History of Pueblo, CO
George Simpson, among other traders and trappers such as Mathew Kinkead, claimed to have helped construct the plaza that became known as El Pueblo or Fort Pueblo around 1842. George married Juana Maria Suaso and lived there for a year or two before moving; however, Simpson had no legal title to the land. The adobe structures were built with the intention of settlement and trade next to the Arkansas River, which then formed the U.S./Mexico border. About a dozen families lived there, trading with Native American tribes for hides, skins, livestock, as well as (later) cultivated plants, and liquor. Evidence of this trade, as well as other utilitarian goods, such as Native American pottery shards were found at the recently excavated site. According to accounts of residents who traded at the plaza (including that of George Simpson), the fort was raided sometime between December 23 and December 25, 1854, by Native American Utes and Jacarilla Apaches. They allegedly killed between fifteen and nineteen men, one woman, and captured two children. The trading post was abandoned after the raid, but it became important again between 1858 and 1859 during the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859. The current city of Pueblo represents the consolidation of four towns: Pueblo (incorporated 1870), South Pueblo (incorporated 1873), Central Pueblo (incorporated 1882), and Bessemer (incorporated 1886). Pueblo, South Pueblo, and Central Pueblo legally consolidated as the City of Pueblo between March 9 and April 6, 1886. Bessemer joined Pueblo in 1894.
The consolidated city was once a major economic and social center of Colorado, and was home to important early Colorado families the Thatchers, Ormans and Adams. Until a series of major floods culminated in the Great Flood of 1921, Pueblo was considered the 'Saddle-Making capital of the World'. Roughly one-third of Pueblo's downtown businesses were lost in this flood, along with a substantial number of buildings. Pueblo has long struggled to come to grips with this loss, and has only recently begun a resurgence in growth.
The economic situation of Pueblo was further exacerbated by the decline of American steel in the 1970s and 1980s, and Pueblo still actively seeks to diversify its economic base. The City features a river walk, extensive trail system, industrial park, and revitalized downtown area to this effect.
The Steel Mill
The main industry in Pueblo for most of its history was the Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) steel mill on the south side of town. The steel-market crash of 1982 led to the decline of the company. After going through several bankruptcies, the company was acquired by Oregon Steel Mills and recently changed its name to Rocky Mountain Steel Mills. Since the acquisition, the company has been plagued with labor problems, mostly due to accusations of unfair labor practices. The problems culminated with a major strike in 1997, leading to most of the workforce being replaced.
However in September 2004, both local Unions 2102 & 3267 won the strike and the unfair labor practice charges. All of the striking steel workers were returned to their jobs, and the company was forced to repay a record amount of back pay to all of the striking steel workers for the 7 years of the strike. Some have called this a significant win for labor and the many families affected by the 7 year strike.
Of the many production and fabrication mills which once existed on the site, only the steel production (electric furnaces, used for scrap recycling), rail, rod, bar, and seamless tube mills are still in operation. The wire mill was sold in the late 1990s to Davis Wire, which still produces products such as fence and nails under the CF&I brand name.
The facility operated blast furnaces until 1982, when the bottom fell out of the steel market. The main blast furnace structures were torn down in 1989, but due to asbestos content, many of the adjacent stoves still remain. The stoves and foundations for some of the furnaces can be easily seen from Interstate 25, which runs parallel to the plant's west boundary.
Several of the administration buildings, including the main office building, dispensary, and tunnel gatehouse were purchased in 2003 by the Bessemer Historical Society. They are currently undergoing renovation. In addition to housing the historic CF&I Archives, the first phase of the project has been turned into the Steelworks Museum of Industry and Culture.
President Woodrow Wilson, on a speaking tour to gather support for the entry of the United States into the League of Nations, collapsed on September 25, 1919 following a speech in Pueblo. He suffered a stroke a week later which incapacitated him for the rest of his presidency.
Theodore Roosevelt arrived at the Pueblo Union Depot in order to lay the first brick down for the Y.M.C.A., and also check the water resources in Colorado.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower Jan. 16, 1957, toured drought-stricken regions of Pueblo County amid 20-degree weather.
President George H. W. Bush (when he was Vice President) visited the Pueblo Nature Center's Raptor Center to release an American Bald Eagle that had its wings healed.
Other national leaders to visit Pueblo include Presidents John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton, Senator John Kerry, and Vice President Al Gore.
In the 2008 presidential campaign, both major party candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, visited Pueblo as part of their campaigns. Colorado was considered a key swing state in that election, with Obama becoming the first Democratic candidate since Clinton in 1992 to win the state's electoral votes.
Pueblo State Hospital
Historically the other major employer in Pueblo was the State Hospital, which formerly served the entire state. Established in 1879 as the Colorado State Insane Asylum, it was known as the Colorado State Hospital after 1917. In 1991, the name was changed to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP). Currently under construction is the new Forensic Medium and Maximum Security Center, a 200 bed, state-of-the-art high security facility.