During the 1840s, Hispanos from New Mexico moved north to farm land which were part of grants.   These communities in the San Juan Valley are the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in Colorado.  The towns centered around placitas which were formed from connected, flat roofed homes.

In 1852, these settlers acquired Colorado's first water rights.  They built the San Luis People's Ditch which is the state's oldest operating irrigation system.

In 1858, the U.S. Army established an army fort calling it Fort Garland pictured here.  It was built of adobe and guarded the San Luis Valley until 1883.
  Fort Garland, Colorado

Lt. Col. Kit Carson commanded Hispanic New Mexican Volunteers at Fort Garland from 1866-67. Here he lived with his wife, Josefa Jaramillo, and his children and entertained among others, Lt. Gen. William T. Sherman and the Ute Chief Ouray.   Due to declining health, he resigned his commission and died six months later.

During the 1870's, Buffalo Soldiers were posted here, a unit created after the Civil War.  These were segregated African American units.  There were five such U.S. army units present in the West during this time.   For decades, they fought on the front lines of the Indian wars against the Utes, the Cheyennes, the Arapahoes, and the Dakotas.  Though often looked down upon as a rag tag group of ex-slaves, they proved themselves in combat and won the respect of their enemies.

The unit here at Ft. Garland saw little combat and were used mostly for peace keeping in the San Juan Mountains quelling disturbances between Utes and white settlers.

Buffalo Units in the west were finally disbanded in 1917. African Americans were excluded from most combat units until after World War II.

Back to History Article List