The 1850s

June 22, 1850

Gold discovered in Ralston Creek (near the present location of 56th Avenue and Benton in Arvada) by Lewis Ralston and his party of prospectors who continue on to California, their planned destination.


Lucian Ralston, future prominent county citizen, first travels through the area as an Army scout

August 25, 1855

Kansas Territory establishes Arapahoe County to include area of eastern Colorado to the Continental Divide


Thomas L. Golden settles along Clear Creek (near present-day School of Mines football field) in what would later become the City of Golden

June 1858

William Green Russell party discovers gold near the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River, touching off the Colorado "Pikes Peak" gold rush

November 28, 1858

Arapahoe Bar placer mining district organized along Clear Creek, two miles east of present-day Golden

November 29, 1858

Arapahoe City Town Company organized. Although Arapahoe City existed for only a few years (1858-1863), it may have been the first town site in what later became Jefferson County. It was located about two miles east of Golden along Clear Creek.


  • First irrigation ditch in the current Jefferson County dug by David K. Wall, the "father of irrigated farming in Colorado." The ditch extended from Clear Creek and was used to irrigate Wall’s vegetable farm. By the end of 1859, two other irrigation ditches had been dug in Jefferson County: the Wanamaker Ditch off of Clear Creek and the McBroom Ditch off of Bear Creek.
  • Gold rushers rename rivers Clear Creek and Montana Creek. Montana Creek, named after Colorado’s first gold rush city at its mouth, soon renamed Bear Creek.
  • Coal discovered on Coal Creek, 14 miles north of Golden
  • First bridge built across Clear Creek, operates as a toll bridge
  • The Parmalee House, the oldest structure in the Indian Hills area, is built

January 7, 1859

Arapahoe City miner George A. Jackson discovers gold at present site of Idaho Springs, giving sustaining credibility to the gold rush

May 6, 1859

Arapahoe City miner John H. Gregory discovers gold at present area of Black Hawk/Central City

Summer 1859

Delegates from settlements attend a constitutional convention in Denver to draft proposed state and territorial constitutions

June 1859

Jefferson County’s first major wildfire, the Miner’s Fire in Golden Gate Canyon, claims three lives

June 1, 1859

John C. Guy is first settler to homestead on Gregory’s Road up Golden Gate Canyon

June 16, 1859

Golden City established by George West and other members of the Boston Company. The word "City" is dropped from the town’s title January 22, 1872.

June 24, 1859

First hospital built in the gold fields by Dr. Isaac Hardy. It is the first building in Jefferson County to be blessed by the Masons.

July 4, 1859

Cornerstone laid for the Boston Company Building, the first building in Golden, at the corner of Washington and 10th Streets (now the location of Parfet Park)

July 5, 1859

Golden Gate City established at entrance to Golden Gate Canyon

July 17, 1859

Golden City Methodist Episcopal Church, now First United Methodist Church, becomes first religious congregation established in Jefferson County

September 2, 1859

Jefferson County witnesses the Carrington Super Flare, the greatest solar eruption ever recorded

September 5, 1859

Delegates attending the third Territorial Constitutional Convention in Denver vote in favor of establishing a new territory rather than a new state (246 to 42)

September 11, 1859

Golden’s first natural disaster - a windstorm - destroys 28 buildings

October 6, 1859

Constitutional convention adopts a provisional territorial constitution for Jefferson Territory

October 24, 1859

Provisional government of Jefferson Territory formed

October 27, 1859

Town of Mount Vernon established at entrance to Mt. Vernon Canyon

November 28, 1859

Provisional Jefferson Territory territorial legislature meets and organizes 12 counties, including Jefferson County. Arapahoe City chosen as first seat of government in Jefferson County.

December 3, 1859

1st Judicial District formed, composed of Arapahoe, Jefferson and Mountain counties

December 7, 1859

Boston Company, George West editor, prints first issue of The Western Mountaineer, Jefferson County’s first (and Colorado’s fourth) newspaper

December 17, 1859

First legal trial in Jefferson County, Rollins v Martiney, takes place at Golden City