Denver History

artist drawing courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society


Denver history began with a few tents, log cabins and Indian teepees on the bank of Cherry Creek, as people were lured to the new territory in search of gold.


In 1858, the "Larimer Group" led by friends of the governor of the Kansas Territory, James W. Denver, headed west to find gold and set up the settlement of Denver City in honor of the governor of Kansas.

In 1859, the "59er's" also came to the area in search of gold and settled here.  They lived in harmony with the natives of the Colorado plains while they panned for riches.


Some gold was found in Clear Creek and other areas around Idaho Springs.

Denver City started to take off as an up and coming part of the Colorado Territory.  It was close to the mountains and the miners and other prospectors could bring their find into town to drink and gamble.

With the word out that there was gold in Colorado, many covered wagons trekked across the plains from Missouri in search of wealth.


photo courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society

By the end of the 1860's, settlers and freight wagons were seen frequently in Denver.  The town started expanding, buildings going up and many people and tradesmen moving in.

Gold seekers headed for the mountains and quickly populated the Front Range.


Denver became the most important city of all the new towns in the Colorado Territory.

Since it was situated at the head of the mountains in Clear Creek Canyon and the South Platte River, it was a stopping off point for settlers heading further west, businessmen setting up in a new town and journalists curious about what was beyond the Missouri River.


photo courtesy of the Colorado Historical Society


Denver history shows great excitement going on in the new city and also disasters.  In 1863, a fire wiped out the center of Denver.  The buildings, 70 of them, were destroyed.

At the time, the buildings were constructed of wood, but after the fire, brick was used in rebuilding of the town.



1864 brought about a flood that took out many buildings and killed 11 people. 

The long time settlers and Native Americans warned the townspeople not to build along the banks of the Cherry Creek because of spring flooding.


More trouble plagued Denver.  The gold that was being mined in the area was starting to run out, the Indian trouble of 1863-65 slowed down growth and the transcontinental railroad was going to bypass the city.

The town leaders were a brave bunch.  They decided to build their own railroad, so in 1870, a silver spike was driven to celebrate the completion of the Denver Pacific Railroad.



Denver soon became a major business center.  It wasn't long before the city had theaters, schools, churches and hospitals.

The city soon grew from 4700 to over 100,000 people in just a few years.


Denver circa 1898 courtesy of Wikipedia



Statehood came to Colorado on July 1, 1876, making it the 38th state in the Union and known as the "Centennial State."

Just 100 years after the founding of the new nation, Denver hosted an extravagant celebration that lasted for days.

Visiting Denver today with the skyscrapers, airports and bustle of a great city, it's hard to imagine that this "Queen City" was once only a few tents and cabins.



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