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Douglas County Colorado

Douglas County administrative offices are located at 100 Third Street, Castle Rock, CO 80104; phone: 303-860-7400.

Beginnings [†]

Douglas County is located in a natural corridor between the high plains and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The area was ideal for early Native Americans seeking food sources. Shielded from heavy whiter storms and away from the hot dry plains, there was abundant game for the nomadic peoples. The Cheyenne and Arapaho hunted buffalo and used the pine for lodges. Connecting routes to the Santa Fe and the Oregon trails ran through this area. In 1858, the William Green Russell Company discovered gold along the Cherokee Trail, five miles south of Franktown, and "Pike's Peak Gold Rush" was underway. The Colorado Territorial Sessions established seventeen counties, including Douglas, named after Stephen A. Douglas in 1861. A large number of white settlers came seeking gold. Some continued on to the mountains for the "mother lode". Others settled and started businesses or cultivated the land opened up in the 1862 Homestead Act. In the late 1860's the railroads were quickly supplanting Anglo use of the trails. By 1868, the Union Pacific reached Cheyenne, Wyoming, and wagon travelers re-oriented themselves into a north-south direction to take advantage of the railroad and establishing the front range travel corridor. In this corridor midway between Denver and Colorado Springs, Douglas County developed an economic base in agriculture and ranching during the 1870's-1890's.

The picture of Douglas County in 1900 was essentially that of a dairy county, and its population of approximately 3,500 in a 1,200 square mile area engaged primarily in live stock, dairy and agricultural interests. The rolling topography comprised of a myriad of small valleys, gulches, and hills was well suited for grazing, and there were about 15,000 cattle and 2,500 milk cows. Agricultural crops included grain, potatoes, and alfalfa. The region also had a moderately strong timber business and supplied Denver to the north and Colorado Springs to the south with lumber needed for construction.

† Nancy R. Lyons, Preservation Consultant, Preservation Partnership, Denver, Keystone Hotel, Douglas County, CO, nomination document, 1997, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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