began to face newcomers who also wished to live here. Both groups called this land home. Sadly, neither group ever completely understood the other. Neither the Native Americans nor the Euro-Americans, as US residents of European ancestry are sometimes called, were all bad or all good. They were just human beings trying to do their best for...
“PIKES PEAK GOLD—A NEW CALIFORNIA.” This headline greeted readers of The Leavenworth [Kansas] Times on September 11, 1858. In Kansas and elsewhere, the news of a new gold discovery raced like the wind across the land. Dreams of gold excited many people beyond reason and drove them to go get it, to leave everything behind and head for the mountains. Gold, people...
8. City Life
The mining frontier was an urban frontier. Camps and towns were built at the same time the miners came. This was different from the cattle and farming frontiers, where towns were usually formed years after the first settlers arrived. The miners did not have time to raise crops, manufacture their equipment, or haul in their supplies. But they did have gold and silver to pay others to do those things for them. Therefore, people...
9. Southern Coloradans
Denver may have dominated Colorado news, but other parts of the state were also making history. As railroads opened up the southern part of the state, its agricultural base expanded with the development of tourism, coal, and oil. William Jackson Palmer organized and served as president of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG). As the name reveals, this line ran from Denver to the Rio Grande in Alamosa. Palmer believed Colorado’s southern...
10. Cowboys and Farmers
I’m up in the morning before daylight, Before I sleep the moon shines bright. This is how a favorite cowboy song, “The Old Chisholm Trail,” describes the workday of one of the West’s most popular characters. The cowboy has ridden the range in Colorado since the 1850s, although today he is found more often in a pickup truck than on a horse. The cowboy and his horse, the ranches, the long cattle drives, and the cattle towns have all become part of American history and folklore. Hardly...
11. Western Slopers
The Western Slope lies on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide in Colorado. Its high mountains, river valleys, mesas (high, flat tablelands), and lonely stretches of semi-deserts are some of the state’s most rugged and beautiful land. This part of Colorado gives birth to the great Colorado River, which carries two-thirds of the state’s water. Water has always been important to growth and development and will continue to be in the future. Water...
12. Hard Times
If you could go back to the year 1900, what would you find? Many Coloradans your age would not be in school but instead would be working on farms and in factories. You would also find many men and boys working in damp, dark mines or in hot, noisy smelters where gold and silver were taken out of ores. Miners and smelter workers often worked ten hours a day for three dollars a day or less. Because of the dangerous working conditions, these laborers were lucky to work an entire year...
Benjamin Barr Lindsey was a tiny man. He weighed ninety-eight pounds and stood barely five feet, five inches tall, but he stands tall among Colorado’s reformers. Lindsey spent his life working for the poor and the powerless and especially for their children. Perhaps Lindsey loved underdogs because he grew up as one. In 1880, when he was ten, his family came to Denver from a farm in Tennessee. They moved into a shack on West Colfax Avenue. After Ben’s father...
14. The Automobile Age
For many Americans, life seemed to speed up after the arrival of the automobile. During the 1920s, these horseless carriages changed the places and the ways people lived, worked, and played. Autos enabled people to move to new suburban homes and still work, go to school, and play in the city. Cars cost a lot of money, but during the 1920s many people had money. World War I (1914–1918) had strengthened Colorado’s economy. When...
15. The Depression, Recovery, and Growth
For every boom, there is usually a bust. Colorado’s silver boom ended with the panic of 1893. The good times of the 1920s ended with the Great Depression that began in 1929. Following the 1929 New York Stock Market crash, stock values fell and many companies went out of business. Recovery came very slowly and only after the federal government spent billions of dollars to put people back to work. Uncle Sam, as Americans called the US...
16. Economic and Ethnic Diversity
At age seventeen, Charles Boettcher left Germany for America. He was not alone. Germans were the single largest foreign-born group to settle in Colorado between 1870 and 1910. Charles hopped off the Union Pacific train at Cheyenne, Wyoming, for a visit with his brother Herman, who ran a hardware store there. Herman put his little brother to work in the store, paying him two dollars a week and letting him sleep under the counter at night....
17. Conserving Colorado
As the United States celebrated its 200th birthday in 1976, Colorado was observing its 100th anniversary as a state. Some Coloradans thought 1976 was a good time to look back at the first 100 years and think about their history. The biggest change was the number of people living in the state. In 1876, there were about 100,000 Coloradans. By 1976, there were over 2 million. In 1876, many Indians still lived in Colorado. In 1976, about 9,000 were...
18. Boom and Bust
Colorado’s ups and downs have been as high as the state’s 14,000-foot mountains and as low as its river canyons. Colorado history is a tale of booms and busts. For centuries, Spanish- and English-speaking peoples avoided the state, with its high mountains and semi-desert lowlands. It took a gold rush to lure European Americans to Colorado. The first big boom came with the 1858–1859 gold strike, which started a large-scale hunt for natural resources....
19. Natural Resources
Protecting our state’s natural resources from pollution, destruction, and overuse is one of the biggest challenges Coloradans face. How much of our land should be used for agriculture? How much for houses? How much for shopping malls? How many mountains should be left untouched and how many turned into ski areas? How many forests should be used for timber or be protected as wilderness? How much water can be diverted from rivers before it causes...
20. Today Is Going to Be Long, Long Ago
Colorado has been one of the fastest-growing states in the nation. All this growth has caused some problems. Highways are crowded with cars, especially during rush hour when many commuters are going to or coming home from work. Traffic also stacks up on Sundays, when people return from weekends in the mountains. Traffic sometimes slows cars down or even stops them. How often have you been stuck in a traffic jam? With this growing population, Colorado’s map has...
Appendix A: Colorado Governors
Appendix B: Colorado’s Population, 1860–2010
About the Authors
Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 189 b&w photos, 20 line drawings, 7 maps 2 tables
Publication Year: 2011
OCLC Number: 761731001
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Colorado