Home > A Brief History > Pre-settlement: Forcing the Utes Out

A Brief History of Lake City:
Pre-Settlement, Pre-1874

Forcing the Utes Out for Gold & Silver

In 1868, Kit Carson helped negotiate a treaty that forced the Utes to relinquish their lands in the four intermontane basins - San Luis Valley, South Park, Middle Park, and North Park.  The Kit Carson Treaty pushed the boundary of the Utes westward to the 107th meridian of longitude that runs approximately west of present-day Steamboat Springs, Basalt, Crested Butte, Gunnison, and Pagosa Springs.

The federal government opened the Los Pinos Agency in Saguache County to distribute food, blankets, and other supplies promised by the treaty agreement and to monitor the Utes' activities.  The Tabeguache band continued their seasonal migration, living at the Los Pinos Agency in summer and traveling to the more sheltered Uncompahgre encampment near present-day Montrose in winter.

Prospectors in search of gold and silver began trespassing onto Ute lands in the San Juans in the early 1860s.

The first was Charles Baker who led a group of prospectors in 1861 into what became known as Baker's Park and eventually developed as the town of Silverton.  The prospecting party suffered frostbite and near starvation, and the incident discouraged prospecting in the San Juans.

Harry Henson, Joel K. Mullin, Albert Mead, and Charles Godwin (also spelled Goodwin) located the Ute and Ulay veins on August 27, 1871 on Henson Creek four miles southwest of the future Lake City townsite (Henson Creek was initially named Godwin Creek).

Prospectors and settlers pressured the U. S. government for access to the region.  On September 13, 1873, the Utes signed an agreement negotiated with Felix Brunot, Chairman of the National Board of Indian Commissioners.  They were promised payments of $25,000 a year forever in exchange for the 3.5-million-acre area.  On April 29, 1874, the U. S. Congress ratified the Brunot Agreement and the Utes were moved from the San Juans onto a reservation in the Uncompahgre Valley near present-day Montrose.

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 Town of Lake City, PO Box 544, Lake City, CO  81235.  970-944-2333.  
Christopher "Kit" Carson, 1809-1875.  Photo by Matthew Brady or Levin Handy, Library of Congress collection.  Click on image to see larger pop-up view.
Ute Chief Ouray and his wife Chipeta.  The Brunot Agreement was negotiated with Chief Ouray, ceding Ute lands in the San Juan Mountains.  Photo taken in 1880 by Matthew Brady or Levin Handy, Library of Congress collection.  Click on image to see larger pop-up view.