In 1875, a small tent city, a depot, and a warehouse made up the settlement of Manzanares, Colorado Territory, which was a railroad camp on the Santa Fe Trail. In 1876, after the Territory gained statehood the setlement was renamed "Otero" after the leading citizen & businessman, Don Miguel Antonio Otero.
When the Santa Fe railroad reached Otero, they called their section "La Junta", a Spanish term meaning, "The Junction."
The name was adopted for the growing community.It is pronounced "La Hunta."
The Arkansas River runs past La Junta. Seperating what is called North La Junta from the downtown area. The river is know to flood when a lot of water comes down it. (More about this river on another page in this site) Cattle ranches are located near La Junta. The known crops have been sugar beets, onions as the main ones grown in the Arkansas Valley. The soil is rich and agriculture abounds both around La Junta and around Otero County. (See Rocky Ford town page to learn about the world famous mellons grown in the Arkansas Valley.)
The 1910 La Junta Tribune Democrat gives us a view of what was in La Junta at that time.
The La Junta Brick & Tile Company immence plant in the west part of the city. J.C. Mullen Flour Mill and B.M. Spalding was the manager of the mill. An Ice Plant with a capacity of 25 tons daily. Four lumber yards. Four irrigating systems.
The crops was Alfalfa, wheat, sugar beets, oats, cantalopes and garden vegetables. Large vineyards with choicest grapes, cherry, plum & apple orchards and small fruit in abundance.
La Junta had its own water system--the best in the valley. The water unlimited in supply, shown by chemical analysis to be entirely free from chemicals harmful to health. Obtained from wells N.W. of La Junta.
La Junta called "The Junction" as in the olden days, all roads led to Rome so now all roads in Southeastern Colorado lead to La Junta. The Old Trails met here. Highways crossed--East, West & South.
Woodruff Library founded 1888. The A.T.& S.F. also had a library with reading room and club room for its employees. Wonderly's Theather was the oldest play house in La Junta.
Two public parks. One at the Court House Square. City Park, 18 acres of wilderness near the head of an arroya. In the old days the arroya periodically converted Santa Fe Avenue into a roaring river.
Five small lakes in the park and some twenty varities of trees & shrubbery have replaced the yucca & cactus.
"Though La Junta people are seldom ill, it happens sometimes that strangers within our gates, are in need of medical attention or surgical attention, hence hospitals"
The Santa Fe Hospital corner stone laid 25 September 1908 when need of more modern one than one built in 1884 was in order. Dr. Frank Finney, Head Surgeon. La Junta City Hospital Association was at the corner of Carson & 9th Street. Valley Hospital 912 Raton Ave. Property of Valley Hospital Assn. Dr. E. W. Ragsdale at its head. Located five miles West of La Junta was the Mennonite Sanitarium. A charitable instution founded by the Mennonite Church of America 1908.
The La Junta steam laundry 1885. At one time La Junta had five laundries all run by Chinamen.
La Junta was the home of Soleit Levant, the great imported Belgian Stallion, and King of the Belgians. He weighed 2300 pounds, took three medals in Belguim in 1903,1904,1905, and Sweepstakes Colorado State Fairs several years. Won more blue ribbons than any draft stallion in Colorado. He has been pronounced by leading horsemen of different states as the best that has ever been shipped across the water.
The Park House Hotel was located 2 blocks South of the depot at the S.W. corner of Court House Square. La Junta had a Boys Club in 1909.
The Spring of 1881 La Junta became an incorporated town under the laws of Colorado, and elected a Mayor and Board of Trustees. J.C. Denny, the station agent was the first Mayor. (See information on J.C. Denny on another web page in this Otero site.)
The La Junta Tribune Democrat was founded about the middle of the year 1880, by James C. Denny.
The census for La Junta 1881 contains 285 names, of which 256 were male,the female population numbered 30. The residents listed was only eleven. Freight cars that were used as dwellings out numbered the stationary habitations.
In the early days La Junta's First Street was known as Trinidad Plaza. The area housing business places.
Smithland Avenue was named for Edward C. Smith. He had the La Junta land, he died 1878, leaving his estate badly envolved, so that his widow and children derived little benefit from his enventments.
In 1785 Major James M. Rice acquired interest in the land from Smith. Rice made his home in Trinidad and died December 1878.
The 1918 newspaper mentions three banks. First National,La Junta State Bank, Colorado Savings & Trust.
This ends the research notes this Otero County Coordinator did in the 1910 & 1918 newspapers.
The Ute Indians visited the Arkansas Valley sometimes,but they were friendly to the whites. They were at war with the Cheyennes, and once in the winter of 1871 or 1872, they camped on the river bank near where La Junta now stands. It was thought the few settlements along the river would be raided. Later, in 1878, Cheyenne were reported expected. A train engine stood all day long on the track ready to take the settlers to a point of safety from the Indians, but no Indians came.
The following was taken from, Pioneer Days In The Arkansas Valley In Southern Colorado & History of Bent's Fort, by Charles Livingstone Seeley. Copyrighted August 1932.
Seeley settled at La Junta in January 1887 and formed a partnership with George A. Kilgore in the real estate business. The town had a popultion of abour 500, chiefly railroad men.
I.R. Holmes, of Garden City, Kansas bought some property and laid off an addition and aided in building up the town.
T.J. Hickman was a County Treasurer John Jay a County Clerk Alex Hickman, Post Master. His brother, Jim Hickman town marshal. Both were sons of T.J. Hickman.
At the county election in the fall of 1887, a new set of county officers were elected. They were to take possession of the offices on January 8, 1888. During the night of January 7th the building used as a court house burned down and all were distroyed. A day or so afterward John Jay died of acute indigestion.
Sometime after, Jim Hickman, the marshal of La Junta, went on a drunk and shot the windows of the La Junta Tribune building. Scott English was one of the editors.
Jim Hickman had a 44 Colt revolver as a gun.
Hickman shot Lou Winters in the back and was arrested, tried and was acquitted.
July 14,1888 Isom Anderson robbed the bank of La Junta of about $4,000. He escaped to Texas. Some months later he was arrested and brought to La Junta for trial, in November 1889 before District Judge Julius C. Gunter (afterward a Justice of The Supreme Court, and also was Gov. of Colorado) Anderson sentenced to 7 years in Colorado penitentiary. He served his sentence and was sent to Texas for a term.
T.T. Woodruff purchased townsites of La Junta at early day and organized La Junta Town company. He built many residences and store buildings and gave the city a fine library. Also George A. Killgore was secretary of La Junta Town Company.
© Joyce Gregory1998