Colorado: Then and Now
Hard to get and heavy to hold.? (Coel 1) Headlines in 1858 when gold was found along the Platte River. Which started a
booming economy in mining. Some struck it rich and some moved on. Some did farming and ranching, while others started a new business and some saw the money in tourism. In time some of these people have continued to become successful and others have found wealth. But what has really happened to the businesses of Colorado as a whole? Mining, farming and ranching, and tourism were important parts of Colorado around 1900 at the turn of the century, but many wonder if at the start of a new century is it the same.
As many people look back at the beginning of this century they say mining is what built Colorado. It is true, but it has also hurt us in the future. The positive side of mining is that it brought great revenue to Colorado. It also built cities and
helped businesses grow. A great example of this is the town of Leadville. It did not seem like Leadville would grow in 1876 because, ?the region itself was like an empty beach, washed by two tides of mining activity and littered with abandoned sluices, empty cans, and rotting cabins.? (Abbott 157) Then in 1879 under the leadership of Mayor H.A.W. Tabor, ?they defined misdemeanors, tried to enforce the ordinances, and fought to keep city officials from packing off to other mining towns.? (Abbott 164) To help the city improve with this leadership Leadville grew to become a successful town and in 1880 received access to the railroad and had a population of 14,280 people making it Colorado’s second largest city. (Abbott 170)
This is the story of many of the mining towns some with the same results and others with stories of disasters and failures, but this is how Colorado grew. The bad side to this story is that during the mining the miners would put their debris (mining waste) on to the hillsides and left the mines behind and mine run-off. The debris has large amounts of toxic materials in it. It has been found in Leadville
that kids that have played in the debris have increased chances of heart problems, cancer, and developing a learning disability. (Posion in the Rockies) Also, the mine run-off mixes with the rivers and streams in the mountains and can get into our drinking water. (Posion in the Rockies) If we do not keep a close eye on this many tragic things can happen to the people of Colorado. This is one price that we
have had to pay to grow into a prosperous state.
One industry that helped keep the miners going was farming and ranching. The farming community would set up markets in mining towns and at the end of
the day miners would buy produce from the farmers. Many settlers that moved to Colorado did not want to strike it rich with gold or silver, but wanted a new life. The trouble with farming in the early days was finding the right land in Colorado. Many people became discouraged and stopped moving to Colorado until December 4, 1869. On this date Nathan C. Meeker wrote an article in the New York Tribune discussing the process of irrigating Colorado to make it a productive farming state. Also in the article he was selling land, but called it a membership fee of $155 to
live in the new farming cities. He said it would ?be pooled for the purchase of land, with each member entitled to receive a farming plot and to purchase a town lot. Surplus funds were to be applied by the trustees to ?improvements for the common good.? (Crutchfield 45) Fifteen hundred men bought this land and within a year there were over four hundred houses, a Colony Hall, two brick business blocks, a library, lyceum, schools, and churches. ?The absence of liquor stores, saloons, and billiard halls, said the temperance men who founded and people the colony, accounted for its ?sobriety, good order, peace, harmony, and prosperity.? (Crutchfield 46) This town became a success and is still around today and is
known as the town of Greeley. Meeker again bought land and started the same project for the town of Longmont. Other business men saw what was going on and
tried to do the same thing, but had liquor stores, saloons, and billiard halls. Each town that was started with these stores failed. Meeker was quoted in the Denver Tribune saying that, ?the immoral values that these shops brought could not help start a town, but only hurt the town.? (Crutchfield 49) When land that could be used for irrigation ran out many people looked into ranching. Many people began ranching in Colorado, but many also moved their herds from Texas, Nevada, and New Mexico to the abundant grasses in Colorado. There were two other benefits to ranching; money and the railroad. John Wesley Iliff said that he had a yearly cost of only $2 a steer and he received as high as $25 for each steer. (Crutchfield
136) The reason for getting such a high price a steer was the railroad going to the eastern states. The ranching industry in the east was very small. Many eastern people were looking for that beef and were willing to pay for it. Farming and ranching is another form of income that made our state grow.
?For the last century, Colorado has been something special for the American tourist. Since 1870 it has been easily accessible from the East by
railroad or automobile.? (Brettell 24) When the word ?Rockies? is said I think of Colorado. Tourism at the turn of the century in the 1900’s is much like the tourism today. It was not as commercialized as it is now and some things were not around yet, but it was the best place to go in America. An author by the name
Samuel Bowles said that Colorado was the Switzerland of America. (Brettell 29) This attracted much attention to Colorado. Many early explorers offered guided summer trips to the mountains. Ranchers and some miners started to build cabins to rent to the tourists. Most of the tourists came to hunt, fish, hike, go to the hot springs, and do adventures on horseback or stage-coach. These were only summer
activities so the pure businesses on tourism knew that they needed something for winter. It took almost thirty years to get this with the invention of the automobile. The new tourist attraction was skiing and brought great revenue to these tourist business men. This tourist attraction has also been growing ever since, along with all of the other tourist attractions.
Mining, farming and ranching, and tourism were parts of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and still contribute to our economy now. All of these are still in our economy, but it is almost the opposite in the amount of money that is received from each. There are only a few mines left in operation in Colorado. Mining from the past century has really hurt our environment of today from the debris and mine run-off. Farming has slowed down with restrictions on use of water. Some farmers were not getting enough water and had to sell their lands. Ranching slowed down because we do not have the open grasslands for the cattle to graze on. Ranchers do not want to waste their money on hay so they sold all of their stock and move to the city. Tourism is the largest income in our state. Now we have large ski resorts, the mint, mountain climbing, camping, and everybody’s favorite, the alpine slide. Our businesses are growing in the city, DTC, and Highlands Ranch Park. What every we have today we owe to the early 1900’s for helping attract people to this wonderful state.
Mining, farming and ranching, and tourism were important parts of Colorado in 1900 at the turn of the century and still have an impact on Colorado today. Mining helped make this state grow in great strides and has helped the economy, but has hurt our environment in this present day. Farming helped built
cities and feed the miners. Ranching helped the railroad and feed most of the eastern states. Tourism in Colorado started as a summer income time, but in the
early 1900’s tourism turned into a year round income and is still growing today. Colorado is not always perceived as a prosperous and large state, but it is one of the best states to work, raise a family, or just visit.
Abbott, Carl. Colorado: A History of the Centennial State. Colorado: Colorado
Associated University Press, 1976.
Brettell, Richard R. Historic Denver. Colorado: Historic Denver, Inc., 1973.
Coel, Margaret. Discovering Historic Colorado. Colorado: Colorado and West,
Crutchfield, James A. It Happened in Colorado. Montana: Falcon Press,1993.
Shedd, Albert, Dir. Posion in the Rockies. 1987. Videocassette. Educational