Area, Population, Boundaries, Etc.—The Beautiful Town Of Delta—Description of a Great Horticultural, Agricultural and Stock-Growing Regions—First Ssttlers—Resources and Progress.
The county of Delta was segregated from Gunnison by an act of the General Assembly, February 11th, 1883. Its area is 1,150 square miles, and its population in 1890 was 2,534. Its county seat and principal town of the same name is eligibly situated upon the broad and fertile delta at the junction of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre rivers, whence its name. The county is bounded on the north and west by Mesa, east by Gunnison, and south by Montrose. The Gunnison, Uncompahgre, Rio Escalante, Robadoux, Smith's Fork, Forked Tongue, Currant, Dominguez, Surface and Leroux creeks and the North Fork of the Gunnison are the principal streams. Agriculture, horticulture and stock growing are the chief industries. Other well known but smaller points in the county are Adams, Pamonie and Hotchkiss.
Delta, formerly known as Uncompahgre, was laid off by the Uncompahgre Town company, April 6th, 1882, by George A. Crawford, president. The patent was issued June 9th, 1886, to A. R King, mayor of the town, in trust for the occupants. As described by a local journalist, it is situated in a basin surrounded on three sides by high mountains, and open to the southwest. "To the south is the Uncompahgre range, whose peaks are covered with snow the year round. The Elk range lies to the east some forty miles distant. These two ranges are the highest and most rugged in Colorado. To the north is the Grand Mesa, to the west and southwest lies the Uncompahgre plateau. These configurations of the county undoubtedly exert marked influence on the climate, making the winters warm and the summers cool." The landscape view of the mountains and its lovely valleys along the streams mentioned above are magnificent. Delta, the capital, is the largest settlement in the county, the center of an exceedingly rich and productive farming and fruit growing region. The valleys of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre are from two to five miles wide, and back of these is the first mesa or table-land, thirty to fifty feet high. The county is liberally timbered, the streams fringed with indigenous cottonwoods. The rivers traverse the central parts of the valleys, the better farms being located on either side. The slopes of the mountains are covered with yellow pine, much of it suitable for fine lumber. "There is a belt of timber beginning near Ouray and running parallel with and on the west side of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison to Utah, which is fifty to sixty miles long, by five to twenty in width, that furnishes lumber equal to the best Chicago or Milwaukee products. The better lands lie in the valleys of the Gunnison, Uncompahgre and North Fork rivers, and the cultivated portions are irrigated by canals taken from these streams. Bordering the valleys are elevated mesas, known as California, Rogers, Gomet and Cushman, all well adapted to wheat, oats, rye, barley and alfalfa. Some remarkable crops are produced upon these rich table-lands, and they are also useful for pasturing horses, cattle and sheep. Some of the more favorably situated tracts will eventually be turned into farms and orchards. Cushman Mesa, south of the Uncompahgre, is 15 miles long by five in breadth, much of it covered by claims watered by canals. Says the Grand Junction “News:”As early as 1885 nearly 100 ranch locations had been made on Rogers Mesa, between Leroux creek and the North Fork. During 1885 many substantial houses were built in Delta, supplanting the primitive structures of logs and adobes. Nearly every farmer has an orchard. Samuel Wade, Enos Hotchkiss, Mr. Hanover on the Uncompahgre and Mr. Coburn of the North Fork, H. B. Kennedy and others were among the earlier fruit growers."
The station of the Denver & Rio Grande R. R. is half a mile or so west of the principal town, an extremely pretty situation with a brisk, prosperous and comfortable aspect, as if the better class of people lived there, were proud of their progress and especially of their success in horticulture, which indeed has been almost phenomenal. The season of 1891 was particularly favorable, for all the trees of bearing age were literally loaded with delicious fruit. The new Methodist church is a fine structure, as also the public high school. As a matter of fact the schools of Delta are of a high standard of excellence. The place is encircled by fine orchards, grain and alfalfa fields of luxuriant growth. The fruit ranch of Mr. G. B. McGranahan is one of the finest in the state, set in peach, apple, pear, cherry and plum trees, with vineyards of the Concord, Niagara and Warden varieties, from which fourteen to sixteen tons of grapes were marketed in 1891. Next to Mesa, Delta is the largest producer of fruit on the western slope.
From notes taken from Gov. George A. Crawford's diary, of October 1st, 1881, it appears that Anderson, Stevens, M. C. Vandeventer and himself then agreed upon and selected a site for the town of Delta. The survey of the town site was begun by Samuel Wade of Lake City for Crawford and his associates, December 24th, 1881. Early in January, 1882, Crawford being at Delta received a letter from Hon. J. B. Belford, our Representative in Congress, stating that a post office had been established at Delta ahead of Grand Junction. The bridge over the Gunnison river was finished in May, 1882. The elevation of the town is 4,980 feet above the level of the sea. In September, 1881, the site of 500 acres first selected was duly surveyed and platted. Governor Crawford was chosen president and general manager, Harvey A. Bailey, assistant manager, and M. C. Vandeventer, secretary, of the Town company. These, together with D. C. Dodge, W. A. Bell and R. F. Weitbrec, were the directors. The streets crossing at right angles are broad and well shaded. All of the recently erected buildings are of modern architecture, and of neat and attractive appearance. In 1882 the first town officers were chosen as follows: Mayor, M. C. Vandeventer; clerk, A. C. Butler; trustees, J. N. Daniels, Geo. B. McGranahan, John Kohnle and Geo. W. Donley; marshal, Harrington; treasrer, W. H. Crotser.
In 1890 a system of water works was built at a cost of $17,000. The water is pumped from Gunnison river to an elevated tank on the mesa, whence it is distributed. A volunteer fire department was thereafter organized. In 1886 a frame county building was erected at a cost of $4,000. In 1884 a fine brick school house was built, and L. C. Aley made principal thereof. The Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists have church buildings. The latter are now using their first church as a parsonage, and at this writing are preparing to build a much finer edifice for worship. The Catholic society is organized, but as yet has no church. The Delta Social club, established in November, 1890, with J. A. Curtis, president, has well furnished rooms and a membership of thirty-five.
Newspapers. — The Delta "Chief" was founded March 7th, 1883, by Robert D. Blair. Later the Delta County "Advertiser" was established by Charles W. Russell. At length the Delta Publishing company absorbed both these papers, and named it the "Independent," with Charles G. Downing, editor. November 22nd, 1887, Harry Wilson and J. H. Woodgate purchased the journal. Finally after several other changes Mr. J. A. Curtis became proprietor and still conducts it. The "Laborer" was founded in the fall of 1890 by R. J. Coffey and C. M. Snyder, the former editor, the latter publisher.
The Masons, Odd Fellows and Grangers have organizations in the town.
Banks.—The Delta County Bank was started by H. A. Bailey and T. B. Crawford. February 5th, 1887, it was purchased by T. H. McGranahan, E. L. Kellogg and A. R. King, with the gentleman first named as president; J. E. McClure, Vice-President, and E. L. Kellogg, cashier. It was incorporated in July, 1889, with a capital stock of $30,000. R. Bigelow & Sons also transact some banking business.
The present town officials are: Mayor, Walter Scott; treasurer, I. McMurray; trustees, J. C. Gale, A. R. Howard, A. C. Butler, P. Mundry, J. Jeffers and F. P. Shields; clerk, A. Wishart.
The first county officers were: Commissioners, Samuel Wade, chairman, Enos Hotchkiss, A. E. Kirkbride; clerk and recorder, E. L. Kellogg; sheriff, Charles L. Andrews; treasurer, T. H. McGranahan; county judge, W. A. McDougal; surveyor, Wm. L. Marcy; assessor, Daniel J. McCormick; superintendent of schools, George H. Merchant; coroner, W. O. Stephens.
An adobe building owned by Mr. J. J. Barker was rented by the commissioners for county offices. July 3rd, 1883, A. R. King was appointed county attorney, and precincts for election purposes were established, judges appointed, etc. The officers elected in November, 1883, were: Commissioners, E. H. Capron, John B. Hart and David Stephens; sheriff, Ben S. Gheen; clerk and recorder, E. L. Kellogg; county judge, A. R. King; treasurer, T. H. McGranahan; surveyor, W. L. Marcy; superintendent of schools, George H. Merchant; assessor, George H. Duke; coroner, Robert Breese.
After the removal of the Ute Indians from this region in September, 1881, stock growers, realizing the great advantage of the valleys and mesas for their purposes, came in considerable numbers and occupied the land, not alone with Texas stock, but with fine breeding cattle of imported blood. The broad, well grassed and abundantly watered ranges afforded exceptional facilities for the advancement of this pursuit. The south side of Grand Mesa, the elevated slopes of the North Fork valley, Smith's Fork and Muddy district were almost immediately taken up. The growth of the business has been large and profitable. In the horticultural sections, all the small fruits are produced in lavish abundance. On the top of Grand Mesa are many small natural lakes that abound with fish. Many canals or irrigating ditches have been taken out of the Gunnison, Uncompahgre and their tributaries—Leroux creek, Forked Tongue and Surface creeks, Smith's Fork, the Muddy and others, nearly all the result of home capital and labor. These ditches cost from $1,000 to $10,000 each.
Delta, Mesa, Montrose and Garfield counties were a part of the old Ute Reservation. It is, as we have seen, diversified by mountains, valleys, superb streams and table-lands. Delta shares with Mesa the sublime spectacle of the Grand Mesa in the northwest. No county produces a greater variety of superior landscapes than Delta. The mesas comprise the greater part of the county. The soil is rich and, under irrigation, yields grand harvests. It is already famous for its fruits and vegetables. All the domestic grasses, alfalfa, timothy, blue top, clover, Hungarian, millet, etc., do well by irrigation. Potatoes, corn, melons, wheat, oats and barley are equally prolific. Dairy farming is quite an extensive industry.
The small town of Bridgeport is situated near the Mesa county line and between that place and Delta are Dominguez, Robadoux and Escalante stations. "The river Robadoux takes its name from Antoine Robadoux," says one of the Delta journalists, "a Frenchman who traded with the Utes many years ago, a brother of Joe Robadoux, the founder of the St. Joseph Mission."
East of Delta are the great coal mines and measures of Gunnison, and north those of Mesa, which have been mentioned in the history of those counties. Though not largely populated as yet, the ground work has been laid for a progressive future in Delta county. The advantages of soil, climate, broad expanses of admirable lands, the numerous waterways, and the productiveness of the country all combine to make it an attractive point for settlement. It is scarcely more than eight years old, but in that period much has been accomplished. The settlers have demonstrated the capabilities of the soil for agriculture and horticulture, and know what it will produce. Great herds of cattle graze and are fattened upon her expansive plateaus.
By the school census of 1890, there were 775 of school age, 15 school districts, and 19 school buildings, with 696 sittings. The value of this property was $16,500. In the high school 21 were enrolled; 145 in the graded and 388 in the ungraded. The average attendance was 300. Five teachers were employed in the graded schools and 19 in the ungraded. Mr. P. M. Condit is the principal at Delta.
Mark the growth of property values in this county of only 2,534 inhabitants. The assessed valuation in 1883 was $450,964.82. There has been a steady and quite remarkable advance year by year until in 1890 it reached a total of $991,538. In the list returned for taxation are 66,647 acres of agricultural land, 3,169 horses, 86 mules and 15,541 cattle, the latter indicating the extent to which the grazing lands are occupied.
The officers of the county for 1890-91 were: Commissioners, Robert B. Hamilton, Henry Teachout and N. M. Heistand; sheriff, W. S. Girardet; clerk and recorder, Adam Wishart; treasurer, Amos R. Howard; county judge, G. W. Henry; surveyor, J. A. Curtis; assessor, F. R. Burritt; superintendent of schools, P. M. Condit; coroner, Dr. H. K. Brasted; clerk of the district court, Arthur H. Brown.
From History of the State of Colorado by Frank Hall, for “The Rocky Mountain Historical Company.” Published in 1895 by the Blakely Printing Company of Chicago Illinois.