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


  • Osteopaths, Drs. Isabelle Morelock, Doris Morelock-Spencer, and Josephine Morelock provide health care to women and children
  • Latimer Chemical Company listed in City Directory (later Latimer-Goodwin)
  • Grand Valley National Bank Building opens with first electric elevator (later First National Bank~ now Dalby Wendland)
  • Telephone building erected (131 N. 7th Street)
  • Younker-Callahan Mortuary established
  • Big Park post office begins service~ soon renamed Glade Park
  • Electric Building constructed (3rd and Main~ later Enterprise)
  • Popular Mechanics publishes article on Grand Valley smudging to protect orchards from frost
  • Interurban line begins service to Fruita (light rail service)
  • Saul Halyve, Grand Junction Indian School student, defeats Danish runner in nationally advertised race sponsored by Mesa County Fair Board
  • Mt. Garfield Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, installed
  • G.A.R. holds Colorado-Wyoming meeting


In 1911, the elegant Grace Miller posed in fashionable clothes. She and a partner operated The Ladies Tailoring College. Grace secured her hat with a long hat pin, and a second pin was held ready between her teeth. A breeze could send a large hat flying away, and pins through the hairdo and hat kept the hat in place.


Richard E. Tope was a school administrator. “Professor Tope” was admired as a cultivated gentleman of wide learning who recruited an outstanding staff of teachers, and set a standard of excellence. Mr. Tope was principal of the high school 1911-1918, and then superintendent of schools until 1938. On retirement he was appointed superintendent emeritus and consultant.


  • City purchases first automotive Fire Truck
  • Benge’s Shoe Store opens (422 Main)
  • C. D. Smith begins wholesale drug store business
  • Appleton becomes Colorado’s first consolidated school district
  • Government closes Grand Junction Indian School (Teller Institute)


A larger high school building was needed, and the 900 block between Chipeta and Gunnison Avenues was bought for the new location. The central section was built in 1911, and wings on each side were added beginning in 1917. There were 36 rooms and an auditorium for 500. The small number of students in 1891 had grown to over 600 by the 1910s.
(Dean Studio Photo)


Spectacular red sandstone cliffs and canyons are to the west of Grand Junction. John Otto, pictured on horseback, was an environmentalist and visionary. He was determined that this scenic domain should be saved intact as a natural park. This dream was realized in 1911 when the Colorado National Monument was established. Otto, the first park superintendent, developed many hiking and horse trails including the twisting Serpent’s Trail Road, now used for hiking.
(Colorado National Monument Photo)


  • W. W. Campbell becomes manager of Colorado Milling Company Flour Mill
  • Mudd, Joclyn & Penney Store opens at 308 Main (later J. C. Penney, 362 Main)
  • Currie Canning Factory opens local plant
  • Western Slope Auto acquires Ford dealership
  • St. Mary’s Hospital constructs brick building (11th and Colorado)
  • Auditorium building opens (315 Rood)
  • Grand Junction leads Colorado in percentage of school age children enrolled in school
  • Pure mountain water from Kannah Creek reaches Grand Junction, replacing river water
  • Work begins on Roller Dam in De Beque Canyon for government’s Highline Irrigation Project
  • First cars travel Midland Trail (a primitive highway)
  • Charles F. Walsh flies first airplane at Fairgrounds (now Lincoln Park)~ 5,000 watch exhibition


Especially in the west, roads between cities were primitive. Nonetheless, in October 1912 a hardy band of 27 motorists drove nine cars from Grand Junction to Salt Lake City. The road often dwindled to a wagon track, streams were forded, and deep mud was a problem. They made the journey in 11 days, and Salt Lake greeted the pioneers with a banquet. The drivers shipped their cars home by railroad. (Winfield Photo)


  • Elks, BPOE #575, open new lodge (4th and Ute)
  • Amore Raso opens grocery store (220 S. Second ~ later Raso Liquor)~ serves as banker for other Italian immigrants


  • World War I begins in Europe
  • Fire station relocates (611 Colorado)
  • Mesa County’s assessed valuation, $22,773, 800~ property in city, nearly $7,000,000
  • Herman Vorbeck opens sporting goods store (later Stephens)
  • Mesa County Extension Service established
  • Local producers ship $1,075,000 worth of livestock to market
  • 2,400 railroad cars of fruit shipped~ 800 cars of other produce ($1,240,000 income) by local residents
  • Total entirely cloudy days in the year number 11


First water diverted into U.S. Government’s Highline Canal


  • St. Mary’s inaugurates nursing school (later merged with Mesa College)
  • Clymer’s begin first dairy~ called it the Old Indian School Dairy due to its location
  • Ordinance 249 renames four original parks after notable figures: Whitman (Marcus Whitman), Emerson (Ralph Waldo Emerson), Hawthorne (Nathaniel Hawthorne) and Washington (George Washington)
  • Junior High established as unit of school system
  • St. Joseph’s Catholic Church opens area’s first successful parochial school~ Nunzio Grasso’s stone masons cut and lay the stone
  • Motor Car Club has more than 50 members~ 500 automobiles in County
  • Woodmen of the World largest local fraternal organization~ nearly 700 members


  • Walter Walker acquires The Daily Sentinel
  • F.C. Martin purchases mortuary business from Hattie Pearson-Murr (city’s first female undertaker)
  • East wing added to Grand Junction High School
  • City purchases land for Lincoln and Riverside Parks


World War I was a world-wide conflict during 1914-1918, and the United States was a combatant 1917-1918. Naval forces were engaged on the Atlantic, and land forces were mainly in battles in France. These Mesa County recruits, ready to leave for military service, boarded a car on the Midland Railroad which served Grand Junction from 1890 to 1918. (Dean Photo, The Daily Sentinel)


One of the largest irrigation projects in the nation, the Highline Project was completed in 1918. It provided the water to cultivate 50,000 acres in the Grand Valley. The unusual roller dam is shown as it was being built across the Colorado River in DeBeque Canyon. The level of the reservoir behind it is controlled by raising or lowering large steel cylinders, called rollers. There are only three roller dams in the country, and this is the largest.  (U. S. Bureau of Reclamation Photo)


  • World War ends
  • Influenza epidemic kills millions worldwide, and in U.S.
  • Ollie Bannister first elected to State Senate
  • Biggs-Kurtz Hardware Company incorporates
  • Federal Building and Post Office opens (4th and Rood, now Wayne Aspinall Federal Building)
  • R.E. Tope becomes superintendent of schools
  • Riverside School opens
  • Government Highline Canal reaches completion
  • Government suspends Colorado Midland Railroad operation
  • Wednesday Music Club founded


  • The Big Snow hits on Thanksgiving Day
  • Jesse Glassford, local businessman, publishes song, Loving Colorado
  • Pest districts created~ require growers to spray fruit to kill the coddling moth
  • Fruit losses in Valley $500,000 from pests
  • Farm Bureau established
  • Grand Junction and Mesa County join forces to build road to top of Grand Mesa
  • Community members dedicate Fairmont Hall
  • Grand Junction Rotary Club founded

The 1920s

The 1920s were called “The Roaring Twenties” nationally. But in Grand Junction these years were calm and progressive. There was much construction, including a fine new courthouse, the Avalon Theatre, and many schools. The council and city manager form of administration dates from 1922. The population reached 8,665 by 1920, for an increase of 11.7 percent between 1910-1920.

An accessory from the 1920s is this woman’s purse in royal blue beadwork. The frame and clasp are filigree metal. The small size of the purse is appropriate for downsized clothes. Women’s fashions became less confining in the mid 1920s as hemlines rose to the knees, and sleeves could be short. Women’s figures were expected to conform to the new slim look.


The vast orchards in the Grand Valley needed chemical sprays to control insects. General agriculture also used sprays for weeds and insects. The Latimer-Goodwin Chemical Company manufactured and distributed sprays and fertilizers, and had a branch in the fruit growing areas of the state of Washington. They also made cider from apples, and fermented vinegar. (Dean Studio Photo)


Suffragettes were the feminists of their time. They campaigned for the right of women to vote, and the 19th Amendment of the Constitution gave them the vote nationally, beginning with the 1920 election. Women had voted in Colorado since 1893 because state law assured them that right, but local women were elated that the privilege now was policy in all the states.


  • First patients arrive at State Home and Training School for Mental Defectives (formerly location of Teller Institute)
  • Mesa County Dental Association founded
  • Antonio Coscorroza and Antonio Retolaza purchase boarding house from Jose Ocamica; serves as unofficial community center for Basque immigrants (224 Colorado; later Spanish Hall and Furnished Rooms)
  • West wing added to Grand Junction High School
  • 19th Amendment gives women the right to vote (nationally)
  • First Country Club organizes, builds club house (now Redlands Community Center)
  • Broadway Ladies Club organized (later Redlands Community Club)
  • American Legion Post #37 founded; named for WWI casualties George Robbins and Howard McMullen


  • Congress approves renaming the Grand River the Colorado River
  • City purchases Orchard Mesa Cemetery
  • Clymer’s Rose Glen Dairy opens on Orchard Mesa
  • Chamber of Commerce hires its first executive director, W. M. “Woody” Wood
  • Local labor unions include: Barbers Union, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, Brotherhood of Decorators and Paperhangers, Brotherhood of Railway Clerks, Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen, Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, Musicians’ Union, Order of Railway Conductors, Typographical Union, and United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
  • Construction begins on Serpent’s Trail Road
  • Growers required to cut down fruit trees not sprayed for coddling moth
  • Grand Junction Lions Club founded


William J. Moyer, shown near a Christmas display in the Fair Store, became the leading citizen of Grand Junction. The Fair Store opened in 1890 and was the largest department store in Western Colorado. His other major investments included the Grand Valley National Bank. Mr. and Mrs. Moyer were generous with their wealth. They financed young people through college and donated the city’s first public swimming pool, the Moyer Natatorium, in 1922. Unfortunately, the Great Depression of the 1930s brought financial ruin to the Moyer enterprises.


  • Ida and William Moyer donate first municipal swimming pool~ Colorado Governor Oliver Shoup speaks to 5,000 attending dedication at Lincoln Park
  • First large scale vaccination of school children initiated by Dr. E.H. Munro
  • Colorado River Compact meeting held in Federal Court House
  • Grand Junction installs city manager/council form of government
  • The Daily Sentinel moves to new location (600 Block of Main)
  • Washington School (9th and Hill) constructed by high school “shop” students


  • Grand Junction Clay Products incorporated (brickyard)
  • Avalon Theatre has grand opening
  • Audrie L. Stong forms GJHS Band (oldest musical organization of its type, regionally); first Western Colorado Band Contest held