Major Significant Events in the Area


The events at Lamb Spring happened from about 13,000 years forward.  A bison kill conducted by people from the Cody Complex occured at the Spring around 8800 years ago.  Native Americans moved through the area for many years but never set up permanent settlements.  The Utes moved around this area in the 1500's, migrating up from Southern California.  Then, in the 1700's the Comanche came in from the northern plains.  The Cheyenne and Arapaho also moved through Highlands Ranch. 


From the time of the earliest European settlements in the 16th and 17th centuries, eastern Colorado was part of the territory of French Louisiana, an administrative district of New France, France's New World colonies.  Louisiana essentially comprised most of the drainage basin of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.  On the west, it bordered New Mexico, a province of New Spain, which included Spain's colonies in Mexico and the rest of Western North America.  After its defeat by Great Britain in the Seven Years War, France ceded all of Louisiana west of the Mississippi River to Spain in 1763 under terms of the Treaty of Paris.  Spain governed Louisiana as a Spanish province with its capital in New Orleans.

In 1800, France and Spain were allied against Great Britain's interests, though there was no open warfare at the time.  That year, under the third Treaty of San Ildefonso, Spain ceded Louisiana back to France in return for land in Italy and other considerations.  The transfer was kept a secret, and Spain continued to administer the territory.  In 1803, France went to war with Great Britain, and First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte, fearing he might lose Louisiana to a British invasion, agreed to sell it to the United States for $15,000,000 in cash and debt cancellations.   Thomas Jefferson negotiated this "Louisiana Purchase".  Spain formally ceded Louisiana back to France shortly before it was sold to the United States.


Early explorers moved through the area setting up the original trails of travel in this region.  The Highlands Ranch area is bordered on the west by the historic Santa Fe Trail between Denver and Santa Fe, New Mexico, which ran along modern day US 85, also known as Santa Fe Drive. Starting in the 1830s, various trails linked numerous trading posts and civilian forts to the plains and along the Front Range.   Some of the most important trails crossed what became Douglas County.  Among these were Trappers Trail, whose many branches followed West Plum Creek, East Plum Creek and Cherry Creek.  Jimmy Camp Trail was named after mountain man Jimmy Daugherty and followed East Cherry Creek.  The more heavily traveled Cherokee Trail followed West Cherry Creek and became a main thoroughfare for gold seekers in he later 1850s. 

The Gold Rush of 1859 brought many people to and through the Douglas County area.  In 1858 William Green Russell brought a group of family and friends to Colorado, found gold in Cherry Creek, and for a while settled in Douglas County (Russellville).  One hundred thousand "Fifty-niners" followed, many of them taking the Cherokee and Smoky Hills Trails through Douglas County.