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Field Division of Education
Historical Background for the Rocky Mountain National Park
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The '60's saw a slump in mining activity in Colorado, but by the end of that decade the mining industry was placed on a more substantial basis. The Civil War was over and in were becoming interested in the agricultural frontier. The Indians no longer seriously menaced the roads, and as the agricultural possibilities of the country were better known, farmers immigrated. A large part of the agricultural development was promoted by colony and town companies.

Most notable among the colony companies was the Union Colony established at Greeley in the early '70's. Horace Greeley gave his support of it. Nathan C. Meeker, his agricultural editor, was its principal promoter. Soon, other colonies were planted at Evans and at Longmont.

Through the advertising of these colonies more and more people became interested in Colorado, and more and more settlers went up into the hills and into the parks of the higher mountains.

In 1874 a stage line was established between Estes Park and Longmont, and Mr. and Mrs. R. Q. McGregor settled in Black Canyon. (Mills, 1924, 24). After 1875 many settlers came to stay (for details see Mills op. cit.), and built cabins and raised cattle in the vicinity of Long's Peak.


The founder of the Rocky Mountain News of Denver, Wm. N. Bryers, made the first attempt to climb Long's Peak in August, 1864. He doubted at the time whether any one would ever succeed in scaling its summit. However, four years later he and a party of six other men, including Major J. W. Powell, W. H. Powell, L. W. Keplinger, Samuel German, Ned. E. Farrell, and John C. Sumner, made a successful ascent. In June, 1868, Major Powell had left Wesleyan University in Illinois with the determination to climb Long's Peak. Leaving the train at Cheyenne, Wyoming, he and his party proceeded to Denver with mules and ponies. From there they followed the Berthoud Trail to Hot Springs in Middle Park. At Grand Lake, "final arrangements were made for climbing the peak." The first attempt to scale the summit was unsuccessful. Finally a way over what seemed an impassable barrier was found.

In September, 1873, the first woman to climb Long's Peak made the ascent as the guest of Professor Hayden of the United States Geological Survey. She was the writer, Miss Anna E. Dickinson, who wrote an account of the experience. (See Toll, 1929, 150 footnote).

"Early in October, 1873, the Peak was climbed by four people not unknown to fame. They were Miss Isabella Bird, ex-Mayor Platt Rogers of Denver, Judge S. S. Downer of Boulder, and 'Rocky Mountain Jim.'" (Mills, 1924, 37).

Abner E. Sprague, who had first come with two companions on horseback into Estes Park in 1888, made an ascent in 1874. He settled in Moraine Park in 1875.

Many people ascended Long's Peak annually beginning with 1874. Seldom have any tragedies resulted from the climb. The most notable death was that of Miss Carrie J. Welton, an eccentric, cultured and wealthy young lady of Waterbury, Connecticut. She died of exhaustion September 23, 1884.

H. C. Rogers made the first moonlight climb in August, 1896; Miss Lucy W. Evans in August, 1903. Enos Mills, who came to the Estes Park in 1884 and has lived in the region ever since, made the first winter ascent in February, 1903.

"In August, 1904, Professor S. A. Farrand, aged seventy four, and Ethel Husted, aged ten, climbed unassisted to the summit." Mrs. E. J. Lamb made the ascent unassisted on her seventieth birthday. Enos Mills as guide has climbed to the top more than 257 times, climbing it "during every hour of the day and the night and every month of the year".


"From 1844 to 1880 more than twenty expeditions were sent out by the Government with the object of determining the best route for a railroad to the Pacific. In 1853, Congress passed a bill making appropriations for the determination of the most practicable route for a railroad ... to the Pacific Coast.. . .. The information thus obtained was embraced in a large series of maps and reports (The Pacific Railroad Reports), which were published by the general government. Although so very much had been done toward the development of the resources of the great West; yet, prior to 1868 no important portion had been examined with such care and detail as to render the maps anything more than approximately correct......" From 1868 until well into the '80's, King, Wheeler, Powell, Hayden and others organized expeditions, "with the object of working out certain areas with considerable detail, including topography, geology, and natural history; and more definite knowledge of the remote West has been obtained within that period than in all the previous years." (Hayden, 1880, 18-19).

Prof. F. V. Hayden conducted an expedition which included northern Colorado in 1873-74. In his geological report for 1875 Hayden gives the following words of appreciation on Estes Park.

"Within the district treated (the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains) we will scarcely be able to find a region so favorably distinguished. Not only has nature amply supplied this valley with features of rare beauty and surroundings of admirable grandeur, but it has thus distributed them that the eye of an artist may rest with perfect satisfaction on the complete picture presented". (quoted in Mills, 1924, 23).


I. The Long Trail, or The Cattle Range of Colorado.

II. History of Scientific Exploration.

III. Life of Enos Mills and his Work for the Rocky Mountain National Park.

IV. The Story of Grand Lake.

V. Long's Peak and Estes Park in Literature.

VI. Early Hotels and Inns.

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