Colorado State History
Summary of Colorado's state history, including detail on early explorers of the Colorado territory
The Colorado territories area north of the Arkansas River and east of the Rockies came to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The Colorado territory was first penetrated by the French, Spanish and Mountain Men, but became known mainly through explorations of Z. M. Pike, S. H. Long, J. C. Fremont.
Zebulon Montgomery Pike was an American explorer and an army officer. He led expeditions in 1806 through 1807 in the south west and on into Colorado where he founded Pikes Peak. Pike also wrote valuable narratives of his travels. Stephen Harriman Long was an American explorer who explored the upper Mississippi region and the Rocky Mountains from 1817 through 1820. John Charles Fremont was an American explorer, soldier and political leader. His enthusiastic reports of explorations in the west did much to publicize that region.
With silver production in Leadville, Colorado at its peak in 1830, the remainder of the territory was gained by the United States from Mexico in 1848 and Texas in 1850. Wave after wave of newcomers began moving west around 1850. With all the gold and land bonanzas an uneven growth was created in the West. One of the most spectacular examples on the instant cities being built was Denver, in the Colorado territory. In 1858 the opening of the mining frontier following the discovery of gold in Colorado, Nevada and British Columbia yielded $300 million in gold and silver over a 20 year period. In 1859 the establishment of the Leavenworth and Pikes Peak Express, a stage line company operating between Leavenworth and Denver aided settlement in the Colorado area. Colorado boomed with discovery of gold in 1859. Fresh strikes made near Pikes Peak set off will migrations and over 100,000 miners were in that area of Colorado by June. Although the gold quickly played out, this was the time of boom or bust and new strikes were being discovered every day.
These strikes brought a new influx of miners to the Colorado territory. Even with this and the passing of the Homestead Act, settlers and farmers were not moving to the territory. Few farmers and laborers had the cash to move to the frontier, buy farm equipment, and wait out the year or tow before the farm became self supporting. In an attempt to bring settlers to the Colorado area when it was discovered that the Homestead Act fell short of their goal Congress made adjustments to the act. Speculators made ingenious use of the new land laws. One Colorado cattleman, John F. Iliff, owned only 105 small parcels of land, but by placing them around the few available water holes, he effectively dominated an empire stretching over 6,000 square miles.
Mining in region declined and boomed again with discovery of silver in 1875. Colorado became the 38th state admitted to the union in 1876. A Rocky Mountain State crossed by the Continental Divide with plains in the eastern part, its Capitol is Denver. The State Flower is the Rocky Mountain Columbine and the State Bird is the Lark Bunting.