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Antoine Janis in top hat with a group of Indians
Antoine Janis in top hat
with Oglala Native Americans

Larimer County History

[Detailed Area History]

The area that encompasses present-day Larimer County has been inhabited since at least 12,000 years ago up to the modern era by indigenous peoples; from Clovis and Folsom cultures to Native American groups including the Ute, Lakota, Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, and Cheyenne, this land has a rich native history.

Early Spanish explorers are said to have visited this territory in the early 18th century searching for gold but they left no traces of any discoveries. Early 19th century fur traders and trappers frequently visited this part of Colorado, and encountered members of the Ute tribe occupying the mountains and members of the Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes inhabiting the plains. Although Kit Carson and a band of trappers spent a season in the vicinity of Estes Park, trappers made no permanent settlements. John C. Fremont passed this way on his first and second expedition in 1842 and 1843 and recorded the first known Euro-American description of the area.

The first known Euro-American settler was Antoine Janis, who established a claim on the Cache La Poudre River near the present site of LaPorte in 1844. In 1861 when Colorado Territory was established, Larimer County was one of the original 17 counties. LaPorte, first called Colona, was the county seat. In 1868 the people voted to move the county seat to Fort Collins. The county was named for General William Larimer, Colorado pioneer and one of the founders of the City of Denver. A military camp, known as Camp Collins was established at LaPorte in 1862, and in 1864, after floods had nearly wiped out the establishment, the military was moved further downstream to a new site. This new camp became known as Fort Collins, and was named after Lt. Colonel William O. Collins. Collins was the commander of the 6th Ohio Cavalry sent to patrol the emigrant route of the Overland Trail.

The fort was abandoned in 1867 and in 1872 members from the Greeley, Colorado, Agricultural Colony located in Fort Collins. It was laid out as a town and incorporated February 3, 1873. The town grew from a frontier outpost in the 1870s to a prosperous agricultural community in the1920s on the strength of the western expansion of irrigated farming technology, the advent of the railroads, and the development of the State Agricultural College (now Colorado State University).

Loveland was founded in 1877; Berthoud was laid out in 1880; while Estes Park was platted in 1905 and incorporated in 1917. Rocky Mountain National Park, partially within Larimer County, was created by Congress in 1915 to preserve 405 square miles of spectacular mountain scenery including 65 named peaks more than 10,000 feet in altitude.

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