When Teller County was carved out of the western portion of El Paso County and the northern limits of Fremont county in March of 1899, officials paid homage to Colorado’s colorful Henry Moore Teller.
As one of the state’s first United States Senators, Teller’s efforts in support free coinage of silver and other “silver question” policies, made him a hero in this mining community. In fact, with his bi-metallic focus, he emerged as silver’s leading proponent throughout Colorado, the Western United States, and among lawmakers in Washington.
In addition to battling “Gold Bugs,” Teller had widespread impact in other significant areas including Indian affairs, conservation, and “secured the adoption of the Teller Resolution to the declaration of war with Spain, which pledged the United States to an independent Cuba,” according to the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia.
In another interesting Teller footnote, when the race between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford Hayes was still undetermined in February of 1877, Teller and the new state of Colorado became a factor. Colorado’s electoral votes went to Hayes.
“The significance of Colorado’s popular and electoral college vote was obvious; without it, Democrat Tilden would have won outright,” contends Duane A. Smith. Smith, a Fort Lewis College history professor and author of the 2002 book, “Henry M. Teller: Colorado’s Grand Old Man.”
“The Democratic press later charged that the wealth of the leading Colorado Republicans, mostly mining men, overwhelmed the state’s Democrats. (Jerome) Chaffee and Teller headed the list of the prominent men who ‘played such an important part in the matter of presidential succession.’ And at no time since has Colorado played as significant a role in the presidential election,” says Smith’s book.
But the Silver issue later cleaved the Republicans and eventually Teller’s loyalties to the party. The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress describes Teller’s rather unique party affiliation record and political career.
“ … Upon the admission of Colorado as a State into the Union in 1876, (Teller) was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate; reelected, and served from November 15, 1876, until his resignation on April 17, 1882., to accept a Cabinet position, … appointed Secretary of the Interior in the Cabinet of Chester Arthur 1882-1885; elected as a Republican to the United States Senate in 1885 and 1891, a Silver Republican in 1897, and as a Democrat in 1903, and served from March 4, 1885 to March 3, 1909; declined to be a candidate for nomination…”
In addition to Teller County, his namesake graces Teller Mountain, near the headwaters of the Platte and Swan Rivers, Teller City ( a ghost town presently) in North Park, Teller House in Central City, and Teller Harbor, the most northerly harbor on the American side of the Bering Sea in Alaska, as well as the village of Teller, about 60 miles northwest of Nome, Alaska.