By Matthew C. Soper
Where did the name of Crawford come from anyway? On the Western slope of Colorado, it depends on what or whom you mean when you mention the word “Crawford.” There are actually three different Crawford’s who have had the honor of playing a vital role in the development of western Colorado. Two have left enduring marks on the western slope: one because his name was given to a town in Delta County and the other who had a United State Army post named for him. The third Crawford was a gentleman who, in the 1880’s, used his wit and wisdom to craft several towns on Colorado’s western slope.
The Town of Crawford, Colorado, was named for Captain George Crawford, a retired Indian Scout and wanderer who happened upon the area west of Needle Rock (a local landmark near present-day Crawford, Colorado,) in 1882 and told a few settlers there that that spot would make a terrific location for a post office. A year later, in 1883, a post office was officially established by the United States Post Office department. His name became the name of the postmark and the town was officially created. Crawford never became a boom town because the railroad bypassed the location.
In December 1886, Fort Crawford (located near present-day Colona) was named for Captain Emmet Crawford, who had been killed that same year while riding in pursuit of Geronimo’s Apache band in Mexico. By a tragic blunder, Crawford’s group of Indian scouts had been attacked by a Mexican force who mistakenly thought them to be hostiles. Crawford was mortally wounded before he could identify his opposing unit as friendly. The military post was created in 1879 at the request of Chief Ouray, who was concerned about illegal gold and silver miners being hostile to the Utes living in the San Juan region. At first the United States Army tried to pressure the miners into leaving the Ute Indian Reservation, but the miners threated an uprising if the Army took action, so the Army backed down and the miners were allowed to stay.
By the end of the decade, the poorly built and inadequate structures badly needed repairs and beyond that, the fort was no longer useful to the War Department. On December 31, 1890, Fort Crawford was deactivated and the buildings and the land were auctioned off. On June 5, 1966, a marker was formally dedicated, by the Chipeta Chapter of the Colorado Archaeological Society, on the site where the fort stood.
In the early 1880’s, the communities of Delta and Grand Junction, along with several others, were started by a frontier capitalist, speculator, and former governor of Kansas named George A. Crawford. Crawford had been elected governor of Kansas in 1861 and carried the title with him ever since. He helped with the creation of many towns on the western slope of Colorado.
Director, Delta County Historical Society and Museum