Trinidad, Colorado is located in the central southern part of Colorado just north of the New Mexico Border due south of Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Trinidad has a rich history and colorful past as well as a promising future. A unique blend of the past, present and future.
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To the west of Trinidad you will find the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range with peaks up to 14,000 feet. To the northwest of Trinidad you will see the approximately 13,000 foot Spanish Peaks. Fisher’s Peak, the unusual volcanic flow landmark with its stair step top, lies to the south, at an altitude of 9,600 feet.
The El Rio de Las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio (the river of lost souls in Purgatory), also know as the Purgatoire River, flows through the center of Trinidad. (an interesting note is that although this is a Spanish saying it has today a French spelling most likely from the combination of both the French and Spanish explorers) Before the Santa Fe Trail, in the early 1860’s, Trinidad was little more than an unnamed campsite along this river at the base of Fisher’s Peak. During this time traders from New Mexico were bringing supplies over Raton Pass to the young city of Denver. Twelve families who were impressed with this fertile valley settled here in 1862 and since this small adobe village has become the Victorian jewel of southern Colorado. Trinidad was officially incorporated in 1876 just months before Colorado became a state, population 2500.
Long before the white man came to this area Native Americans called it home and there are numerous stories of conflicts with the local Utes. Evidences of the Native Americans can be seen in drawings can be found in the surrounding canyons and artifacts such as arrowheads, spearpoints, tools and pottery can be viewed at the local Louden-Henritze Archaeology Museum located at Trinidad State Junior College. Prehistoric creatures also lived in this area that was once an ocean and swamp. The longest single trail of dinosaur tracks in the world has been discovered just east of Trinidad. And the Museum proudly displays a rare fish egg fossil, shark teeth, a partial skeleton of a Mosasaur, mammoth tusks and other bones of ice age animals.
Trinidad’s rich history was molded by the Spaniards, French explorers, scouts, mountain men, trappers and traders who left evidence of their passing in colorful geographic names. Coal Mining and Cattle Ranching drew families from many nationalities such as the Jewish, Italian, Polish, Slavic, German and Irish to name a few. Many families are from the old Spanish settlers that originally settled the Santa Fe and Albuquerque areas as evidenced by the Beaubien-Miranda (Maxwell) land grants.
In 1821 a young entrepreneur named William Becknell made the first trip hauling merchandise from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico on what was to become know as the Santa Fe Trail. Even today you can still see the marks that the wagon tracks made on the plains coming into Trinidad. Trinidad grew as the last stop, on this infamous trail, of what was called the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. This is where they watered and rested themselves and their horses, oxen and cattle before crossing the toughest part of the journey over the Raton Pass.
Trinidad’s history includes Bat Masterson, who was the town Marshall in the 1880’s who was visited by his long time friend and gambling buddy Doc Holiday. Wyatt Earp drove the stage between Trinidad and Box Springs, New Mexico. Kit Carson: Scout, military commander, Indian agent, knew Trinidad well as evidenced by the world-famous statue that commemorates him in the local Kit Carson Park. It is considered one of the most outstanding of equestrian statues. One of Kit Carson’s original leather coats is on display at the Trinidad History Museum. Mountain man and entrepreneur, Uncle Dick Wooten, founded the Raton Pass toll road which was once the only way to cross Raton Pass to the south of Trinidad. Felipe Baca was one of Trinidad’s founders and longtime community leaders. Be sure to visit his 1870 era home in downtown Trinidad. Red Bransford, sister of Red Cloud and aunt of Crazy Horse, operated one of Trinidad’s first lodging establishments on the site of the Columbian Hotel. Charley Goodnight and Oliver Loving, who established the Goodnight-Loving Trail, were the first to trail tens of thousands of cattle through the area from Texas to hungry miners throughout the Rocky Mountains.
It is rumored that a past President of the United States stayed here at the Colombia Hotel years ago and his horse stayed in the room next door
The coming of two railroads in 1878, the Atcheson-Topeka and Santa Fe, to Trinidad ended the commerce on the Santa Fe Trail and the trailing of cattle through the area but the railroads created demand for the immense coal resources in the Trinidad area. Colorado Fuel and Iron in Pueblo owned and mined most of the coal in this area. Primero, Segundo, and Tercio were the towns that sprang up around the three main coal mining camps (one, two and three in Spanish) but there were many more in the area. By 1899 there were a dozen coal camps operating in the foothills surrounding Trinidad. In 1914 Coal Miners when on strike and this resulted in the Ludlow Massacre where miners, women and children were killed by government troops sent to end the strikes. Today all of the coal mining operations have ceased but today Natural Gas is being extracted from this mineral rich area. By the turn of the Century Trinidad boasted a population of almost 9,000 and Las Animas County close to 32,000 residents.
At the turn of the century recreation and culture were centered around the Jaffa Opera House built in 1888; the West Theatre (now the Fox and still going strong) built in 1908 with a large ballroom and three floors of seating; Central Park’s outdoor dance pavilion and Kit Carson Park which was dedicated in 1910.
Historical buildings built of beautiful locally mined sandstone and brick grace both downtown and the residential areas. Many of our late 1800 era churches, Carnegie Public Library and City Hall were constructed with this locally quarried sandstone with techniques rarely used today. Truly a site to behold.
The Temple Aaron, 1889, located on South Maple Street is the oldest continuously active synagogue in the state of Colorado. Holy Trinity Catholic Church, built in 1886, is the oldest Catholic church in the area. Trinidad Brick and Tile Works began firing bricks in 1910 for use in paving streets and eventually there was over 7 miles of brick streets in town. Many of these brick streets are still in use today in Trinidad.
The 1930’s brought dust storms and depression years to Trinidad and the United States. The 1940’s brought World War II and a German prisoner of war camp just east of Trinidad. Many of these POW’s return even today to cast their memories back to the kind and hospitable residents who treated them so well in their stay here.
Many changes have occurred over the years in Trinidad. Now today a town that was mainly dependent on the local coal mining industry has surfaced as a more service based industry and businesses, new and old, are prospering and doing well. Store fronts, that just a few years ago were closed and boarded up, are being fixed up, renovated and restored to house new and upcoming businesses. Our Industrial Park just north of town is experiencing a lot of attention these days with new businesses coming to town building their new warehouses and locations. New businesses are welcome here and the opportunities are endless.
Trains played a big part in the history of Trinidad. Trinidad is a friendly town. Personally I felt more at home here in 3 weeks than I did in 20 years a very large town in Florida that I lived in before. A friend commented to me that when he moved here that certainly he must have looked just like someone else who lived here because everyplace he drove people waved at him. People here are just down right friendly and in a small mountain community such as this it is easy to be neighborly and make strangers feel right at home. Matter of fact, you have to plan extra time when you go shopping in town, because you are bound to run into numerous friends and acquaintances before you return home.
We invite you to come and visit with us and find out for yourselves why people who could have relocated anyplace in Colorado or the US for that matter have decided to make the Trinidad area their home. Don’t hesitate, call us today and schedule an appointment to view our excellent properties! You will find the land value you that have been looking for right here.
More Information on Trinidad Colorado
Adobe Gold Properties sponsors the local Trinidadco.com website and if you are looking to learn more about Trinidad Colorado then this is the place to go. You will find a lot of local history, articles and photos. Be sure to check out our active local forum where a lot of families connect with their long lost friends and relatives.