Grand Junction History

While our timeline begins in the 1880s when Grand Junction was founded, the region has a history well beyond that of Grand Junction. Traces of Paleo Indians in Mesa County date to 11,000 B.C.E., and Archaic Indians to 8,000 B.C.E. Fremont Indians were here about 700 to 1200 C.E. the area.  Additionally, the Ute people occupied territory in Colorado and Utah well before Spanish padres, mountain men, and surveyors came to explore and record the region. Colorado became the Centennial State in 1876. Three years later, an Indian uprising near Meeker led to the removal of Ute Indians from the northern two-thirds of Western Colorado to reservations in Utah. White settlers arrived in Mesa County in 1881.

Grand Junction History


  • John H. Wellington builds Wellington Water Wheel (irrigation)
  • Grand Junction subscription library organized
  • Colorado Telephone and Telegraph Company (forerunner of Mountain Bell) begins local telephone service~ 52 customers
  • Grand Junction High School (GJHS) becomes 4 year school~ graduates first class
  • Peach Day Massacre: 3,400 sheep killed near DeBeque


  • Sampliner Clothing Store opens (4th and Main~ later Rush Sanford
  • and Brownson’s, now the Rock Slide)
  • M.L. Roberts begins jewelry business (later Page Parsons)
  • Grand Junction Athletic Association founded
  • First Lincoln Elementary School opens (Orchard Mesa)
  • Twentieth Century Club founded
  • Grand Junction Fire Department Hose Cart Team races to a world’s record
  • Grand Mesa Woman’s Club established (later Grand Junction Woman’s Club)


  • St. Mary’s Hospital established by Sisters of Charity at 11th and Colorado
  • Cameo Coal Mine opens in DeBeque Canyon
  • Columbus Elementary School opens (Orchard Mesa)
  • Camera Club founded



  • A. Bartlett sells Bargain Store to son-in-law, A.N. Anderson (later Anderson’s Furniture)
  • Home Loan and Investment Company opens
  • Bannister Furniture established
  • Order of Railway Conductors organized
  • Alex and Mike Struthers win international bicycle race in Denver


  • Fire destroys Grand Junction Milling and Elevator Company~ $30,000 loss
  • Mesa County Teachers Association formed


  • Spanish American War~ many local men enlist
  • William Jennings Bryan, orator and politician, visits Grand Junction
  • Colorado’s first sugar beet factory opens in Grand Junction
  • U. S. Weather Bureau Office established locally

The 1900s

Grand Junction by 1900 had evolved from a simple frontier town to a small city with advantages normally only found in much larger communities. This set the pattern that continues. The 1900 Federal Census recorded a Grand Junction population of 3,503, a 72.6 percent gain over the previous decade. By 1902 the town hired its first crew of three professional firemen, with horses to pull a fire engine. Volunteer firemen were still available, however, and this cap was worn by a member of Hose Company #1. The oil lantern was necessary before electric lights became common.


Frank Dean was a photographer in the booming silver mining towns of Western Colorado, and also in Grand Junction. By 1900 he moved here permanently and began a forty year career of photographing people, events, buildings and landscapes. His excellent photos are a valuable recording of the area’s history. (Dean Photo)


  • Frank Dean relocates photography studio to Grand Junction from Gunnison
  • C.D. Smith arrives in Grand Junction~ acquires first drug store
  • M.H. Loeffler opens commercial tailoring business
  • Elmer S. Riggs from the Columbian Field Museum in Chicago, unearths first ever Brachiosaurus at Riggs Hill
  • City builds new pumping plant on the Gunnison River
  • Elks Club, #575 Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (BPOE), founded
  • The “fruit gathering bag” was patented in December 1900 by George W. Bowman who lived in Palisade. His wife, Nancy Cutter Bowman, is credited for the idea because she would use her apron to hold fruit while picking so it didn’t bruise.


  • Elmer S. Riggs returns to excavate Apatosaurus at Dinosaur Hill near Fruita
  • Carnegie Library opens at Seventh and Grand
  • “Pest House,” hospital for contagious diseases, constructed in Redlands


The Women’s Library Association petitioned philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for funds to build a new library, which was erected in 1901 at 7th and Grand. A substantial “Colonial” building, it had a red sandstone foundation, buff brick walls, a red tile roof, and furniture and woodwork of golden oak. (Dean Photo)


  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation established
  • First paid fire department
  • Currie Building under construction at 5th and Main (now the Raso Building)
  • Cattleman Charles Sieber shot and killed by Joe Harris
  • Nancy Irving’s goats clubbed to death near present day Colorado National Monument


Originally named the Park School, the Emerson Grade School was built at 9th and Ute in 1903. The architect’s drawings of the large building included a dome, but it was not included. Ninety-nine years later the building had essentially the same appearance, minus the belfry and spire. (Dean Photo)


  • Union Bank and Trust Company opens (later U.S. Bank)
  • Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce founded
  • Mesa County Medical Society established
  • Dr. Alston P. Drew sets up veterinary practice
  • Park School (later Emerson) constructed (9th and Ute)
  • City suspends horse drawn street car~ rails pulled up and horses sold
  • Packard car, “Old Pacific,” comes through area on record coast-to-coast run


Selling our fruit to distant markets became a large business. The Colorado Fruit and Commercial Company and the Grand Junction Fruit Growers Association were two of the largest firms. The Fruit Growers Association, shown here, also evaporated fruit, which is superior to drying. For example, in 1904 they processed 244,466 pounds of Italian prunes in their evaporator building. This yielded 92,207 pounds of concentrated fruit, without moisture.


Churches were organized in early Grand Junction and the first small buildings soon were outgrown. Typical was the 1890 Congregational Church. By 1904 the burgeoning congregation rebuilt at the corner of 6th and Rood. They installed the first pipe organ in town, a Kimball Hydraulic Pneumatic Duplex concert instrument. In addition to worship, some churches also were used for musical and literary performances.


  • Modern Building and Loan Association established
  • Mutual Building and Loan founded (later Columbia Savings and Loan)
  • Independent Lumber Company opens in Grand Junction
  • Harry Burnett purchases The Grand Hotel (4th and Colorado)
  • Congregational Church builds new sanctuary at 6th and Rood
  • Uintah Railway built to haul gilsonite from Dragon, Utah to Mack, Colorado
  • Summer Club reorganizes as Reviewer’s Club


  • Redlands Irrigation Company established
  • “Cliff Dweller” steamship, built by local capital, sails between Green River and Moab, Utah (Green-Grand River Navigation Company)
  • New Fair Store opens (5th and Main~ later Montgomery Ward, now A. G. Edwards)
  • Schmidt family hardware store opens (439 Main)
  • President Teddy Roosevelt hunts bear in Western Colorado


  • Union Railway Depot opens
  • Valley Building and Loan organized
  • Margery Building opens (500 block of Main)
  • Congress passes Antiquities Act to protect cultural and scientific resources on Public Lands


  • Buthorns purchase La Court Hotel from Ed Nearing
  • Glade Park Store opens
  • Verner Z. Reed, Colorado Millionaire, starts Golden Hills Ranch near Loma
  • Lane and Company establishes plumbing, heating and sheet metal business
  • G.J. Electric, Citizens Gas and Coke, and G.J. Ice and Storage companies merge into G.J. Electric and Manufacturing Company
  • Dr. A. P. Drew opens veterinary hospital (6th and Colorado)


  • Mesa County voters approve prohibition~ no liquor to be served or sold
  • Socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs draws large local audience
  • Salvation Army established locally


  • Grand Junction adopts Preferential Voting System; installs commission form of government
  • President Taft visits Mesa County Fair; attends Gunnison Tunnel dedication (irrigation) in Montrose
  • S.G. Hoel opens business college in Grand Junction (later Hoel-Ross)
  • Henry L. Dougherty, Wall Street utilities and oil tycoon, purchases Redlands holdings from the Kiefer Family
  • Ten bars, one wholesale liquor business go out of business; druggists petition city council to prohibit sale of liquor in drug stores
  • Grand Junction votes itself dry; like the rest of the country, no liquor to be sold or consumed
  • Winfield’s Stationery opens (later Intermountain Printing and Stationery)
  • Electric Street car line begins operation in Grand Junction
  • Majestic Theatre opens (later Mesa Theater; now Mesa Theater & Club; 500 block of Main)


James Bucklin was a lawyer, a founder of Grand Junction, and a stockholder in the Town Company. New ideas in politics and government intrigued Bucklin and he promoted the unusual Preferential Voting System, in use here from 1909 to 1922. Citizens voted for everyone running for an office, in the order of the voter’s preference. Winners were those who tallied the largest number of high preference points. This innovation gained Grand Junction national and international attention.


An electrically powered streetcar system was inaugurated May 27, 1909 by the Grand Junction and Grand River Valley Railway. When few people owned automobiles, streetcars were a great convenience for many riders. Streetcars were smooth, quiet, non-polluting transportation. Earlier, the city had horse-drawn streetcars from 1890 to 1903.

The 1910s

The decade of the 1910s saw growth and prosperity, but it was overshadowed by World War I which began in Europe in 1914. When the war ended in 1918, Grand Junction shared the national optimistic spirit that believed we had fought the final war, and civilization had moved beyond armed conflict. People believed the massive conflict was the “War To End All Wars.” This hopeful outlook was doomed to disillusionment. The population of Grand Junction in 1910 was 7,754, a 121.4 percent increase in a decade.

World War I artifacts at the Museum include this bugle. They had many uses as a signaling instrument before radio was common. The khaki colored cap was standard issue for a soldier’s uniform.