Wandering the western slope of Colorado back in 1880 seems like it would have been a risky business. Colorado had only recently become a state, and its western slope was still a part of a gigantic version of Lake County. Amazingly, in just 20 years, Grand Junction would become a small city.

Ute Indians still occupied parts of Colorado when Grand Junction's story begins. With the passing of a great leader, the United States government began moving Ute tribes to Utah, and early settlers began to arrive.

A great place to see this story come to life is to visit Grand Junction's Museum of the West.

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Ute Indian Chief Ouray Died in 1880

Chief Ouray was not given rule over all Ute Indians by his people as our government perceived, yet they made him the primary representative to treat with the U.S. Government. In the Ute language, Ouray means 'arrow.' Upon the passing of Chief Ouray in 1880, the majority of the tribes in the area were forced into Utah, and Grand Junction was allowed to develop.

The Railroads Arrive in Western Colorado

The Denver and Rio Grande Railroads started from Pueblo in 1874. By 1880 they made it through Royal Gorge and on to Salida. In 1881, they made it over the divide and on to Gunnison. The railroads made it to Montrose by the fall of 1882 and Grand Junction by 1883. These railroads provided Grand Junction with a link to the outside world and ensured growth over the next two decades. The railroad was an essential factor that turned this frontier town into the largest city in Western Colorado today.

Grand Junction's First Water Works and Electric Company

Grand Junction constructed the first waterworks and first electric plant in 1888. In 1889, the population of the town grew to over 2000 residents. More than 3500 residents lived here by 1900.

Scroll on to learn about important events that happened between 1880 to 1900 to ensure Grand Junction made it from a tiny town on the frontier to the modern city it is today.

Exploring the History of Grand Junction, Colorado: From Frontier Town to Small City

If you came to western Colorado in 1880, you probably never would have guessed how the valley would look in 2023. Check out a timeline of significant events that brought Grand Junction from the frontier to a small city from 1880 to 1900.

MORE: Grand Junction Colorado Historical Facts You May or May Not Know

We're scrolling through a timeline of Grand Junction history with a look at fun facts you may or may not have known from 1882 to 2020.

LOOK: 5 Hikes that are Perfect for Colorado History Buffs

These five hikes are perfect for anyone interested in Colorado history. Although they are all different, the trails all lead to a piece of the Centennial State's past.