History

Prior to the 1870s, and the development of the northern coal fields, settlers living along Coal Creek eked out their living as farmers or merchants. The few communities existing along the front range were miles apart by stagecoach or horseback.

Throughout the 1860s, stagecoach companies delivered freight, mail, and passengers to destinations along the foothills. The Overland Stage traveled from Denver to Laramie each day, following much the same route as the present U.S. Highway 287. Contact with distant friends and relatives improved with the coming of the railroad to Erie in 1871. Even after its arrival, however, travelers heading to Longmont had to continue on by stagecoach or spring wagon. Those bound for Boulder detrained at the Erie terminal and boarded a stage for the final destination.

Feel like experiencing Erie history in real life? Consider following the Historic Preservation Advisory Board's Historic Walking Tour next time you are Downtown!

  1. 1823
  2. 1861-1865
  3. 1860
  4. 1866
  5. 1867
  6. 1870

Richard J Van ValkenburgReverend Jeptha Van Valkenburg (founder of Erie) born in Schoharie County, New York in 1823.

Reverend Richard J. Van Valkenburg of Erie, Weld County, is known far and wide and is deservedly esteemed in religious, fraternal, and civic circles. Van Valkenburg made his way to Colorado from Erie, Pennsylvania. Not only was he the founder of the Erie Methodist Church, but he helped organize the establishment of the Town, which was named for his place of birth, Erie, PA. He served Erie as Mayor, postmaster, police judge, president of the school board, and justice of the peace 

The Town of Erie was officially established on November 16, 1874.

Early Settlers

Social interaction among early settlers was limited, and families traveled great distances to attend church, school, or grange meetings. Many relied on circuit-riding preachers to bring them the gospel once or twice a month. Such a man was Reverend Richard Van Valkenburg, civic leader and a founder of Erie, Colorado. Having spent many years as a Methodist preacher in the coal towns near Erie, Pennsylvania, the reverend thought it fitting to bestow that name on its western counterpart. 

The original plat for Erie was filed in 1871, following the establishment of the Briggs Mine, the first commercial coal mine in Weld County. Until that time, surface coal had been delivered to its customers by horse and wagon. 

Railroad Growth

It was also in 1871 that the Union Pacific Railroad extended a spur westward from Brighton on its main line between Denver and Cheyenne. Coal from the Erie deposits was needed to fuel their huge steam locomotives. The Boulder Valley Railroad, as it was called then, opened up the northern coal fields for development. Soon, coal from Erie mines was being shipped by rail to markets in Denver and as far east as Kansas City.

The Town of Erie was incorporated in 1874.

  1. 1871
  2. 1874
  3. 1875
  4. 1876
  5. 1877
  6. 1878
  7. 1879
  8. 1881-1889
  9. 1890-1898

Garfield MineThe first coal mining patent, bearing President U.S. Grant's signature is granted to John B. McCool. Briggs Mine is also established, the first commercial coal mine in the Erie area. Coal miners strike in Erie; 12 miners jailed.

Mining was the most significant industry in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Colorado. What spurred the advance of coal mining was the revitalization of metal mining in the late 1860s, coupled with the first railroad construction in Colorado. The impact of the railroads came first in the Northern Coalfield. In 1871, the Boulder Valley Railroad, building off the Denver Pacific line, laid track to the new town of Erie, some 20 miles north of Denver, and stimulated renewed development of the Northern Coalfield. Production of the Boulder Valley Mine surged as it became Colorado's largest producer for a time, and overall the statewide coal industry grew strongly, based primarily on the renewed output from the field. Erie became the most important coal town in Colorado.

Pictured: The Garfield Mine #2, south of Erie closed in 1905 from the Lois Regnier Waneka collection.

1900s

  1. 1900-1910
  2. 1911-1915
  3. 1917-1926
  4. 1927
  5. 1928-1929
  6. 1930-1935
  7. 1940-1949
  8. 1960-1969
  9. 1970-1979

1900: Three Webber brothers were killed in a mining accident that claimed more than 300 miners. A memorial to the Webbers was established in the Methodist Church.

1901: Erie now has three doctors in Town. 

1910: Northern Coal Fields labor strikes close all mines of the Northern Colorado coal fields. The strike lasts for four years. Deputies guard coal properties and wages voluntarily increased after several strikes.

In 1910, a Flu epidemic is experience in Town.

2000

  1. 2000-2010

MemorialIn 2000, Erie's street paving is completed and a Coal Miner Memorial was dedicated in front of Town Hall in memory of the Coal Miners of Erie and the Northern Coal fields.


Children museumIn 2001, Loraine Davis Children's Library opens and serves the children of Erie until 2008 when the Erie Community Library opens.


In 2005, Erie High School opens and is located on the northeast corner of Erie Parkway and County Line Road 5.

Wise HomesteadIn July 2007, the Wise Homestead Museum opened to the public. The Erie Historical Society was founded in 1984 to preserve Erie's history. The Wise Homestead dates back to 1869, when Oliver Wise, his wife Adaline, and their three children came across the plains from Wisconsin to settle in Colorado.

Community LibraryIn January 2008, the Erie Community Library, a full-service library for all ages, opened. The collection consisted of nearly 60,000 items (books, cassettes, CDs, and DVDs).

Erie Community CenterIn 2008, the Erie Community Center, a 63,000 square foot facility, brought aquatic offerings such as a lap pool, leisure pool, pool slide, splash tank, lazy river and spray area. The fitness center is two levels with a gymnasium, running track, racquetball courts, a child care facility, outdoor playground, indoor playground and multi-purpose community rooms.

Black Rock ElementaryIn 2008, Black Rock Elementary School opens in the Vista Ridge subdivision on Eries southern side.

In 2009, Erie's population is approximately 18,000.

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