Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Denver founded on a Claim Jump?

Jane Lorimer of Inter Neighborhood Cooperation recently asked what three towns made up the founding of early Denver? Here is what I answered,. Other historians might say something different. Other historians will retort that whatever I say is incorrect. Here is why some folks say Denver was found on a claim jump. I believe it would be more accurate to identify the names of the original founding towns as four: 1. Denver City, 2. Auraria City 3. briefly St Charles; and 4. Highland. Denver City was set up by General William Larimer. Larimer arrived at confluence of Cherry Creek and Platte on November 16, 1858. Larimer squinted across Cherry Creek and got worried when saw another town, Auraria City. So he lusted for more developable land elsewhere. Charles Nichols hailed from St. Charles, Missouri and put four logs together to set up the town of St. Charles. I can't find the Denver town referred to as St. Charles City, just St. Charles. As backup to his own east Platte diggings, Larimer walked across the ice across to the Northwest side of the river and set up the town of Highland on December 11, 1858 or sometime in 1859. Then the story goes that in spring of 1859 Larimer and his cronies bullied Nichols by telling him that he should simply give up his four log claim to St. Charles or face the end of a rope. In exchange for such urban cooperation, Larimer said he would gave him some choice lots in Denver. Nichols accepted the deal rather than a hanging. So Larimer claim jumped St. Charles. This is long before memoranda of understandings and long before Aurora and Denver started fighting over the Gaylord project. Did Nichols give up his town for a barrel of whiskey? Tom Noel, Denver's pre-eminent historian, thinks the whiskey story that Nichols sold out his town for a barrel of whiskey, is probably apocryphal. But I think we can promote the whiskey story as more prophetic since there is still lots of whiskey being drunk in lodo. Many historians say the bully rope threat story is more accurate. Nichols then sold his lots and left such unfriendly territory. This was before multiple use zoning rules. No setbacks. No dispute resolution office. Was Montana City one of the founding cities? Remember, Montana City was a bit further down south from the confluence area located at Florida Avenue and the Platte. So I would leave Montana City out of the list of 4 names considered above. So I suggest that there were 4 cities involved in Denver's founding: Auraria City; Denver City which claim jumped and absorbed the short-lived St. Charles; and then Larimer's backup town, Highland, later to become the town of Highlands in 1870's. Just imagine what those founding folks could have done with some creative tax increment financing. And some say the early Denver founders may have lusted in their corporate hearts to gobble up the town of Glendale, but it was thought to be too far out in the country to bother.