Colorado, The Centennial State

Colorado, The Centennial State

by Sandra Merville Hart

Colorado’s nickname is The Centennial State. It became the 38th state in 1876, the one-hundred-year anniversary of an important national event – the Signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Colorado’s early history

Comanche, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, and Ute Native American groups already lived in the Colorado area when Spanish explorers arrived in the early 1700s, but that didn’t prevent Spain from claiming the whole region. The French later claimed part of the territory.

In 1806, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike led the United States’ first expedition to Colorado searching for the southwestern border of the Louisiana Purchase. When he crossed into Spanish territory, they arrested him.

nostalgia-1025273_960_720Fur trappers came to the territory searching for beaver and other animals. They built trading posts and traded furs with Native Americans.

After the Mexican-American War ended, the United States owned Colorado.

Gold Rush of 1858

Gold was discovered in Cherry Creek (now downtown Denver) in 1858. Prospectors painted signs that read “Pikes Peak or Bust” on their wagons when traveling west to Colorado for the newest gold find. Thousands of miners lived in mining camps.

The Cheyenne and Arapahoe had lived in the Denver area where the prospectors stayed. Losing their land angered the Native Americans and they raided stagecoaches, making travel dangerous.

Purple Mountains Majesty

Katharine Lee Bates rode a horse-drawn carriage up Pikes Peak in 1893. The view from the mountain inspired her to write “America the Beautiful” where purple mountains majesty refers to the Rocky Mountains.

mesa-verde-1127720_960_720Cliff Dwellings

Visit Mesa Verde National Part to see around 600 cliff dwellings. Ancestral Puebloans lived there from AD 550 to 1300 before migrating to the New Mexico and Arizona areas. The park has over 4,000 archaeological sites.

Other fun facts about Colorado

The world’s highest suspension bridge is over the Royal Gorge of the Arkansas River.

The Spanish word meaning “reddish” is where Colorado received its name, inspired by the red sandstone soil. The name was first applied to the Colorado River.

Nothing without the Deity” is Colorado’s state motto.

Aspen, a luxurious ski resort, began as an old mining town.

Sand sled down a sand dune at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve.



“Colorado,”, 2016/06/25

“Colorado,” State Symbols USA, 2016/06/25

Gutman, Bill. The Look-It-Up Book of the 50 States, Random House, 2002.


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