Palisade History

Palisade, located in the eastern end of the Grand Valley, was named for the austere and dramatic palisades–steep cliffs of Mancos Shale bordering the town. The sculptured appearance was formed by various geologic uplifts in the area combined with localized erosion and down cutting by the Colorado River. Mancos Shale is mudrock that accumulated in marine environments of the Cretaceous Inland Sea which retreated about 75 million years ago. The Mesa Verde geologic sands were stripped from the mountains and built up as beach sands and river beds.

The Mesa Verde geologic formation is also known for its thick layers of coal. In Colorado, coal was formed in the middle Cretaceous Times (144-65 million years ago). In Palisade, the Mesa Verde formation provides abundant reserves of highly valuable low-sulfur bituminous coal.

At the turn of the 20th century, coal mining was a big business and as important to Palisade’s early development as fruit growing. More than a dozen coal mines operated in the area. John Nichols opened the Cameo Mine in 1885 which later provided coal for the Public Service Company power plant built on the former Cameo town site in 1957. Most of the mines closed in the late 1950s when natural gas replaced coal for heating.

For well over 10,000 years, Native Americans used the abundant waters flowing in the Grand Valley. When the area officially opened to white settlement in 1882, pioneers not disappointed by the Valley’s desolate appearance saw potential–if water from what was then the Grand River could be captured through dams, diversions, and canals. The subsequent irrigation projects transformed the desert into one of the most productive agricultural regions in Colorado and the Intermountain West.

By the mid 1880s, it was apparent Palisade’s unique geologic location protects crops from spring freezes. The local climate is often referred to as the “banana belt.” The mild climate and unique terrain create near-perfect peach growing conditions in the approximate 10-mile area stretching from the tip of Mt. Garfield to the south end of East Orchard Mesa. Wind moves 8 to 12 mph down-slope from the north and is focused by DeBeque Canyon. This “million dollar wind” is compressed and warms the air to prevent crop-killing frosts in the spring. As the katabatic wind moves west – down valley – it spreads out and its warming affect diminishes. In addition, the palisades absorb warmth and help prevent frost damage. The mild climate, a 182 day growing season, plenty of sunshine and water through elaborate irrigation systems, dams and canals, make Palisade the “Peach Capital.” Mineral-rich soil and our 4,700 foot altitude–which means warm days and cool nights–are also credited for Palisade’s great tasting peaches. Palisade makes Colorado the 7th largest peach producing state in the U.S.

Though a winter kill in 1962-63 wiped out most of the existing fruit trees, and a severe winter in 1989 again damaged the fruit trees and wine grapes, our growers bounced back. Palisade also largely survived pressure to convert prime irrigated land to high-density housing in response to a series of energy booms on the Western Slope. More recently, demand for locally-grown produce increased the number of fruit trees as well as expanded crops to include wine grapes, hops, and lavender. Palisade is a popular destination for fresh fruit, especially peaches, as well as 25 of Colorado’s 140 wineries. It is also the only wine grape growing region in the world more than 1,000 miles from an ocean and at 4,700 feet above sea level.

 

Palisade History

1898
1898

1898

State Bridge is completed over the Grand River at the “narrows” east of Palisade near Rapid Creek.

1899
1899

1899

Blue Flame Mine on Rapid Creek opened by Mr. Brownfield.

1900
1900

The 1900s

In 1903, Marion O. Delaplain and others, including the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church, plat the area east of Main Street from the railroad south to opposite 5th Street as the Delaplain Addition. These are small lots with 25 to 30 feet of frontage. Palisade incorporates as a town in 1904, changing the name from Palisades. The first municipal election is May 2, 1904, and Herman Kluge is elected Mayor. Prohibition comes early to Palisade in 1908, though wine grapes, grown primarily for personal–not commercial use–especially in Rapid Creek and the Vineland, succumb to a disease. Several churches begin and erect buildings, including the 7th Day Adventist, Christian, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist Episcopal Churches which still stand.

1900

Agriculture

The Price Ditch pumping plant

A number of irrigation projects are built, and some fail to provide adequate irrigation water to serve the increasing number of orchards.

Courtesy of Marie Tipping Archives, Palisade Library Collection

1900

Business

Many buildings in downtown Palisade are built in the early 1900s. Palisade has electricity and telephones by 1906. This is the east side of Main Street in 1905 with Palisade families riding in Winton, Buick, and Reo automobiles.

Courtesy of the Colorado National Bank

1900

Transportation

To make crossing the river easier, a ferry is built to connect 4th St. with the Vineland area. A suspension bridge is soon added, and both are replaced by a steel bridge in 1909.

 Courtesy of Palisade Historical Society

1900

1900

  • School on 4th St. and Kluge Ave. opens in August, replacing 1893 school building on 2nd St.
  • Benton Canon sells second opening of Blue Flame mine – called Palisade Mine.
  • George Smith opens mine which is named Riverside Farmer’s Mine in 1905.
  • George W. Bowman patents the “fruit gathering bag” December 4.
1900

Education

Palisade’s second school, located on Kluge Ave., opens in August 1900. Palisade was School District 19.

Courtesy of Marie Tipping Archives, Palisade Library Collection

1901
1901

1901

Fred DeRush opens Midwest Mine – first called Grand View Mine.

1902
1902

Recreation

Baseball has long been a passion in Palisade. This 1902 photo is the Palisade team playing the team from the Teller Institute whose students were primarily Ute Indians, though other Native American tribal affiliations were represented.

Courtesy of Marie Tipping Archives, Palisade Library Collection

1902

1902

Reclamation Act withdraws land in proposed route for the Government Highline Canal from development.

1903
1903

1903

  • Highline Mutual Irrigation Co. authorizes construction of Stub Ditch.
  • Palisade Tribune begins publishing on June 6. It replaces the short-lived Palisade Courier.
1904
1904

Culture

First Palisade Band in about 1904, Clint Martin, Director, John Donston, Manager

Courtesy of Marie Tipping Archives, Palisade Library Collection

1904

People

The town incorporates as Palisade–without the s– in 1904. The first town board includes, l to r:

M. Landreth; Dr. G.R. Brown; Clint H. Martin, Clerk; Mayor Herman Kluge; W.A. Powell; George W. Sawade; John A. Pierson; and William E. Bell.

Courtesy of Marie Tipping Archives, Palisade Library Collection

1904

1904

  • George Smith begins Garfield Mine.
  • Vineland pumping plant begins.
  • Mt. Lincoln power house and canal damaged in spring run off.
  • Palisade Irrigation District (PID) forms.
  • Palisade Fruit Growers Association organizes.