Denver is a capital city of Colorado and is the most populous city in this state. It’s actually in a valley, known as the Platte River Valley which is itself to the west of the High Plains. If you’re familiar with the Rocky Mountains, this city sits on the east side of its front range. Denver had a pretty colorful history, and we’re here to find out who named the city.

As a city, Denver is moderately populated with about 700,000 people. It’s a main storage and distribution point for states in the west, southwest and the mountain states. It’s also home to some well-known companies, with names like AIMCO, Samsonite, Quiznos and Smashburger calling (or have called) Denver home. It’s hard to imagine that this modern city started out as a sparsely settled riverbank area.

The Early Gold Rush

The Denver area started out pretty sparsely populated, but that quickly changed in the 1850s when small deposits of gold were found at the mouth of Little Dry Creek. This caused a gold rush known as the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. In the ensuing years, as many as 100,000 men would congregate on the banks of the South Platte River, laying the foundations to many towns that would survive until today. However, the gold rush soon died out as the findings were thin and did not yield as much as originally thought.

Those who then followed the original gold prospectors were claim jumpers; men who staked a claim on new plots of land and then sold them off to subsequent settlers. One of these claim jumpers was a man called General William H. Larimer. He staked out land on the west bank of Cherry Creek, started a small town and named it after then Kansas Territorial governor James Denver, in hopes of currying political favor.

James Denver served in the US Army during the Mexican-American War, as well as the American Civil War. However, at the time that Denver city was first founded, he was serving as the territorial governor of Kansas.

The main reason General Larimer named the new town on Cherry Creek after Denver was because they were hoping that he would make Denver the country seat of the Arapaho County, which was still a part of Kansas at the time. The bad news was of course that James W. Denver had already resigned from his post as territorial governor by the time the new town was named.

The name stuck, however, and despite many early challenges including wars, floods, and fire, the township survived and grew to what it is today.