The discovery of gold in 1858 brought people to the fledgling towns of Denver City, Auraria
front range mining camps. The inhabitants of the new towns quickly realized the need for some
government to provide law and order and to protect their rights and property. Just as local
were established by the towns and camps, the movement began toward a territorial and a
state government. The following chronology describes the events that led up to the admittance of
Colorado as the 38th state of the Union on August 1, 1876.
The Colorado Constitution: Eighteen Years to Statehood
The following chronology describes the events that led up to the acceptance of Colorado's State
Constitution in 1876.
- November, 1858
- Denver citizens formed the independent government of
Arapahoe County within Kansas Territory and elected a delegate.
- April, 1859
- First constitutional convention met in Blake and Williams Hall on
Blake Street in Denver.
- September, 1859
- First constitution rejected, but a provisional territorial
government called the Territory of Jefferson was formed.
- February, 1861
- Congress created the Territory of Colorado, headed
- August-September, 1861
- First Legislative Assembly elected and
- January 5, 1863
- Territorial delegate Hiram P. Bennet introduced a
statehood for Colorado but it did not pass the House.
- Another constitutional convention elected and a constitution
but later defeated by public vote.
- A new constitution framed and approved in a general
vetoed by President Johnson.
- Each session of Congress received Colorado Statehood
Bills but did
not pass them.
- December, 1873
- President Grant recommended an Enabling Act
Colorado as a state.
- January, 1874
- Jerome Chaffee, Colorado Territory's delegate to
introduced House Bill 435 for provision of a state government.
- June 8, 1874 - March 3, 1875
- Bill 435 passed the House, was
amended and passed
by the Senate
and signed by the President.
- October 25, 1875
- Citizens of Colorado elected a constitutional
- December 20, 1875
- Delegates for the constitutional convention
- March 14, 1876
- Final draft of constitution completed and
- July 1, 1876
- Constitution submitted to people for vote and
- July 25, 1876
- An official copy of the constitution taken to
- August 1, 1876
- President Grant issued a proclamation declaring
Colorado a state.
The Constitutional Convention of 1875
The year was 1876. Thirty-nine members of the constitutional convention
December 20th. The total population of Colorado Territory was approximately 100,000
major railroad connected the territory. Knowing the time was now right for statehood, many
delegates traveled almost 1000 miles over mountains and through heavy snowstorms to attend
convention at the Odd Fellow Hall in Denver. They spent 87 days preparing the constitution,
months longer than the two earlier attempts. Committees carefully examined such topics as the
of corporate bodies, the disposition of public waters and lands, the forming and maintaining of a
school system, taxation of property, non-residents against debts, and the right to suffrage.
The constitution, completed on March 14, 1876, was modeled after the Nation's constitution.
Beginning with the Bill of Rights which guaranteed all national and civil rights, it set the terms
duties of government officials and the ways in which a law could be introduced and passed. It
established the State Supreme Court, district courts and county courts. It provided for the
and maintenance of public schools. The constitution also determined that a state census be taken
1885 and every ten years afterward. It designated the elimination of dormant corporations. It
railroad lines and set up a system for state tax. Finally, it allowed for future amendments of the
constitution. When submitted to the citizens for vote, 15,443 favored the constitution from a total
Colorado's original constitution was handwritten by Fred J. Stanton, the engrossing and
clerk for the constitutional convention. A copy was then penned from the original by the assistant
engrossing and enrolling clerk, W.A. Salisbury. On July 25, 1876, Governor Routt dispatched his
secretary, John N. Reigart, to Washington, D.C. with the copy of the constitution along with
ordinances, votes and proclamations. President Grant declared Colorado a state on August 1,
it became known as the "Centennial State." Since then, the constitution has been the foundation
State's government and the citizen's freedom. Colorado's constitution today remains very similar
original constitution conceived for statehood in 1876. The original is preserved in the Colorado
Archives. A printed copy of the 1876
may be viewed in
pdf format on this website.
Creation of Colorado Counties
Colorado Territory was established by Congress on February 28, 1861. The first Legislative
the Territory of Colorado convened on September 9, 1861. They quickly enacted laws
seventeen original counties.
The Original Territorial Counties and Their County Seats in 1861
County County Seat
1. Arapahoe Denver
2. Boulder Boulder
3. Clear Creek Idaho
4. Costilla San Miguel
5. Douglas Franktown
6. El Paso Colorado City
7. Fremont Canon City
8. Gilpin Central City
9. Guadaloupe(later Conejos)Guadaloupe
10. Huerfano Autobees
11. Jefferson Golden City
12. Lake Oro City
13. Larimer La Porte
14. Park Tarryall City
15. Pueblo Pueblo
16. Summit Parkville
17. Weld St. Vrain
The Present Counties of Colorado
The following list shows the dates of establishment of the present day 64 counties and the origin of the county names.
ADAMS COUNTY (1902)
- Named in honor of Governor Alva
Adams, who served two terms and sixty days as governor of the
state. It was created from the north half of the previously existing
- ALAMOSA COUNTY (1913)
Formed from the northern portions of
Conejos and Costilla counties. Alamosa is a Spanish word
meaning "cottonwood grove". Spanish pioneers gave the name
to a creek within the existing county. The name was next given to
the town and finally to the county.
- ARAPAHOE COUNTY (1861)
- Named for the Arapaho Indians who had
inhabited eastern Colorado. Originally, the county extended
all the way to the Kansas/Colorado border.
- ARCHULETA COUNTY (1885)
- Named in honor of Antonio
who was the Senator from Conejos County when it was divided
to form Archuleta county.
- BACA COUNTY (1889)
- Named, at the suggestion of Senator
for the Baca family of Trinidad. A member of this family
had been the first settler on Two Buttes Creek.
- BENT COUNTY (1870)
- Takes its name from Bent's Fort which
was located on the north bank of the Arkansas River, near
day La Junta, and from the Bent brothers who founded the fort
- BOULDER COUNTY (1861)
- Named after Boulder City and
Boulder Creek, which were given their names from the
boulders in the area.
- BROOMFIELD COUNTY (2001)
- Broomcorn grown in the area
originally inspired the name for the community called Broomfield. The city
existed in 4 counties until it became the City and County of Broomfield.
- CHAFFEE COUNTY (1879)
- Named in honor of Senator Jerome
Chaffee who retired from the United States Senate the year
the county was formed.
- CHEYENNE COUNTY (1889)
- Named after the Cheyenne Indians
occupied much of eastern Colorado for many centuries.
- CLEAR CREEK COUNTY (1861)
- Gained its name from the
traverses the county. The creek was first called Vasquez
Fork, and later changed to the present name.
- CONEJOS COUNTY (1861)
- Conejos is the Spanish work for
The name was given to the river which flowed through the area
by the early Spaniards of New Mexico long before non-Indian
settlement of the region began. The name was then adopted by
the town and then the county.
- COSTILLA COUNTY (1861)
- Costilla is the Spanish word
for "rib" and for
"furring timber". The Costilla River was named by the
Spaniards prior to 1800. The town and then the county took
- CROWLEY COUNTY (1911)
- Was one of the later
created. It was named for John H. Crowley, who was the
Senator from Otero County at the time that county was
divided to form Crowley.
- CUSTER COUNTY (1877)
- Named after General George A. Custer,
who, along with his men, died at the Battle of the Little
Big Horn in Montana.
- DELTA COUNTY (1883)
- Took its name from the city of Delta, which
was named for its location on the delta of the Uncompahgre
- DENVER CITY AND COUNTY (1902)
- Named after General James W.
Denver, who was Governor of Kansas in 1858. When Denver was
founded it was located in Kansas Territory. The City of
Denver prior to 1902 was located in old Arapahoe County.
- DOLORES COUNTY (1881)
- Derived its name from the Dolores River.
The full Spanish name, which was reported by Father
Escalante in 1776, was Rio de Nuestro Senora de los Dolores
(River of our Lady of Sorrows).
- DOUGLAS COUNTY (1861)
- Named in honor of Stephen A. Douglas,
who died in the year of the creation of Colorado's first
- EAGLE COUNTY (1883)
- Acquired its name from the Eagle River which
flows through the county. This river had previously been
called Piney River by General Fremont who explored the area
- ELBERT COUNTY (1874)
- Named in recognition of Samuel H.
Elbert, governor of Colorado when the county was formed.
- EL PASO COUNTY (1861)
- El Paso is the Spanish word for "the Pass". Ute
pass, west of Colorado Springs, was the famous pass the
- FREMONT COUNTY (1861)
- Named for General John C. Fremont, who
explored the region before 1850.
- GARFIELD COUNTY (1883)
- Named in honor of President James A.
- GILPIN COUNTY (1861)
- Named for Colonel William Gilpin, who
the first territorial governor of Colorado.
- GRAND COUNTY (1874)
- Named after Grand Lake and the Grand
which are located in the County. The Grand River name was later
changed to the Colorado River.
- GUNNISON COUNTY (1877)
- Along with the town and river, this county
after Captain John W. Gunnison, who explored the region in
1853 and was killed later that year in a battle with the
Ute Indians in Utah.
- HINSDALE COUNTY (1874)
- Named in honor of George A. Hinsdale,
a prominent pioneer and leader in southern Colorado, former
Lt. Governor of Colorado, who died during the month
preceding the creation of Hinsdale County.
- HUERFANO COUNTY (1861)
- Huerfano is the Spanish word for "orphan".
was named after the Huerfano River which flows through the
area. It was so named from Huerfano Butte which is an
isolated, cone-shaped butte located in the river bottom
- JACKSON COUNTY (1909)
- This county is thought to have been named after
- JEFFERSON COUNTY (1861)
- Took its name from the unofficial
Jefferson Territory, the extra-legal government that
Colorado Territory. The name was adopted in honor of
- KIOWA COUNTY (1889)
- Derived its name from the Kiowa Indians who
hunted and lived in eastern Colorado before European's arrived.
- KIT CARSON COUNTY (1889)
- Named after the mountain man and Indian
Carson, who lived from 1809-1868.
- LAKE COUNTY (1861)
- Assumed its name from the Twin Lakes, a large
geographic feature of the area.
- LA PLATA COUNTY (1874)
- La Plata is the Spanish word for "silver".
discovered by the Spaniards in the region during the 18th
century. The name La Plata was first given to the river and mountains. The name was
subsequently adopted by the county.
- LARIMER COUNTY (1861)
- Named in honor of General William
who was one of the founders of Denver and prominent pioneer
- LAS ANIMAS COUNTY (1866)Took its name from the main river which
flows through the area. The complete name of this river,
discovered and christened by the early Spanish explorers, is
El Rio de los Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio (River of the
Souls Lost in Purgatory).
- LINCOLN COUNTY (1889)
- Named to honor President Abraham
- LOGAN COUNTY (1887)
- Named for General John A. Logan, who
away shortly before the organization of the county.
- MESA COUNTY (1883)
- Mesa is the Spanish word for "table". The county
named because of the mesas, or tablelands, which were quite
common in the county. However, some say the name originated
from the geographic feature called "Grand Mesa", which is
the largest flat top mountain in the world.
- MINERAL COUNTY (1893)
- Named for the many valuable minerals
which were found in the mountains and streams of the county.
- MOFFAT COUNTY (1911)
- Was one of the last counties created. It was
named for David H. Moffat, who was a Colorado pioneer and
- MONTEZUMA COUNTY (1889)
- Acquired its name from the famous chief
the Aztec Indians of Mexico. The prehistoric building ruins
of Mesa Verde National Park, which are located in the
were originally thought to have been built by the Aztecs.
- MONTROSE COUNTY (1883)
- Received its name from the City of
which is surmised to have been named after Sir Walter
The Legend of Montrose was published in 1819.
- MORGAN COUNTY (1889)
- Took its name from Fort Morgan. The original
fort was in existence from 1865-1868. It was established as
a protection post against the indians and was originally
called "Junction" or "Camp Wardell". In 1866 the post became
known as Fort Morgan in memory of Colonel Christopher A.
Morgan, who died earlier that year.
- OTERO COUNTY (1889)
- Named after Miguel Otero, one of the
founders of the town of La Junta. He was also a member of a
prominent Spanish family of southern Colorado and northern
- OURAY COUNTY (1877)
- Named for Chief Ouray, who was a
Ute Indian chief. Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta were one
the several native American chieftain's who sought to live in
peace with the non-Indian settlers and miners.
- PARK COUNTY (1861)
- Was one the seventeen territorial counties and
acquired its name from the geographic region known as "South
Park". This area was named by the early fur traders and
trappers who first explored the region.
- PHILLIPS COUNTY (1889)
- Named for the secretary of the Lincoln
Land Company, R.O. Phillips, who organized several towns in
- PITKIN COUNTY (1881)
- Named for the Colorado governor
Pitkin, who was in office at the time the county was formed.
- PROWERS COUNTY (1889)
- Named after John W. Prowers, who was a
leading pioneer in the lower Arkansas valley region.
- PUEBLO COUNTY (1861)
- Pueblo is the Spanish word for "town" or
The group of adobe houses built at the site of the present
City of Pueblo in 1841-1842 came to be known as "the pueblo".
The name was then adopted by the city and then suggested as
name for the county.
- RIO BLANCO COUNTY (1889)
- Rio Blanco is the Spanish name for White
county adopted the name Rio Blanco from the river which runs through the
area. It is said that the Spanish explorer, Father Escalante,
originally named the stream Rio San Clemente.
- RIO GRANDE COUNTY (1874)
- Was one of the counties created before
Colorado became a state. The county derived its name from
river of the same name which flows through the county. The
original name given to the river by the Spanish was Rio
del Norte (Great River of the North).
- ROUTT COUNTY (1877)
- Named in honor of Governor John L. Routt,
the last territorial and first state governor of Colorado.
- SAGUACHE COUNTY (1866)
- Acquired its name from a Ute indian word
meaning "blue earth" or "water at blue earth". The name was
initially applied to a stream in the area, then the town and
eventually to the county. The county sits at the upper end of
the San Luis Valley.
- SAN JUAN COUNTY (1876)
- Was originally part of La Plata County.
name is Spanish for Saint John. Early explorers to the region
applied the name to the river and mountain ranges.
the name was given to the region and the county.
- SAN MIQUEL COUNTY (1883)
- San Miguel is the Spanish word for Saint
The name was used by the early Spanish explorers to
reference the main river of the area. It was later chosen as the name for
- SEDGWICK COUNTY (1889)
- Named for Fort Sedgwick, a military
along the Platte Trail, which existed from approximately
1871. This fort was located across the South Platte River,
from the present day town of Ovid. The post was named in
General John Sedgwick who led Union military campaigns into
- SUMMIT COUNTY (1861)
- Was one of the seventeen territorial
The county derived its' name from the many mountain summits
located within the county.
- TELLER COUNTY (1899)
- Named to honor U.S. Senator Henry M.
Teller, who served the state for a number of years.
- WASHINGTON COUNTY (1889)
- Named in honor of President George
- WELD COUNTY (1861)
- Named for Lewis Ledyard Weld, who was
appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as the first
of the Colorado Territory.
- YUMA COUNTY (1889)
- Was originally part of Washington County and
named after the ancient Yuma Indians who inhabited the area.