Mining might have settled Colorado, but a curious cast of characters helped define it. Here are some:

Chief Ouray: He came to Colorado at a young age from his native Taos, N.M., where the U.S. Army laid siege during the Mexican-American War. As leader of the Ute Tabeguache band, he was equally respected by his people and those who threatened their way of life. He went as far as Washington, D.C., to try to negotiate peace.

Chief Ouray

Chief Ouray

John Henry “Doc” Holliday: Seemingly fated for a respectable life as a dentist, Doc went another direction after a tuberculosis diagnosis. He went to the healthier climate of the southwest, where he launched his dangerous life as a gambler and gunfighter. Among later stops were Denver, Pueblo, Leadville and his final resting place in Glenwood Springs.

Robert LeRoy Parker (“Butch Cassidy”): In Telluride, a building that formerly housed the San Miguel Valley Bank stands to recall the origins of a most infamous outlaw. This is known as the first bank Butch Cassidy robbed, on June 24, 1889, before his rebellious crusade beyond Colorado.

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Wyatt Earp in his twenties, from a tintype taken at Dodge City, Kansas. Photo courtesy Denver Public Library Special Collections

Molly Brown House

This photo in the Molly Brown House was taken in Leadville in 1892. The Brown family, pictured from left: daughter, Helen; James Joseph, (J.J.); Margaret; and son, Lawrence. Photo by Libby Kinder

James Beckwourth: Born into slavery in 1798 Virginia, he fled to attain legendary status as a fur trapper, explorer and mountain man in the untamed West. He was said to have learned the ways of hunting, fishing and nature from Indigenous people — skills employed by Bent’s Fort, the trading post now based in southern Colorado. He died in 1867 around present-day Denver.

Wyatt Earp: The storied lawman/gambler picked Colorado as his hideout after the big shootout at O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Ariz. He laid low in Trinidad for a while; he reportedly dealt cards at a saloon there before packing up for Gunnison. He also lived briefly in Silverton.

Margaret Brown: She’s better known as the Unsinkable Molly Brown, for her surviving the Titanic disaster. She was a socialite around Denver, having made it rich on her husband’s mine in Leadville. She left her mark in plenty of other ways too, leading causes for women’s suffrage, labor rights and the juvenile justice system.


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