Huerfano County, Colorado

Contributed by: Louise Adams
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Huerfano Familial Ties to State, by Nancy Christofferson - Huerfano World - March 12, 1998

Despite being named for an orphan, Huerfano County has proved up on her familial ties to the state in her 137 years of existence.

One of the original 17 counties in Colorado Territory, organized in 1861, Huerfano County initially contained literally all of southeastern Colorado east of the Sangre de Cristos and south of the Arkansas River.

The first county seat was Autobees at the junction of the Huerfano and Arkansas Rivers east of present Pueblo.

In this huge area, five voting precincts were formed, the small number attesting to the sparse population. The polling places for these precincts were Charles Autobees house at the county seat; Doyle's ranch on the lower Huerfano (now also in Pueblo County); St. Vrain's ranch and home of B. R. Boice (or Boyce) at Badito on the Huerfano River; Gray's ranch east of Trinidad in Las Animas County and the sutler's store at old Fort Wise, later Fort Lyon on the Arkansas in present Bent County.

These were agreed upon by the first county commissioners, J. B. Doyle, Charles Autobees and N. W. Welton on Nov. 21, 1861.

As growth continued and the population shifted, precincts were added and changed. The county boundaries were also moved and Huerfano County grew smaller. By July 1866 voting places included Charles Autobees', Joseph Doyle's and B. B. Fields' homes on the lower Huerfano, Felix St. Vrain's near Huerfano Butte, Badito on the upper Huerfano and Francisco's ranch on the Cucharas at La Veta.

Badito became county seat in 1863. Huerfano County was reduced to its present size the following year. By the time Colorado was granted statehood Aug. 1, 1876, Huerfano boasted about a dozen distinct communities, to wit, Apache, Badito, Butte Valley, Chama, Cucharas, Farisita, Gardner, La Veta, North Veta, St. Mary's, Santa Clara and Walsenburg.

Walsenburg became county seat in 1872 and became the first incorporated town in the county the next year.

Through the 1870s and 1880s the county experienced steady growth. Settlers came to farm, to ranch and raise stock such as the Georgia Colony and many residents of northern New Mexico.

Some came to mine coal or gold and silver. Others followed the railroad to assist with construction and expansion. In 1870 the county had a population of 2,250; in 1880, 4,124, and by 1890 it had reached 6,882.

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