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


When Franklin High School was razed at 6th and Rood, the site was used for the new Mesa County Courthouse. Construction began in 1922 on the limestone, neoclassical structure and it was built to high standards. Hallways had marble wainscoting and terrazzo floors, court rooms were outfitted in golden oak. The front doors of brass had ornate grilles. It was dedicated in 1924.  (Dean Studio Photo)


  • Chipeta, widow of Ute leader Ouray, dies
  • Prinster Brothers begin acquisition of City Market
  • Fourteen churches have over 4,000 total members
  • Mrs. Kotono Hayashi operates pool hall; becomes first woman barber in Western Colorado
  • Mesa County Courthouse dedicated (6th and Rood)
  • Ku Klux Klan active in Grand Junction, and much of Nation
  • St. Mary’s adds east wing to hospital (11th and Colorado)
  • Labor Hall located at 435 Main
  • Battlement Mesa Forest Reserve name changed to Grand Mesa National Forest
  • Business and Professional Woman’s club established
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post # 1247, organizes; named for Orville Beye and Carl Henry Lotz, WWI casualties


Olney E. “Ollie” Bannister was a patriarch of the family who operated Bannister Furniture Company from 1897 to 1999. Bannister also was active in politics, and was in the Colorado State Senate from 1918 to 1934. Among the causes he championed was the legislation which established Mesa College in 1925.


As early as 1904 there was an attempt to establish a state college here. The idea of two year junior colleges was developing in the 1920s. Eventually the Colorado legislature and the governor agreed to an extension school of the University of Colorado. In the fall of 1925 the first college classes convened in the recently vacated Lowell School building at 5th and Rood. The nearby YMCA provided a gymnasium. Forty-one freshmen enrolled in Grand Junction State Junior College, forerunner of today’s Mesa State College.


Plays and operettas were staged by Grand Junction High School students, and were attended by enthusiastic students and the public. The Senior Class play of 1925 was “The Rejuvenation of Aunt Mary.” Another play and two operettas were performed that year, usually at the Avalon Theatre to accommodate the crowds.


  • Ray Schiesswohl opens Super Service Station (6th and Colorado; later Schiesswohl Oil)
  • Whitman Elementary School constructed (4th and Ute; now Whitman Education Center)
  • New Lowell Elementary School opens (7th and Grand; now R5)
  • Lincoln Elementary School (now Lincoln Park) constructed
  • Lincoln Park Golf Course designed and landscaped


  • General Billy Mitchell arrives in Grand Junction to promote strengthening of U.S. air power and the construction of airports
  • Manuel’s Department Store opens (530 Main)
  • Grand Junction Junior High (which was later Columbine Elementary) and High School Gym completed (9th and Chipeta). Both of those buildings have been demolished and the new Chipeta Elementary stands on that site.
  • City’s electric street cars replaced by buses


The first automobile show in Grand Junction was in May, 1926. It was in the Lincoln Park Auditorium (later mistakenly called the barn). Some familiar cars are shown. The Ford, Lincoln, Chevrolet, Dodge, and Buick brands are still with us. Hudson, Nash, Studebaker, and Willys were large manufacturers of the time, but exist no more.  (Dean Studio Photo)


Hoel-Ross renamed Ross Business College


  • Skaggs Safeway, Inc. at 119 N. 6th, 418 and 561 Main (former PigglyWiggly Stores)
  • The Daily Sentinel starts publication of Al Look’s On Guard column


  • Colorado River Compact divides water among seven states
  • Low cost merchandiser S. H. Kress, a national chain, constructs building (500 block of Main; now Mercantile Building)
  • Grand Junction Lion’s Club holds first carnival

The 1930s

The Great Depression dominated the country in the 1930s. Grand Junction’s regional economy eased the harshest effects. This was not a manufacturing center, with closed factories and large numbers of unemployed. Growth was slow, but the 1930 population was 10,247, an 18.3 percent growth from 1920. Despite the economic depression of the 1930s, peach production remained fairly profitable. Palisade was the major peach orchard zone, but the Redlands and Bridgeport also had extensive production. Fruit picking sacks, with a bottom which opened easily for emptying, were widely used. They were 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. The Mountain Lion Fruit label adorned millions of boxes. Wooden baskets also were used widely. There were many pear orchards as well, chiefly around Clifton.


Farmers needed seeds for their many crops, and the Grand Junction Seed Company with its Mile High Seed brand was a main supplier. The Grand Valley is superior for various crops. Red clover is an example, and the seed company would contract with farmers to grow clover for tons of seeds which were sold locally as well as nationally. They exported and imported a wide variety of seeds, including flower seeds and bulbs. (Dean Photo)


Alfred Nestler (pictured) was a noted local artist, and he was proficient in many themes and techniques. The Western Colorado Center for the Arts has a Nestler collection. Harold Bryant was another local artist with a national reputation. A large collection of his paintings also is held by the arts center. Bryant’s canvasses had western locales, and in the 1930s he was at his apex.  (Allen Wesley Photo)


Copeco was a large pear and apple orchard owned by Earl Craven and partners. There was a club house for employees, and the spacious fruit packing building had a hardwood floor which also served for dances. Beginning in the 1930s a commercial dance hall, called Copeco, occupied the building. Dancing was popular, with a dozen ballrooms in the valley.


    • Western Marketing Association formed by local dairies
    • Pioneers hold reunion
    • Sally Ann Bakery established (later Holsum)
    • Glider club formed
    • Mesa Air Transport begins charter service
    • Over 36,770 people visit Grand Mesa


The Grand Junction Municipal Airport was on 700 acres where the larger current airport is located. It was dedicated June 14-15, 1930. The first runways were unpaved. There was one hanger with a windsock, and planes including an Eaglerock Biplane (pictured). In 1942 the airport was named Walker Field for the newspaper publisher who was a strong backer. During World War II, hundreds of Army and Navy cadets received basic flight training at Walker Field. (Dean Photo, Walker Field Airport Authority)


Radio was expanding rapidly across the nation. Grand Junction’s first station was on the air January 13, 1931 as Rex Howell established KFXJ, which later became KREX. It was the first station of a radio and TV network called the Western Slope Broadcasting. Company. His television station was the first in town in 1954. In the following decades other broadcasters established several radio and television stations here, as well as cable TV. (The Daily Sentinel)


  • Building boom; building permits total over $41,000
  • Colorado Poultry Association formed
  • Grand Junction is second biggest retail center in the state
  • Grand Junction officially becomes division headquarters for Denver and Rio Grande


  • Grand Junction celebrates 50th anniversary
  • Glider pilot is first local air fatality
  • Walter Walker helps draft Democratic Platform and New Deal legislation
  • Al Look’s On Guard column and The Daily Sentinel begin Soupeaters; provides Christmas gifts for poor children and their families


Walter Walker was editor and publisher of the Grand Junction DAILY SENTINEL from 1917 to 1956. He was an ardent supporter of every advance in Grand Junction and western Colorado. A force in politics, he was appointed by the governor to the United States Senate in 1932 to fill out the term of the late Senator Waterman. On the national level, Walker was a member of the committee which wrote the 1932 Democratic platform called the New Deal by Franklin Roosevelt. Walker was a delegate to eight consecutive national conventions, a state record. (The Daily Sentinel)


  • 21st Amendment repealed, Federal Liquor Prohibition ends
  • Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established by New Deal legislation
  • Forest Service approves Lands End Road construction
  • U.S. Bank (now Wells Fargo) only one in Mesa County left solvent after national “Bank Holiday”
  • CCC and Works Project Administration (WPA) begin building Rimrock Road across Colorado National Monument; cave-in kills 9 Local Experienced Men (LEMs)
  • New Fifth Street Bridge dedicated


  • Congress passes Taylor Grazing Act
  • 30,000 cases of tomatoes/tomato juice packed at Grand Valley Canning Factory (Appleton) sets record
  • Growers join to eradicate Peach Mosaic disease


  • Taylor Grazing District #1 operations launched
  • Grand Junction District created to oversee Colorado CCC camps west of the Continental Divide
  • Mesa College Orchestra founded (now Grand Junction Symphony)
  • Former resident Dalton Trumbo publishes Eclipse, a novel about Grand Junction that scandalizes the community
  • Kuner-Empson purchases Currie Canning Factory
  • Freight service ceases along Interurban rail route (Grand Junction to Fruita)
  • First annual Christmas bird count held


  • Farm income highest in years
  • C.D. Smith opens new offices and warehouse (5th and Ute), now the Museum of Western Colorado
  • Jasper Fuoco opens Champion Boots and Saddlery
  • Undefeated Grand Junction High School team wins State A Football Championship
  • Downhill skiing begins at course near Lands End Road