In 1541, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, leading an expedition north from Mexico, may have passed through part of what is now south-eastern Colorado while searching for gold. None was found, and the Spanish lost interest in Colorado, ignoring it for more than a hundred years.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, a large portion of eastern Colorado was claimed by both Spain and France. Neither country, however, conducted an extensive exploration of the region. The disputed area of Colorado passed to French control in 1800, when Spain ceded the Louisiana territory, of which it was part, to France. Colorado east of the Rocky Mountains came into United States possession in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase; the western half remained Spanish territory.
Zebulon M. Pike, sent by the federal government to determine the southwestern boundary of the newly acquired territory, led the first United States expedition into Colorado, 1806–07. West of what is now Colorado Springs, the expedition reached the mountain peak that now bears Pike's name During 1819–20, a party under Stephen H Long, traveling up the Arkansas River, explored the Colorado Rockies. Long's description of the arid eastern plains section as the "Great American Desert" discouraged settlement of the region for years. However, many adventurous fur trappers and traders, including Charles and William Bent, Kit Carson, and Jim Bridger, were attracted by the expedition's reports that beaver and other fur-bearing animals were seen in great abundance in the region.
In 1840, Colorado was still largely unknown to settlers Several surveying expeditions were undertaken in the 1840's for the federal government by John C. Frémont, and a few white settlers began to move into the area. However, it was not until after the United States acquired the remainder of Colorado at the end of the Mexican War in 1848 that permanent settlement began, in the south. San Luis was founded, on the Culebra River, in 1851 by Spanish-speaking settlers moving north from New Mexico. In the next few years, San Pedro, San Acacio, and Guadalupe were also established. Colorado was admitted into the Union as the 38th state on August 1, 1876.
- Colorado Virtual Library The Boom Years - Biographies of Important Coloradans
- Colorado Virtual Library Thumbnail Sketches of Early Pioneers
- Colorado Virtual Library article on Daniel Cheesman Oakes