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Colorado: Pikes Peak or Bust

From mysterious ancient buildings to a gold rush.

By:  |  November 6, 2019  |    503 Words

(Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

Colorado is sometimes referred to as the “Centennial State” in honor of the one-hundredth year of the Declaration of Independence and the date it was admitted into the Union on November 7, 1876. It is the 38th state. Like many of the country’s states, Colorado has a long history that began with indigenous people inhabiting the land, then the influx of the Europeans and the discovery of gold.


Pueblo cliff dwellings dating from 12th century in Montezuma County, Colorado designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Photo by The Print Collector/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

The Ancient Anasazi

Thousands of years ago, the Basket Makers, as the natives were called, lived in the southwestern area of Colorado. They were well-known for their basket weaving, which gave them their nickname. Their culture developed into the Anasazi (“ancient ones”) around AD 500. These people made amazing adobe (earth or mud) houses that were sometimes built into the sides of cliffs. The buildings had many rooms and could hold entire communities. Some believe the Anasazi made their homes in the sides of cliffs to keep them safe from dangerous creatures.

Over time, the Anasazi disappeared, and other Native tribes began living in the territory.


(Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

European Explorers

Around 1540-41, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado led an expedition from Mexico. He was in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, where the streets were thought to be paved with gold. When he didn’t find the city, he left the area and it wasn’t until 1682 that other explorers arrived. Frenchman Robert de La Salle entered what is now eastern Colorado and claimed the land for France.

In 1803, the United States bought eastern Colorado from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1806, American explorer Zebulon Pike traveled the area, following the Arkansas River, and discovered an extremely high mountain that later took his name as Pikes Peak.

The first settlers started arriving in the early 1800s. In 1848, the Mexican-American war ended and the United States gained control of the western part of the state. Ten years later, gold was discovered near Pikes Peak, bringing even more people to the area. Thousands of gold-seekers rushed to Colorado with the motto “Pikes Peak or Bust.”

In 1851, the Fort Laramie Treaty provided some Native Americans tribes with ownership of land north of the Arkansas River to the Nebraska border. However, with so many flocking to the area in search of gold, the land became contested. Eventually, Native Americans were removed to reservations as the state’s population continued to grow.

Interesting Facts

  • On July 4th, 1869, the world’s first rodeo was held at Deer Trail.
  • Rocky Ford is the “melon capital of the world.”
  • Colorado had three governors in a single day, on March 17, 1905: Alva Adams who resigned, James H. Peabody who took the job on the condition that he resign immediately, and Jesse F. McDonald who kept the position.
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