A Brief History of Colorado


A Brief History of Colorado

From summiting mountains to discovering gold, Colorado’s history is full of monumental achievements. The area has seen thousands of years of human history, starting with the nomadic Paleo-Indians who evolved into the Native American nations and continuing with the proud Coloradoans who call the state home today. You can learn more about the incredible events and people who fill Colorado’s past with this brief history of Colorado.

Early Civilizations

One of the oldest permanent inhabitants of Colorado were the Ancestral Puebloans, whose culture developed around 500 CE. These people built and lived in multistory cliff dwellings throughout the southwestern region of modern-day Colorado, many of which you can still visit today. However, the Ancestral Puebloans abandoned their settlements by 1300 CE and moved southward. Meanwhile, the hunter-gatherer ancestors of the Ute and Navajo tribes began to inhabit the area. More tribes followed in the proceeding centuries. The Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Comanche tribes were the largest indigenous groups within Colorado by the time early European settlers began to enter the area.

Territorial Disputes

The first Europeans to enter what would become modern Colorado were Spanish explorers searching for gold in the mid-16th century. In the following decades, both Spain and France claimed parts of the area as their own territories—a fact that created conflict when the United States purchased Colorado as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Territorial disputes continued throughout the first half of the 19th century until 1848, when Mexico ceded its claim to the land at the end of the Mexican-American War.

The Gold Rush and Becoming a State

An explorer named William Green Russell discovered gold near Pikes Peak in 1858, sparking Colorado’s gold rush era. The next few years brought thousands of settlers hoping to make a fortune by finding gold to the area. The expansion led the United States government to create the Colorado Territory in 1861. Colorado continued to grow as miners sought gold and silver and the Denver Pacific Railway reached Denver. In 1876, Colorado became the 38th state of America.

Colorado has always been a fascinating place to live in and explore. Whether you’re a Colorado native or planning on visiting for the first time, you can show your love of the state with our Colorado flag T-shirts, hats, and other apparel. There’s a lot to learn beyond this brief history of Colorado, so come pay us a visit and dive into the rich history and culture of our magnificent state.


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