History of Montrose

Montrose was chartered in 1882 by people from places east, who wanted a place to succeed as ranchers and farmers. Its location in the middle of the Uncompahgre Valley was only complicated by the Ute Nation people who wintered there until being removed just prior to the city being established.

The town was known by the names of Pomona, Dad’s Town, Uncompahgre Town, and several other names, before it finally came to be known as Montrose. Joseph Selig suggested the name Montrose after a favorite character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel, The Legend of Montrose.

In the West, commerce was small scale, roads were trails, such as the Spanish Trail which came near what was to become Montrose. In order to expand opportunity for eastern investors, Congress gave public land to the railroad companies to encourage western construction of the rail system. The west had the fur trade, then the mines. While fur only needed wagons to move from source to transport, the mines needed railroads to get the ore to large mills for processing. 
Main Street Montrose
The rail arrived in Montrose in 1882, following the path of the Spanish Trail over Cerro Summit. When it neared the township, Joseph Selig, founder of Montrose, requested his route into town be used. The railroad declined. So Selig and the founding fathers had to realign their town to accommodate. Today, Montrose is off a north/south setting. And what was Main Street became South Third, so the depot could be on a main thoroughfare.

In western Colorado, the miners in the San Juan mountains were supplied with wagonloads of goods hauled by companies of muleskinners, who then transported the ore to the railhead in Ridgway. With the mines' decline, agriculture soon took over as the major economy. Settlers worked the fertile valley soil producing fruits, grains, vegetables and livestock.

Just as the immigrant populations back east elbowed one another for a toe-hold in a land of promise, so, too, did Basque sheepherders fight for grazing rights in the Uncompahgre Valley. Cattlemen from Texas had no use for sheep, which, they argued, damaged the grasslands by cropping too close. Whereas, cattle left enough grass stem to encourage growth. The opposition pitted cowboys against shepherds, with no clear winner. The subsequent emigration of Civil War soldiers into the area after the war quieted the battles. The veterans had enough killing, and sought to rebuild their lives in the west. Now the railroads brought families, household goods, merchants, doctors, preachers and teachers into the area.

The Gunnison Tunnel, having the distinction of being the first construction project of what was to become the Bureau of Reclamation, was built to provide vital irrigation water to the valley. Its opening in 1909 was highlighted by the visit of President Taft and signaled the beginning of a new era of agricultural production in Montrose.

The same strategic location that led to Montrose becoming a hub for transportation and commerce at its founding, still serves as an asset today. Although much has changed since the city’s beginning in 1882, Montrose continues as a thriving gateway to the many wonders of Western Colorado.