Colorado History and Genealogy Project

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 Denver, Arapahoe County Colorado 1871

Denver is the county seat of Arapahoe County, and the capital of Colorado. It is finely located on the South Platte, above and below the mouth of Cherry creek; contains a rapidly increasing population of nearly or quite 9,000; is the railroad and distributing centre of the Territory, and is, at this writing, in proportion to population and age, the liveliest and most enterprising town in America. Read more...Denver Gazetteer or Denver Business Directory

The first rude trapper's hut, built in Colorado, occupied a site within the present limits of Denver, and was occupied by one of the omnipresent and never-dying Smith family. It was built in the fall of 1857. The first cabin, dirt-roofed and built of logs, in what is now East Denver, the principal town, was the architectural conception of Gen. William Larimer, whose name has been perpetuated in the principal street, as well as in one of the counties of the Territory, and saw the light of day in the latter part of October, 1858. The place was then named St. Charles, and soon after a rival sprang into existence on the opposite side of Cherry creek, which was called by the classically ambitious name of Auraria. Its site is now known simply as West Denver. Such is earthly glory! A month later the town site of St. Charles changed hands, and was named Denver, in honor of Col. J. W. Denver, then governor of Kansas, to which all this region, now known as Colorado, was then an indefinite and unexplored western appendage.

The first family on the ground was that of S. M. Rooker, who arrived from Salt Lake, in August, 1858. The first business house was opened by Messrs. Blake & Williams. Mr. Blake's name has been canonized in Blake Street, but that of Williams has been lost in the mutations of inexorable fate. The pioneer blacksmith was Thomas Pollok, who arrived from New Mexico, in December, 1858. The first hotel was opened on the 1st of February. 1859, by Murat & Smoke, and was called the El Dorado. The first child born was a half-breed son of one McGaa, and an Arapahoe mother. The first election was in March, 1859. The whole number of votes cast in the county was 774. Denver precinct polled 114, and Auraria 231.

Up to this time there was not a pane of glass nor a board in either of the jealous "cities." All buildings were constructed of logs, without floors, and with dirt roofs. A saw-mill was put up in the pineries, thirty miles south, in the spring of 1859, and soon began to supply the "cities" with lumber. This was the beginning.

The pioneer newspaper was the Rocky Mountain News, and was put forth by Wm. N. Byers & Co., the senior partner of which firm is now proprietor of that sheet. Almost simultaneously, the Cherry Creek Pioneer was issued, by John L. Merrick, but this affair was soon absorbed by the News, never in fact, issuing but a single number.

The first coach of the Leavenworth and Pike's Peak Express Company arrived in Denver, May 7, 1859. The first election for county officers was held in March, 1859. The first matrimonial collision occurred on the 16th of the following October; the parties being John B. Atkins and Lydia H. Allen. The first legislative body ever convened in the Territory, met in Denver, on the 7th of November, and included among their acts, the granting of a charter to "Denver City." The first election and formal organization under this charter was effected on the 19th of December. The year 1870, therefore, witnessed the eleventh anniversary of the birth of Denver.

Eleven years have wrought greater changes, and resulted in more substantial progress in Denver, than ordinarily attends the growth and history of towns in new countries, for in that time Denver has been transformed from a mining camp to a metropolis.

To briefly sum up the practical in connection with the history of Denver, its situation is well selected. It might have been located at the foot of the mountains, with the single view of accommodating the trade of the mining regions; but, in that case, it could never have become the centre of so many radiating lines of travel as now. Nor would it have secured to the esthetic portion of its citizens the magnificent and ever changing panorama of mountain beauties, now forever spread before them. It is built upon a slope which rises gradually from the bed of the Platte to a distance of a mile and a half, where it reaches an elevation of nearly 200 feet from the level of the river. This slope faces westward, as if on purpose to guarantee to every lot owner a perfect mountain view. To this end, the projectors of the town plat must have unconsciously connived, for, by running diagonally with the points of the compass, every street has been made to open, in one direction, upon some portion of the snowy range.

The town is well and solidly built up, many of its banks, churches, public buildings, and principal business blocks comparing favorably with those of much older and larger cities further East. It contains not far from 1,500 buildings, and its population is perhaps a little under 9,000. Some 300 new buildings were erected in 1870, and the indications are that more than that number will go up in 1871.

The banks of Denver carry an average of 81,500,000 in deposits, and the shipments of bullion, in 1870, were nearly $6,000,000.

Four lines of railway already centre here, the Kansas Pacific, Denver Pacific, Colorado Central, and Boulder Valley. A fifth, the Denver & Rio Grande, leading southward, is being graded, and a sixth is projected, opening up and connecting with the mining regions of Clear Creek and Gilpin counties.

The manufacturing facilities of the place have but just begun to attract attention. The unlimited water-power supplied by the Platte will eventually be utilized, and Denver will become a manufacturing town. Already there is a fine, brick woolen mill, two flouring mills, an iron foundry, two planing mills, a terra cotta foundry, a carriage factory, several wagon factories, a turning shop, etc.

Many other departments of manufacture would find here a very favorable opening. One of the most needed of these, is a tannery. Hides are cheap and plenty, because there is no one to transform them into leather. A good tannery and leather factory would find itself crowded with business from the start, and could not fail to make money for its owners. Smelting works, in the immediate vicinity, are also coming to be a vital necessity. If Denver is wise, she will see to it that they are erected before the greater portion of the traffic of the mountains is diverted to some less favorable locality.

Besides churches, school buildings, capacious business blocks, hotels, elegant private residences, and the usual conglomerate or transition system of buildings which fill the spaces between the larger structures, Denver has a branch of the United States mint, and a theatre, both of which receive detailed notice elsewhere.

The elevation of Denver, above sea level, is 5,317 feet, and the climate that of the "plains" generally exceedingly healthful and invigorating.

Frequent mention is made, throughout this work, of the unusual enterprise, dash and reliability of the business men of Colorado, and the superior attainments and abilities of the professional gentlemen. In Denver, these features are especially prominent among the classes referred to. No city, either East, West, North or South, possesses business men who, as a class, have more enlarged ideas of financial enterprises, broader views of mercantile and commercial ventures, or principles of stricter fairness, honor and honesty in all business transactions and relations with each other, and with those they deal with elsewhere. Although the capitalists of Denver use money freely and liberally, and are always ready to invest in any legitimate enterprise that presents favorable features, still they are not wild speculators or desperate gamblers in stocks, and never take other than legitimate risks; so with the ordinary merchant, although anxious to push his trade to the utmost, and ambitious of large success, he rarely ventures out of his depth, and is seldom caught in the meshes of bankruptcy. Let all Eastern dealers make a note of this. Denver merchants are, as a rule, safe, reliable, honest business men, and sharp, capable, and well informed buyers, that know how to buy, and how to pay for what they purchase. One infallible evidence of their superior business tact, is the fact that they advertise judiciously and liberally.

In the general and business directory that follows, we have taken great pains to avoid errors or omissions; but more or less of these cannot be avoided under the most favorable circumstances, and in our case, where many adverse features have presented themselves, we can only acknowledge imperfections, and trust that the public will overlook them as much as possible.

As additional evidence of the business activity, prosperity and growth of Denver, we append the following statistics:

The receipts for premiums, of twelve life insurance companies doing business in Denver in 1869-70, amounted, in round numbers, to $85,000. The business for 1870-1, will not all short of $150,000 a single company having issued new policies to the amount of nearly a million dollars on the lives of Coloradans during the year.

Fire insurance is also well patronized, the premium receipts for 1869-70, amounting to over $75,000.

The number of Eastern letters received and delivered daily, at the Denver post-office, averages from 600 to 800, and as high as 1,200 have been received in a single day.

The voting population of Denver has increased more than 700 during the last six months, and the prices of real estate, in the city, have doubled in the same time.

Denver Gazetteer | Denver Business Directory

Rocky Mountain Directory & Colorado Gazetteer

Source: Rocky Mountain Directory and Colorado Gazetteer, 1871, S. S. Wallihan & Company, Compilers and Publishers, Denver, 1870.

 

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