Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Pueblo, at an elevation of 4,695 feet, is located in southern Colorado, 40 miles south of Colorado Springs and 110 miles south of Denver. Over the years, Pueblo has experienced a slow but steady growth to a population of 102,319 in 2000. Latinos comprise approximately 50 percent of the city's population. The remainder is extremely diverse, and diversity has been a common theme since the city's inception. While the city has been aggressive in pursuing economic development in recent years, most locals do not want to see a dramatic population increase. Part of Pueblo's attractiveness is its manageable size combined with its urban amenities.

Pueblo has a rich history. Its location at the junction of Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River has made it suitable for settlements. As early as the sixteenth century Spaniards were in the area. The French established a trading post around 1740. In the late fall of 1806, after the United States acquired the region through the Louisiana Purchase, Zebulon Pike set up a defensive position in what is now Pueblo before beginning his unsuccessful attempt to climb the mountain that bears his name, Pikes Peak. In the 1840s fur traders built Fort Pueblo, and, later in the decade, the explorer John C. Frémont visited the area. In a sad incident in 1854 Ute Indians massacred a group of settlers at Fort Pueblo. The name Pueblo would continue with the establishment of the city in the 1860s. As is often the case, the city planning was an imprecise process. It was not until the twentieth century that three distinct settlements became one town. In the twentieth century Pueblo's greatest disaster was the flood of 1921, during which there was a catastrophic loss of life and property.

Following the gold rush of the late 1850s Pueblo became a natural site for ranching, farming, and sheepherding. The arrival of the railroad in 1876 created a varied economy. Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a prominent southern Colorado entrepreneur and the founder of Colorado Springs, played a prominent role in constructing a steelworks. Completed in 1882, the steelworks and its laborers have had an integral role in the economic and social life of the city. At times, more than half of Pueblo's population worked in the steel mill. More recently, Pueblo's economy has become more diversified. Some of the largest employers are in the medical, educational, industrial, governmental, and telemarketing fields. Pueblo is also home to the U.S. Army Chemical Depot, the Federal Consumer Information Office, and the University of Southern Colorado. In politics, Pueblo has developed into a Democratic enclave in a generally Republican state. The city is usually a campaign stop for national Democratic figures.

Notable personalities include Thomas M. Bowen, a hard-drinking lawyer who received the Medal of Honor during the Civil War and eventually became a judge and U.S. senator. Ed "Dutch" Clark was an all-American football player who set rushing records that stood for over thirty years with the Detroit Lions. Points of interest in the Pueblo area include Lake Pueblo State Park, San Isabel National Forest, and the City Park complex (which includes the Pueblo Zoo). Pueblo is also home to the Colorado State Fair.

Frederick C. Matusiak University of Southern Colorado

Dodds, Joanne West. They All Came to Pueblo: A Social History. Virginia Beach VA: Donning Company Publishers, 1994.

Stone, Wilber Fisk, ed. History of Colorado. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918.

Whittaker, Milo Lee. Pathbreakers and Pioneers of the Pueblo Region. Pueblo: Franklin Press, 1917.

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