Colorado Places Name History

History of individual Colorado place names
(Submitted by Tammy Clark)


A - B

C - E

F - K

L - P

Q - S

T - Z




Why 700 communities

Were so named

150 of Spanish or Indian origin


by J. Frank Dawson



Printed and published by


Denver, Colorado




     As you travel throughout this great state of ours, perhaps you will ask yourself, “I wonder how this town or that town received its name. For whom was it named? What does that name mean?” Such curiosity prompted a hobby on my part of finding the answers to these questions. It has developed into a very interesting one during my travels throughout the state during the past twenty-four years.

    Colorado,” out state name, is a Spanish word meaning “red.” In reality, it is two words, “Colo” and Rojo” (color red). It was named for the Colorado River, which was discovered in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon in 1604 by a party of Spanish explorers. It is therefore, one of the oldest geographic names in the United States. The predominant red color of the water caused from the red soil farther back in the mountains was the reason for selecting that name. It was over 250 rivers later (1861) when Congress decided to give that name to our territory and their reason was that the source of one of the “Colorado’s” two main territorial boundaries. It was not until 1921, however, that Congress changed the name of The Grand to the “Colorado,” so that great river might have the same name from the source of one its tributaries to its north in the Gulf of California.

     Before “Colorado” was decided upon as the name o four territory, many other names were suggested, such as: Pike (for Zebulon R. Pike who discovered Pikes Peak) and Colon, Spanish for Columbia. Jefferson and Osage were also suggested. Yampa, Idahoe, Nemora, San Juan, Lulu, Weapollo, Arapah, Tahosa, Lafayette, Columbus and Franklin were considered. “Idahoe” appeared to be the favorite, but “Colorado” was finally chosen on February 28, 1861.

     Our state has honored a number of presidents and early-day Colorado governors in the naming of some counties. Indian and Spanish names are numerous. Civil War heroes, Indian scouts and explorers, as well as the names of cities form other states and foreign lands were used by the adventurous, westward-moving populace.

     The railroads, particularly in eastern Colorado, were responsible for many names which were originally given to section houses (usually six miles apart) and later developed into communities. As an example in 1888, when the Missouri-Pacific track was laid in Colorado, Jay Gould’s daughter, Helen, was permitted to name sixteen section houses between the Kansas State line and Olney Springs. She named them alphabetically, selecting individuals who were publicly prominent at the time.

     It could not be expected to have a permanent community formed around each of these section houses, by many towns did come into being and few of the original names have been changed. They still appear in alphabetical order: Brandon, Chivington, Diston, Eads, Galatea, Haswell, Inman, Lolita, Meredith, Numa, and Olney Springs.

     In the early days, there were a number of French traders and trappers operating in this area. Their influence can be observed in the naming of this area. Their influence can be observed in the naming of such places as Ester Park, the Platte River, Cache La Poudre, Julesburg, St. Vrain, Picketwire River and other.

     Girl’s names were not overlooked in the selection. The Bible also furnished some, such as Ophir, Timnath, Manassa and Lebanon. Ministers were honored in the naming of Craig, Windsor, Atwood and Vernon.

     Some names were voted upon, such as Kim, Beulah and Canon City. Some were coined, such as Dacona and Uravan. At least two names are spelled in reverse. They are Egnar (for Range) and Orestod (for Dotsero). Some names have humorous homespun versions as to their christening, such as Paoli, Flagler and Tyrone.

     There are about 670 names listed in this booklet. I believe every community in the state with the population of fifty or more is listed. Many with only a small population are shown because formerly there were once larger and played an important part of the history of our state. In other instances, certain ghost town names have been included because the origin of the name had some particular interest or significance.

     In compiling this information, the Colorado Historical Society and some of their local chapters were of great assistance, as was the Denver Public Library and the United States Forest Service. It was during my travels, throughout the state, however, in talking before eighty service clubs and visiting with many old-timers that I was able to obtain information which was not found elsewhere.

     All names are shown in alphabetical order. In parentheses, following community names are the counties in which they are located. Following each county name in parentheses is the year when it was created.

    It is the hope of the writer that old-time residents of the state who are interested in this subject will send in information to the publisher in respect to other names not mentioned herein. This applies also to different versions of the naming of towns. The writer cannot, of course, guarantee the correctness of any information in this booklet, but it has been obtained from sources believed to be authentic and reliable. In many instances, the writer has heard of several versions of a name. Some of those were omitted because there were obviously home-spun. In other instances, however, that information has been given as the stories seem logical. It is for this reason that other versions of names are particularly solicited in addition to the names of other settlements not appearing in this edition.



Other Interesting Items

About Colorado


    While gathering this material, other interesting and factual sidelights were uncovered which I hope will be of interest to the reader.


     Five flags have flown over Colorado: the flags of Spain, France (as part of the Louisianan Purchase), Mexico, Republic of Texas and our own Stars and Stripes.


     At one time Colorado was in Kansas Territory and in 1861 became the Territory of Colorado. It achieved statehood in 1876—hence known as the Centennial State.


     In 1861 the first 17 counties in Colorado were created, ten of those located adjacent to the Continental Divide, in the mining area where our first settlers appeared. Only four counties made up eastern Colorado-Weld, Arapahoe, Douglas and Huerfano—all extending to the Kansas line. On the western slope there were only three, Summit, Lake and Conejos, all of which extended to the Utah line.


     Only five of the original 17 counties retained their original boundaries. They are Boulder, Clear Creek, Gilpin, Jefferson and Park. The other 12 were divided, some several times, to provide for the present number. The last one was created from Conejos County in 1913. The 63rd county is called Alamosa County.


     Only on county—Greenwood—in eastern Colorado, was ever abolished. It  was named for Colonel W. N. Greenwood, superintendent of construction for the Kansas-Pacific Railroad. Kit Carson was its county seat. It was later absorbed into Bent and Elbert Counties.


     In Colorado, there are 1051 peaks over 10,000 feet above sea level.


     Of the 81 peaks in the United States over 14,000 feet high 52 of them are located in Colorado.


     The mean altitude of Colorado is 6,800 feet above sea level, according to the National Geographic Society—higher than that of any other state, although Wyoming is a close second.


     The highest point in Colorado is the peak of Mt. Elbert, 14,431 feet and the lowest point is 3,350 feet, in Prowers County.

(Submitted by Tammy Clark)






Back to History Home Page

Back to Colorado Home Page