Denver was not always the city we know today - in fact, it wasn't even called Denver at first! Around 160 years ago, pioneers headed west looking for gold, and many of them stopped at the confluence of the South Platte River and the Cherry Creek. They established the first settlements that ultimately lead to Denver. But first we had Montana City, Auraria, and St. Charles.
Montana City was the first chartered settlement in what is now known as Denver, Colorado. It was established during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. At the time it was established in Kansas territory. It's located 9 miles upstream of Confluence Park along the South Platte River. Today, Denver has a newly renovated public park where Montana City once was, called Grant-Frontier Park.
Auraria and St. Charles
Auraria was founded by William Greeneberry Russell, a pioneer who was a part of a group of settlers from Georgia. Russell and his brothers decided on the name Auraria as a derivation of the Latin term aurum, or gold, which reflects their focus on searching for gold. Auraria was unique in that its founders engaged in some early urban planning, creating neat blocks with regular lots.
Soon after Auraria was established, the town of St. Charles was formed on the opposite banks of the Cherry Creek. This new town was established by William Larimer, and the two towns experienced a heated rivalry until they decided to merge and become Denver City in 1860.
William Larimer Jr. chose the name Denver City for James W. Denver, who at the time was the Governor of Kansas territory. The city was destroyed by a fire in 1863 and then a year later a huge flood swept away many buildings, including city hall. They rebuilt their new town, and ultimately dropped “City” from the town name when Western Union chose Denver for its regional terminus.