Ouray Colorado

Ouray Colorado was incorporated in 1876, the same year the state was included into the Union.


Prospectors arrived here years earlier to search for gold in the San Juan Mountains.


The terrain was very rocky and the railroads had a very hard time trying to find a way to bring train traffic into the area.

When finally the narrow gauge line was incorporated into the area in 1891, travel between Ouray, Silverton and Salida was established.


Today, many of the 19th century buildings in Ouray Colorado are still standing.

The original St. Joseph's Miners Hospital built in 1887, is now home to the Ouray County Museum.

But the question for many is "How did the town get its name?" This story, as with others about the state of Colorado, starts with the Ute Indians.


When the miners first started to prospect in the San Juans in the 1860's and 70's, the Native Americans saw them as intruders.

This was Ute land.  However, the miners pled a case to the U.S. Government stating that here the Indians sit on such valuable property and didn't even reap the rewards by mining the area.


Conflict between the Utes and miners were reaching a dangerous level.

In 1873, the government and the Utes sat down and developed the "Brunot Treaty" in which the Utes gave up their claim to the San Juan Mountains.

Now the miners could prospect the area legally.  However, this was not enough for the greedy settlers.  They wanted all the riches the Utes had and cried to the government that the "Utes must go!"


Understandably, the Utes did not want to leave their land.  Chief Ouray was asked to help keep them there.

Believe it or not, Ouray was the only Ute whom the white man respected.



The town of Ouray Colorado, for which he is named, held an elaborate reception for him in March of 1879.

The town band played for Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta.  The Ouray Times newspaper praised him and hoped he would be a good friend of the white man.


Ouray pledged to do all he could for his people and the whites to live in peace.

However, he could not control all of his people.  Six months after his reception, there was trouble at the White River Agency near the town of present day Meeker.


U.S. Indian Agent Nathan Meeker wished the Utes to take up farming.  They didn't want to do this.

Meeker had their race track, where the Utes raced and bet on who had the fastest horses, completely destroyed.



This enraged the Native Americans.  Meeker called for help from the government, but it arrived too late.

He and eleven other men were killed by the Utes. The agency's women and children were taken into captivity.


The soldiers sent to rescue Meeker were stopped by warriors.  Chief Ouray tried to persuade his warriors to release the captives to avoid war.

The captives were released but damage had been done.  The Ute homeland could not be saved.

In 1880, Ouray and the other Ute Chiefs traveled to Washington, D.C. to sign a new treaty.


This moved the Utes involved in the massacre to the state of Utah. The southern Utes, who did not participate, were allowed to stay on their "land", a reservation in what is now present day LaPlata and Montezuma Counties.

In 1882, the remaining land that the Utes vacated, became open to settlement.

Sadly, Ouray died in August 1880 and did not witness this final tragedy to his people.

To this day, he has always stood as a symbol of working together between the Utes and whites for the greater good of both.



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