Many flags have flown over this landBy Rob Carrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Immigration is not what it used to be.
Born in Taos, New Mexico, Mariano Medina is widely credited with being the local area's first businessman and permanent resident. That area, mostly in Loveland city limits now, was like a lot of Colorado pre-gold rush ... sparsely populated.
And like many mountain men, Medina, having associated with the French, French Canadians, Spanish, English, Mexicans, and various Native American tribes probably had developed his own way to communicate in the swirl of different cultural realities. Medina was said to speak 13 different languages, with Spanish as a primary.
"First white'ee man on the Creek!" proclaimed Medina in 1858 when he showed up on the Big Thompson in what then was the un-granted western district of the Territory of Nebraska, wrote Medina biographer Zethyl Gates, in Mariano Medina, Colorado Mountain Man, (1981).
According to American Immigration Council, today nearly 1 in 10 Colorado residents is an immigrant, and a similar share of residents are native-born U.S. citizens who have at least one immigrant parent.
Back then, there was less than 35,000 people in the whole state of Colorado, which is just about half the current population of the city of Loveland.
Gates notes that Medina's father was from Spain and his mother was from New Mexico. About the time Medina was born in 1821, the census of Fernandez de Taos counted 753 Indians and 1,260 Spanish and others (This was largest of the three possible areas known as "Taos" of that era.)
Even the the Native American tribes had exchanged territory in what was to become Colorado in recent times of the millennium prior to Medina, and his other mountain man friends Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, Charles Autobees, and the Bent brothers.
"During the 1700s, the eastern plains sustained various tribes, most notably the Apache, the Pawnee, Comanche. All of the tribes fought with the Spanish, whose horses they took," says the Historic Atlas of Colorado, by Thomas J. Noel, Paul F. Mahoney and Richard E. Stevens.
"Central and Western Colorado had been the homeland for the Utes for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The Utes differ from the plains tribes in that they belong to the Shoshonean linguistic family centered in Utah and the Great Basin."
Loveland historian Kenneth Jessen, said Medina established a small settlement west of Loveland that was later named Namaqua.
"Medina was a small man of Mexican descent with jet-black hair, which never turned gray as he aged. He had piercing, coal-black eyes and a swarthy face. His feet were small, and his hands showed the effects of an outdoor life. He wore rich, colorful clothing and with the side seams of his trousers slashed to mid‑calf with an insert of red cloth," wrote Jessen.
"Medina claimed to be well educated by Spanish priests and could speak 13 different languages. Although Spanish was his native tongue, he knew a little English. From his fur trapping days, Medina could also converse in some Indian dialects," Jessen writes.
After a colorful career, including acting as a guide for one of Fremont's expeditions, he met Louis Elbert Papin in 1844. Papin, like Medina, was a mountain man. Papin had a Flathead Indian wife named Tacaney, and at the time they met, Tacaney was pregnant with Papin's child.
"Papin wanted to return to civilization, but his wife insisted that she remain close to her people. Medina, who had spent a solitary life as a trapper and scout, reasoned that it was time for him to settle down. For some horses and a blanket, Medina purchased Papin's wife, and when the baby was born, Tacaney named the child Louis Papin. (His last named was later changed to Papa.)
During the summer of 1858, prospector George Andrew Jackson met Antoine and Nicholas Janis and Jose de Mirabal in Fort Laramie. These men traveled south to the Big Thompson River where they built a few cabins allowing them to spend the winter trapping. Medina joined them, but unlike the others, his plans were to establish a permanent settlement," according several accounts from Jessen.
Medina filed a homestead claim after the area was surveyed. In 1860, the Rocky Mountain News took note of Medina's new town the newspaper called Miraville.
"Medina recruited Mexican families from Taos to help him work the land and build up the population of the small village. To provide some income, a sturdy toll bridge was constructed over the river.
An Indian raid prompted Medina to construct a small 15-foot by 25-foot stone fort with gun ports that allowed defenders to shoot in any direction. His home was an 18-foot by 20-foot log structure with two doors and three windows. The other cabins, including Medina's combination store‑saloon, were arranged around a plaza," Jessen says.
Travelers could stay in a long low building that included a dining and cooking area as well as several bedrooms. In the adobe store-saloon, Tacaney sold her handmade garments, including buckskin pants and moccasins. This was the only store of any kind in a wide area. In 1862, Medina's settlement gained prominence when Ben Holladay moved the Overland Stage route from central Wyoming south into Colorado. Indian raids prompted the move as well as the growing Denver market. The route north from Denver followed what was generally known as the Cherokee Trail, which ran along the foothills through Laporte. The route crossed the Big Thompson River at Medina's small settlement. A stage station was established with James Boutwell and his wife Sarah as managers. Not only did they receive a paycheck, they also were given the right to homestead 160 acres, according to Jessen.
The cemetery at Namaqua, though graves have been moved, survives in part today out on Namaqua Road.
A friend of the Medina family died and was buried on a small hill about a half mile south of the settlement. This was the start of a cemetery. In 1864, two of Medina's children passed away and were buried next to the friend. Medina constructed of a wall of dry stacked stone around the graves. It was whitewashed and kept immaculate. The gate in front topped by a blue cross. Ironically when Medina died in 1878, the cemetery was full, and he was buried outside the south wall. The place was named Namaqua by Hiram Tadder with the establishment of a post office in 1868 that lasted 11 years.
The geographical territory which comprises the present-day state of Colorado has historically been under many flags, according to information from the Colorado State Archives. Following are some interesting elements of that Colorado immigration experience.
- Coronado's expedition into the Southwest in 1540-42, according to leaders of the country, legitimized Spain's claim to the entire western interior region of what would become the United States.
- Similarly, In 1662, when LaSalle floated down the Mississippi River, he claimed for the French the entire drainage area of the "Father of Waters,” which included a substantial area of Colorado.
- During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the British Colonies of New England and Virginia extended their theoretical boundaries all the way to the Pacific coast, overlapping the French and Spanish claims.
- Between 1763 and 1848, France, Spain, Mexico, and the Republic of Texas all claimed varying proportions of Colorado.
- In 1803, when Napoleon withdrew his claims to the West and negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, a part of Colorado came under US jurisdiction for the first time.
- Between 1803 and 1861, present-day Colorado saw flags of the District of Louisiana (part of Indiana Territory), Territory of Louisiana, Missouri Territory, the State of Deseret (predecessor to Utah), Utah Territory, New Mexico Territory, Nebraska Territory, and Kansas Territory.
- On February 28, 1861, when Colorado Territory was created, the present boundaries were established and have remained unchanged.
- On August 1, 1876, Colorado became the thirty-eighth state to enter the Union under the flag of the United States.