A Central-Colorado-Centric Synopsis of the past millennium

Article by Martha Quillen

The Millennium – February 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

1000 – 1099 The Eleventh Century

The Anasazi farm in the Four Corners region and build superb homes with impressive community facilities for ceremonial events and food storage.

Ute and Apache bands hunt, camp and wander through what is now Central Colorado, discovering mountain routes and developing footpaths.

Leif Eriksson discovers America (c. 1000). But apparently he and his men don’t see anything that makes them want to move here.

William of Normandy conquers England (1066), thereby infusing Anglo-Saxon culture with French customs, mannerisms and language. Thus, the English people end up speaking three languages: Old English (the Anglo-Saxon tongue introduced by invading Angles, Saxons and Jutes 600 years earlier), Latin, and Celtic. At this point, Old English has been heavily modified by conquering Danes and invading Vikings speaking Scandinavian languages that are similar to Anglo-Saxon but not the same.

Pope Urban II calls for a crusade to regain the Holy Lands (1095), thereby kicking off a two-hundred year European tradition of storming Byzantium.

1100 – 1199 The Twelfth Century

The Song of Roland (1100) heralds an Age of Chivalry in which warfare and soldiering are presented in unabashedly romantic poems and narratives that espouse valor, purity, honor, chastity, loyalty, and courtly love.

People speaking Old English have dropped so many endings and inflections that scholars identify the language they use after 1150 (plus or minus several decades) as significantly different and call it Middle English.

Glass mirrors with a metal backing are first produced in Italy. Previously, mirrors were made of polished metal, usually silver.

The Anasazi build stylish apartment houses, including the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde (c. 1175).

Apache migrate down from northern Rockies to visit relatives in Colorado and New Mexico, and many decide to stay.

1200 – 1299 The Thirteenth Century

Drought drives the Anasazi from their cities in Colorado (c. 1275-1295).

Crusaders sack Constantinople (1204). Mongols invade Russia (1238). In Europe, guilds dominate the trades.

Lots of lawyers, administrators and merchants in Europe learn to read and write. Whereas previously only the clergy could read, now many people can.

More Apache visit and decide to stay.

1300 – 1399 The Fourteenth Century

The Black Death kills as many as half of the people in Europe (1348 – 1350).

John Wycliffe and other dissenters introduce a Protestant Reformation.

1400 – 1499 The Fifteenth Century

Johannes Gutenberg successfully devises a new printing method that employs movable type, and prints his famed bible (1455), but Gutenberg immediately loses all of his equipment in a lawsuit brought by an investor who has quarreled with the inventor over his slow and meticulous progress on the venture. Gutenberg’s method of printing is used without significant change for the next four hundred years.

Columbus rediscovers America (1492), and proves himself to be an able seaman, but a miserable administrator. Columbus fights with the mayors he leaves in charge of newly discovered islands, appoints his inexperienced brothers to important posts, angers and enslaves natives, and incites his associates into mutiny; then tries to restore order by hanging several of his men. Though Isabella and Ferdinand remain sympathetic to their capable Admiral, in 1499 they appoint a new governor and chief magistrate to oversee Española.

In the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, Portugal and Spain divide the non-Christian world between them by an imaginary line in the Atlantic (about 1,300 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands). By treaty, Portugal can claim everything to the east , and Spain everything to the west of that line (which in the New World leaves Portugal with only the jutting coast of Brazil). At this point, neither knows that their boundary overlaps on the other side of the globe.

Chamber music, music designed to be played in the home rather than the church or theater, becomes popular in Europe. Small ensembles, performing instrumental and/or vocal music, entertain in both drawing rooms and palace chambers.

Beleaguered by Protestants and daunted by the strange alchemical and astrological ideas the crusaders have acquired in the Middle East, the Roman Church officially cracks down on witchcraft in 1484. Soon Protestants (though originally victimized by such customs) also zealously embrace them, and thus, witch hunts — which have long been a popular diversion in Europe — become a serious business.

1500 – 1599 The Sixteenth Century

Native Americans obtain Spanish horses, and woodland tribes from the Mississippi and Great Lakes regions venture further and further out onto the plains to hunt.

Though archaic and puzzling in vocabulary, the English spoken by 1500 has pretty much taken on its contemporary form, and hence is called modern English.

After four voyages to the New World, Columbus dies in Spain in 1506 still convinced that he has discovered a trade route to Asia, and that the wealth and treasures of the Khan lie just beyond Cuba. On his last expedition in 1502, Columbus writes from the Caribbean to the King and Queen of Spain that “from there to the river Ganges there are ten days.”

The Spanish government sends a confusing mix of colonists, priests, and administrators to the New World, and establishes the encomienda, a policy which entrusts natives to Spanish proprietors who are supposed to care for the natives both physically and spiritually. Instead, natives are often abused by administrators and captured by Spanish slavers, which leads reformer Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Dominican friar, to secure laws in 1542 ordering the abolition of the encomienda. Though protectionary policies are instituted by Spain, they are rarely obeyed.

In Europe, Martin Luther and John Calvin preach reformation, and numerous radical sects reject Catholicism. But a Counter Reformation also develops to lure people back to the Church of Rome.

Coronado wanders around the American southwest looking for Seven Cities of Gold (1540s). He doesn’t find them, but encounters numerous Indian villages, Zuni pueblos, the Grand Cañon, and Quivera (Kansas).

Michelangelo spruces up Italian churches.

By 1525, Spain rules over the Caribbean, Central America and much of South America, and by the late 1500s, only Spain and Portugal, then the universally renowned masters of the sea, have established successful colonies in the New World. But in 1580, King Philip of Spain seizes Portugal. And in 1588 the Spanish Armada is destroyed.

Don Juan de Oñate goes to New Mexico with 230 men, many with their families, to try to colonize the upper Rio Grande in 1598.

Witch-finding becomes an earnest profession in Germany, France, Spain, England, Scotland… Professionals employ tests, trials, and inspections to identify witches, warlocks, demons, werewolves, and their associates, until thousands upon thousands of “witches” in Europe are tortured, burned and hanged.

1600 – 1699 The Seventeenth Century

Horses encourage a profound change in lifestyle for many diverse and unrelated American tribes. While numerous tribes forsake fishing, gathering, farming and their old homes to move west, native tribes like the Utes also adopt and develop new customs once they can hunt larger game, move more freely, and carry more with them. Thus the modern, nomadic hunter/ warrior Plains Indian cultures are born.

As the century unfolds, Europeans colonize Africa, Asia, Australia, the Americas, and islands in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, the Caribbean, and the East China Sea.

Financial problems and a revolt by Acoma Pueblo compel colonizer Don Juan de Oñate to resign his position as governor of New Mexico in 1607. In 1610, Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asis (Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi) is founded in the “Kingdom of New Mexico” by new governor Don Pedro de Peralta. (But the city isn’t dedicated to St. Francis for its first 200 years, and thus doesn’t acquire that elongated but catchy name until much later).

With the Spanish Armada out of the way, the Dutch rise to be the world’s foremost naval power, with England and France fiercely contending. Before long, England, France, and the Netherlands arrive in North America to reconfigure the New World.

The pendulum clock is invented (1657).

Astronomical observations by Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo promote a Scientific Revolution. Newton and von Leibniz invent calculus, Descartes invents analytic geometry, Harvey discovers that blood circulates, and Leeuwenhoek discovers microscopic life.

John Locke explains in great detail why freedom of religion and freedom from kings who impose their religious beliefs upon their subjects comprise the only rational course.

1700 – 1799 The Eighteenth Century

According to modern estimations, the native population of the new world falls by more than nine-tenths between pre-colonial times and 1700, (from an estimated fifty million human beings to less than five million). But that steady decline of native peoples, primarily due to Old World disease, begins to reverse in the Eighteenth Century. Smallpox, cholera, measles and other scourges, however, continue to have a devastating toll on certain tribes, actually annihilating some.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho leave their woodland homes to settle in the Black Hills. The Kiowa leave the Missouri River area and return to their homeland on the plains south of the Arkansas River (which is thought to be their original abode because they speak a Azteco-Tanoan language common in New Mexico and Oklahoma). And the Comanche, relatives of the mountain Shoshoni, migrate south through Colorado and into New Mexico and Texas, where they drive out Apache, destroy Spanish missions, and otherwise make a considerable impression on their new neighbors. The Comanche and Kiowa, however, soon ally in loyal friendship.

As early as 1712, trappers and traders of Anglo descent range into the Rocky Mountains (illegally) to ply their trades. In 1765, Juan de Rivera leads a party through the San Juans and along the Gunnison River looking for gold. In 1776 Dominguez and Escalante explore in Central Colorado, and in 1779 Juan Baptista de Anza chases Cuerno Verde, a powerful Comanche chief, into the Arkansas Valley of Central Colorado. Anza slays Verde, but afterwards makes a lasting peace with the Comanche.

Newcomen (1705) and Watt (1769) invent steam engines.

The Americans (1776) and French (1789) revolt.

In an era of revolution, Rousseau’s philosophy celebrates the importance of freedom, nature and the common man. Thomas Jefferson extols the notion of an idyllic agrarian commonwealth. And Crevecoeur praises the pastoral, rural lifestyle available far away from the social complexity of Europe in his Letters from an American Farmer (1782). The popularity of such tenets promotes not only the American dream, but also concepts of the superiority of rural lifestyles and simple living.

Noah Webster tries to standardize American spelling with the publication of his American Spelling Book in 1783.

Jenner discovers a vaccine for smallpox (1796).

1800 – 1899 The Nineteenth Century

Bands of Arapaho and Cheyenne move south from the Black Hills, and many settle in what is now Front Range Colorado.

Perhaps because successful Revolutions have spawned a vision of change and freedom, literature veers toward the Romantic in the early 1800s — and much of that romance is with nature. In England, romantic poet William Wordsworth writes lyrical ballads about rainbows and yew trees, while in America, James Fenimore Cooper glories in the wilderness adventures of The Last of the Mohicans, but nature gets its biggest boost when Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau take it to transcendental heights.

Determined to expand the dominion of France, Napoleon Bonaparte defeats Austria and Sardinia, rules over Italy, occupies Corsica, invades but loses in Egypt and Syria, fights victoriously against Switzerland and Holland, wars with Great Britain, suffers huge defeats in Spain and Portugal, and encounters disaster in Russia. He is finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815.

Noah Webster escalates his attempt to improve American spelling with the publication of his Compendius Dictionary of the English Language in 1806, and An American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828, but most Colorado traders and diarists ignore his efforts.

Simon Bolivar, a soldier, statesman, and leader in the Latin American independence movement, frees Columbia (1819) from the Spanish, then liberates Venezuela (1821), Ecuador (1822), Peru (1824), and Bolivia (1825).

The U.S. keeps moving westward. The Louisiana Purchase is made in 1803. Zebulon Pike gets lost in Central Colorado from 1806 to 1807. The Santa Fé Trail from Missouri is established in 1822. And the Overland Trail (also known as the Oregon and California Trails) starts taking emigrants west in 1841. Miners, missionaries, settlers, outlaws, prostitutes, and government agents all head west. Although some argue that the country shouldn’t encroach on designated Indian lands and western wilderness, the phrase manifest destiny first appears in the 1840s and quickly gets embraced — which clearly expresses the belief of many that expansion is not only inevitable but also predestined and right.

The War of Texas Independence makes Texas an Independent Republic in 1836. But a mere decade later Texas joins the U.S. to fight Mexico. After the Mexican War (1846 – 1848) Texas becomes a state (1850), and New Mexico a territory (1851).

In the last half of the Nineteenth Century, gold rushes and dreams of mineral wealth draw crowds into California, Colorado, the Dakotas, the Yukon, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Montana where newcomers rapidly build settlements. Between 1859 and the turn of the century, Denver, Leadville, Fairplay, Cañon City, Buena Vista, Salida, Gunnison, Saguache, Crestone, Alamosa, Creede, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff are founded. But in those same years, Adelaide, Tabor City, Dayton, Monarch, Tomichi, Bowman, Spencer, Summitville, Ula, Dora, Galena, Parkville, Exchequerville Bordenville and dozens more are both founded and abandoned.

The American Civil War divides the country from 1861 to 1865 and beyond. Then in 1865 Amendment Thirteen to the U.S. Constitution abolishes slavery, and in 1870 Amendment 15 says race cannot be used to impede voting rights. Thus male slaves are free and have voting rights after the war, but are actually barred from practicing their rights in many localities.

The U.S. Homestead Act of 1862 promises 160 acres of public land to any person who files a claim, pays $10, and works his portion.

As the American Civil War wages, hostilities between white settlers and natives boil over, culminating in the Minnesota Massacre of settlers and the Sand Creek Massacre of peaceful (presumably government-protected) Cheyenne.

Decades of erratic federal policies, broken treaties, and bloody encounters — plus a lot of seething memories of conflicts and affronts — result in decades of Indian Wars (that have wounded the nation from the 1860s to the present — even though the battles ended in the 1890s).

Miners in Colorado demand safer conditions (1880s). In 1892, Colorado Populists demand an eight hour work day, a child labor law, employer liability legislation, and state operation of coal mines, and thereby gain a Populist governor and numerous seats in the state house and senate.

In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner looks around and laments that the American frontier — which has fostered so much enterprise, progress, and ingenuity — is full. But others in the 1890s look around and maintain that Americans have made a real mess of things — and their desire to clean up that mess establishes a whole new era of environmental awareness. In 1892, John Muir joins with like-minded friends and forms the Sierra Club to preserve wilderness. In 1896, a federal commission is formed to go from state to state evaluating the conditions of forests.

Women obtain suffrage in New Zealand in 1893, and by 1896 four U.S. states allow women to vote, all of them in the Rocky Mountain West. Suffrage is adopted by Wyoming Territory in 1869, and in the state of Colorado in 1893.

Fulton’s Steamboat (1807), Babbage’s Calculating Machine (1833), the sewing machine (1846), the glider (1853), Gatling’s machine gun (1862), barbed wire (1874), the telephone (1876), the phonograph (1877), the cash register (1879), the electric fan (1882), a gasoline powered automobile (1889), an electric automobile (1892), and Langley’s experimental airplane (1896) are invented.

Darwin introduces his Theory of Evolution (1859), and Pasteur presents his germ theory (1861).

Photographic processes are invented, reinvented, and improved upon throughout the century by Neipce, Daguerre, Ives and others. The Kodak Camera arrives in 1888, a moving picture machine in 1894, and in 1895 Marconi’s work with radio signals presage’s a whole new era in communications.

1900 – 1999 The Twentieth Century

Einstein formulates his Theory of Relativity (1905).

Colorado workers and corporations struggle over wages, hours and working conditions, and laborers decry company housing and company stores. In Colorado, violence and strikes arise repeatedly during the first three decades of the twentieth century.

Wilbur and Orville Wright introduce a motorized airplane (1903), DeForest comes out with a radio amplifier (1906), and scotch tape is invented (1930). Xerography is invented in 1938, the electronic computer in 1942, and the microwave oven in 1947. Talking pictures arrive in 1927, television in the 1920s (but television stations wait until the ’40s), and the first commercial video game scores in 1972.

Due greatly to four centuries of British imperialism into India, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the south Pacific, English is the dominant language in the world today, and some experts think it may someday be the first world language. But other linguists believe that dialects of English spoken in such diverse places as India, Jamaica and New Zealand will one day evolve into separate languages.

Communists overthrow the Russian royals in 1914.

World Wars rock the planet from 1914 to 1918, and from 1939 until 1945, when the first atomic bomb is used in warfare.

Women obtain suffrage in Australia in 1902, in Finland in 1906, in Norway in 1913, in Soviet Russia in 1917, in the U.S. in 1920, in France, Italy and China immediately after World War II, and in Switzerland in 1972.

Watson, Crick and Wilkins discover the structure of DNA in 1951.

Men walk on the moon (1969).

Environmental concerns animate the first Earth Day in 1970 and help establish the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act (1963), the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (1968), the Clean Water Act (1972), and the Endangered Species Act (1973), plus a host of organizations, periodicals, college courses, books, and films that focus on environmental issues.

Despite decades of awareness, civil rights remain an issue nationally and internationally, as minorities world-wide strive for freedom from persecution, equal protection under the law, impartial courts, and better opportunities in education, employment, and finances. But recent episodes of ethnic-cleansing and tribal genocide indicate that our struggles are far from over.

Americans discover shopping, the Japanese discover America, and the world discovers credit cards. Rapid electronic communication facilitates international banking, marketing and currency speculation — and the global economy is born. But despite grandiose optimism in the financial world about this brave new economy, fluctuations in Asian markets in the 1990s suggest that powerful players can still falter (just as the global economy once established by Spain, Portugal, England, France and the Netherlands proved that mighty empires can slip away).

Martha Quillen edits Colorado Central when she’s not reading.