The majestic Royal Gorge Canyon has been the focal point of Fremont County history since prehistoric times. For centuries Ute Indians knew its secrets as did later groups of Spanish Conquistadors. Lt. Zebulon Pike explored the canyon in the winter of 1806 by traveling up the frozen Arkansas River. The county is named for famed explorer, Captain John Fremont, who arrived in 1843. When Cañon City was incorporated in 1872, it was already a bustling little town, even if it was only four blocks long.

The first Colorado Territory prison was built here in 1871, five years before Colorado became a state. Since that early time, Fremont County has been home to a large number of state and federal correction facilities. But corrections are only part of the local history. Natural resource extraction has also been important. As early as 1872 oil was selling from the Oil Creek area. Nearby, large coal reserves provided further impetus for the railroads to push a route through the Royal Gorge to reach the silver mines in Leadville. This legacy of rail travel into the depths of the Royal Gorge is still available today.

Fremont County's scenic canyons, hot springs and hospitable climate began attracting film makers as early as 1910 when cowboy star, Tom Mix starred in a silent film produced by the Selig Film Company. Over the intervening years, many films have been made here.

All has not been glamour and glitter, however, a dark chapter in the area's history began in the 1920's when Cañon City resident Rev. Fred Arnold became Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. The Catholic Church's stunning Holy Cross Abbey is just one example of a project built here to counter the Klan's presence. The Klan eventually passed from the scene leaving Cañon City and Fremont County poised to build for the future. That building continues even today as witnessed by the new Pueblo Community College Campus site just west of Cañon City.

For a more complete look at Fremont County's fascinating history stop by any one of this area's museums.

Cañon City Municipal Museum 612 Royal Gorge Blvd., Cañon City
719-269-9018
Cañon City Public Library 516 Macon Avenue, Cañon City
719-269-9020
Dinosaur Depot 330 Royal Gorge Blvd., Cañon City
719-269-7150
Museum at Holy Cross Abbey 2951 E. Hwy. 50, Cañon City
719-275-8631
Museum of Colorado Prisons 201 N. 1st Street, Cañon City
719-269-3015
Old Westcliff Schoolhouse 304 S. 4th Street, Westcliffe
719-783-2064
Price Pioneer Museum Corner of Front & Pikes Peak Avenue, Florence
719-784-3433
Silver Cliff Museum

606 Main Street, Silver Cliff
719-783-2615

 


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