Montrose was chartered in 1882 by people from places east, who wanted a place to succeed as ranchers and farmers. Its location in the middle of the Uncompahgre Valley was only complicated by the Ute Nation people who wintered there until being removed just prior to the city being established.
The town was known by the names of Pomona, Dad’s Town, Uncompahgre Town, and several other names, before it finally came to be known as Montrose. Joseph Selig suggested the name Montrose after a favorite character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel, The Legend of Montrose.
In the West, commerce was small scale, roads were trails, such as the
Spanish Trail which came near what was to become Montrose. In order to
expand opportunity for eastern investors, Congress gave public land to
the railroad companies to encourage western construction of the rail
system. The west had the fur trade, then the mines. While fur only
needed wagons to move from source to transport, the mines needed
railroads to get the ore to large mills for processing.
arrived in Montrose in 1882, following the path of the Spanish Trail
over Cerro Summit. When it neared the township, Joseph Selig, founder of
Montrose, requested his route into town be used. The railroad declined.
So Selig and the founding fathers had to realign their town to
accommodate. Today, Montrose is off a north/south setting. And what was
Main Street became South Third, so the depot could be on a main
In western Colorado, the miners in the San Juan
mountains were supplied with wagonloads of goods hauled by companies of
muleskinners, who then transported the ore to the railhead in Ridgway.
With the mines' decline, agriculture soon took over as the major
economy. Settlers worked the fertile valley soil producing fruits,
grains, vegetables and livestock.
Just as the immigrant
populations back east elbowed one another for a toe-hold in a land of
promise, so, too, did Basque sheepherders fight for grazing rights in
the Uncompahgre Valley. Cattlemen from Texas had no use for sheep,
which, they argued, damaged the grasslands by cropping too close.
Whereas, cattle left enough grass stem to encourage growth. The
opposition pitted cowboys against shepherds, with no clear winner. The
subsequent emigration of Civil War soldiers into the area after the war
quieted the battles. The veterans had enough killing, and sought to
rebuild their lives in the west. Now the railroads brought families,
household goods, merchants, doctors, preachers and teachers into the
The Gunnison Tunnel, having the distinction of being the
first construction project of what was to become the Bureau of
Reclamation, was built to provide vital irrigation water to the valley.
Its opening in 1909 was highlighted by the visit of President Taft and
signaled the beginning of a new era of agricultural production in
The same strategic location that led to Montrose
becoming a hub for transportation and commerce at its founding, still
serves as an asset today. Although much has changed since the city’s
beginning in 1882, Montrose continues as a thriving gateway to the many
wonders of Western Colorado.