Thursday, July 27, 2006

Colorado counties every shape and size

QUESTION: When I watch the weather report on the news, it shows all of the county lines in the state. The counties are so many different sizes and shapes that I am curious as to how the county lines were determined.
- John Weaver

ANSWER:There were counties in Colorado before there was a state and the area was just a territory, explained Larry Kallenberger, executive director of Colorado Counties Inc. The oral history passed along, he said, is that at first counties were laid out for people to be within a day’s wagon ride of the county seat where they did official business. Tom Goodman of the National Association of Counties said that in some states, “our understanding was that in the beginning, at least, the county seat would be only an hour’s ride by horseback.”

In Colorado there were 17 original — and very large — counties in 1861, but this changed rapidly. Counties were added as needed, usually one or two at a time, and at other times counties were removed by lawmakers to make it more equitable or to satisfy residents or politicians. County lines were determined by everything from natural boundaries, such as mountains and streams, to politics.

One of the busiest years was 1889, when the legislature carved out 13 new counties.
As an example of how some counties were formed, Teller County was created in 1899 out of land from western El Paso and northern Fremont counties.

After the latest county, Broomfield, was created in 2001, Colorado has 64, and they’re every shape and size.


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