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The History of Montrose

Early Montrose History

The first settlers of the present-day Montrose were the Ute Indians, who relied on the area’s fertile soil and abundant natural resources. But this peaceful living was interrupted in September 1881, when the Ute Indians were forced to move to the reservation in Utah.

Eight months later, in May 1882, the town of Montrose was officially established on this territory. Interestingly enough, before the town came to be known as Montrose, it had several different names: Dad’s Town, Pomona, and Uncompahgre Town…Montrose owes its name to The Legend of Montrose (1819), Sir Walter Scott’s novel.

Originally, Montrose was founded as a town that would supply local mining camps with food and other necessities. With the decline of mining, agriculture became Montrose’s major economy sector. Farmers would grow fruits, vegetables, and grains on the valley’s fertile soil.

By 1909, the construction of the Gunnison Tunnel (6 miles long) was completed around Montrose, which provided irrigation water to the area. The tunnel was crucial for making Montrose and the area around it a profitable agricultural region. And the railroad made it possible to transport agricultural products to national markets.

With the arrival of new residents, Montrose was growing and the community was becoming more stable. A variety of local businesses operated in Montrose at that time, from saloons and gambling halls to hardware stores and medical service providers. In 1883, Central School was built: it was a two-story brick building that served children from Montrose. Over time, a few wings were added to accommodate increased number of schoolkids.

In 1882, Montrose already had 125 houses, and by 1890 the city had a population of 1,330 people. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Montrose saw the establishment of the First National Bank, the Buckley Brick and Tile plant, as well as legal services offices and hospitals. The city was developing as a transportation and agricultural city on Colorado’s map.

Montrose Nowadays

Today Montrose is the county seat of Montrose County, with 19,782 residents as of 2019. Tourism and recreational opportunities are of great importance for Montrose’s economic development: Montrose is a transportation waypoint for tourists traveling to ski resorts of the San Juan Mountains, to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and other numerous recreational facilities that Colorado has to offer.


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