Telluride Guide

Telluride History

Telluride History

The Ute Indians first inhabited San Miguel Park. For Centuries every summer and fall they would live by the San Miguel River and fish. They hunted for deer, elk and mountain sheep in the surrounding mountains. In the winter when the climate was harsh they would head for the safer desert canyons.


Spanish explorers named the San Juan's in the late 1700's. It wasn't until gold was found in the San Juan's that the San Miguel Valley started to prosper. The mountains were rich in zinc, lead, copper, iron, silver and gold. This began the mining boom. Telluride was founded in 1880 and was originally named "Columbia". Conflict with an already existing Columbia, California and for the town to have a local post office branch they changed the name to Telluride. The name “Telluride” is derived from tellurium, which was never found in the San Juan's, but is a non-metallic mineral deposit associated with gold.


In 1877, with the railroad, advertisements, pictures of the mountain ranges and the “gold rush” proved to bring many walks of life to the valley in search of mining and the like. Telluride's main street, Colorado Avenue had many first businesses; grocery stores, a law office, hardware stores, a general store, meat market, lodging house, post office, bakery and the American House to name a few. Even before churches were built, Telluride had many saloons and the famous red-light district from which those houses are still standing today.


Butch Cassidy and his gang robbed their first bank - the San Miguel County Bank in 1889. The Owner of the bank and his posse went in pursuit of Cassidy's gang. The thieves escaped en route via Trout Lake with around $24,000 and none of the stolen money was ever retrieved.


After the beginning of World War I, Telluride's mining came to a halt with prices of precious metals declining. Not until the 1970's did a new era come upon Telluride - skiing. The community came together to sculpt a ski area, which helped to revitalize Telluride's economy. Founder Joe Zoline installed the first chairlift in 1974 and in 1978, Ron Allred and his partner, Jim Wells formed the Telluride Company and bought the ski area.

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