Where will you find the oldest "town" in Colorado? That question is a little more complex than it sounds.

Most consider the town of San Luis to be the oldest in Colorado. Here's a quick look at the 171 years of this community's amazing history.

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What Defines a 'Town'?

I have to agree 100% with History Colorado. In 2019 they published the article, "Where is the Oldest Town in Colorado?" The article quickly brings up this point:

The fact of the matter is that the “oldest town in Colorado” depends on who you ask, and—even more importantly—how you phrase the question. The first problem with this question is: what defines a town? If by “town” you mean “permanent settlement,” then the oldest such place in Colorado is likely one of the many Ancestral Puebloan sites scattered around the state.

Should forts be taken into account when answering this question? If so, then Bent's Fort has been around since the 1830s. Does that qualify? For that matter, Southern Ute tribes inhabited the area as far back as the 1500s.

Officially Incorporated as a Town

According to townofsanluisco.org, San Luis is recognized as the oldest town in Colorado, having been established on April 5, 1851. History Colorado, on the other hand, states San Luis was "officially incorporated" as a town by the Colorado Territorial Government in 1852, making it the first place in the state to receive such recognition.

Dr. Nicholas Saenz, a professor at Adams State University, told History Colorado, "Incorporation brings with it a kind of status and a notable paper trail."

Where To Find San Luis, Colorado

San Luis is located in southern Colorado, 154 miles south of Colorado Springs, roughly 40 miles southeast of Alamosa, and ten miles directly south of Fort Garland.

San Luis Colorado Map
Google Maps

History of San Luis, Colorado

According to townofsanluisco.org, Hispanic settlers from the Taos Valley established a number of small villages along the Rio Culebra in the San Luis Valley. Settlers officially took possession of this portion of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant on April 5, 1851.

Settlers constructed a church in the central village of La Plaza Medio. The church was dedicated on June 21, 1851.

Ute Indians Relocated

The website Legends of America reports that between 1850 and 1880, the Ute Indians of the valley were removed and relocated to the Ute Mountain, Southern Ute, and Hintah reservations of western Colorado and Utah.

Fort Garland In the San Luis Valley

From 1858 to 1883, the United States Army operated Fort Garland in the San Luis Valley. According to Colorado Encyclopedia, the fort served to protect early settlers from Native American raids.

The Seat of the County

San Luis became the seat of Costilla County in 1863. Colorado became recognized as a state in 1876, with the Town of San Luis being incorporated in 1885.

During the 1860s, the number of farms and ranches increased in the southern valley with the development of the homestead system and large-scale irrigation canal projects.

Almost Had This Claim To Fame

According to Wikipedia, the San Luis Valley was one of eight candidate sites for the detonation of the first atomic bomb. They lost out to White Sands Proving Ground.

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Take a gander through these photos from black and whites, to hand-drawn sketches of historical events.

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