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Area History

Fort Collins, Colorado was founded in 1864 and got its start as a military outpost for the United States Army. However, settlers came into this area much earlier than that and the area is rich in history. The first residents were the Native Americans in this region and they used the area for their fertile hunting grounds. As more people began to explore the West, trails were built through Colorado to open up access to the western states. The Overland Trail was the most popular and many of those traveling on it would stop briefly in the area before continuing on their way.

Once the fort was built, more settlers began using the area as a rest stop, and many ended up staying permanently. Fur trappers were naturally drawn to the area and soon business was booming. Although the original fort was abandoned just three years after it was built, you can still see it in the center of the Old Town area of Fort Collins. Even though the Army was no longer using the fort, settlers still kept flocking to the area. The actual town was drawn up and named in 1867 and schools sprang up for the inhabitant’s children. In 1868, the residents of the town had hoped it would be named the county seat, but they unfortunately lost out to a neighboring town.

As the century drew to a close, ranchers and farmers began settling in the area. The temperate climate and wealth of good soil and grass helped these settlers prosper and agriculture still remains an important part of the town’s economy. However, all was not peaceful as more residents set up their homes. Acrimony between the newest settlers and the original inhabitants led to the town literally being split in half in 1872. The town was divided into Old and New Town, but would eventually come back together in later years.

The natural landscape made it easy for stone quarries to develop and soon the residents of the area were very wealthy. Fancy homes were built and the economy of Fort Collins was booming. Sugar beets were also considered to be an important industry as well as the raising of sheep, leading the town to be called the “lamb feeding capital of the world.” The town managed to struggle through the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, but there were fewer inhabitants by the time both disasters had ended.

Those that hung on managed to rebuild and prosper once again. During the 1940’s and 1950’s, the population boomed once again and the town was back on track. Things would go so well that Money Magazine would eventually dub Fort Collins as the best city to live in the United States. The town now has a great mix of technology companies as well as agricultural pursuits and has become a thriving tourist destination. Fort Collins is continuing to grow and now ranks as the fifth most populous city in the state of Colorado.