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Old County Seats

Brief by Central Staff

Colorado Lore – April 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

The March quiz about place names from other languages provoked a few responses, and most of them got most of the answers right.

Our official answers (“official” can mean “used in an office,” so it fits, even if nobody here holds any office):

1. Exit or Gateway (Spanish): Salida. We liked the “Dead End” signs in Puerto Rico, which say “Calle Sin Salida,” or “Street without exit.”

2. Exit or Gateway (French): La Porte, near Fort Collins.

3. Pretty View (Spanish): Buena Vista.

4. Pretty View (French): Bellvue, also near Fort Collins.

5. Big River (Spanish): Rio Grande.

6. Big River (French) (pre-1922 Colorado): Grand River. Colorado was on the south edge of France’s New World Empire, and on the north edge of Spain’s. Thus many place names in northern Colorado are French, and there are more Spanish names in the south.

7. Blue-green Place (Ute): Saguache. The Southern Ute spectrum uses the same word for blue and green. This comes from the dictionary published by the tribal office in Ignacio.

8. Shining Pile (Quechua): Cotopaxi. It is named for the resemblance of a nearby mountain to the volcano in Ecuador, whose name comes from the local Indian language, Quechua.

9. Salt Marsh (French): Those who know French say this is somewhat slangy, but it’s Bayou Salado, an old term for South Park, inspired by the brine of Salt Creek.

10. Cottonwoods (Spanish): Alamosa. This also shows up in the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, and in Los Alamos, N.M. In formal Spanish, àlamo means poplar, a related tree, and àlamo temblòn (trembling poplar) is aspen.

11. Rabbits (Spanish): Conejos. Every so often, you’ll hear a Denver broadcaster refer to “Cone Joss County.”

12. Footpath (Ute), Gentle (Spanish), or Tobacco (possibly Dineh): All are possible origins for the word Poncha (also poncho and punche), as in the pass, the town, or the springs.

13. Married Woman (Hebrew): Beulah, southwest of Pueblo. There’s more about this in the correspondence section of this edition. Another Colorado town’s name, Manassa, also comes from Hebrew, from Manasseh, a masculine name that literally means “causing to forget.” The town was named by Mormon settlers for Manasseh the elder son of Joseph (Genesis 41:51); the name also refers to a tribe of Israel (one of the “Ten Lost Tribes”) descended from Manasseh. Another Manasseh was a king of Judah in the 7th century (II Kings 21:16-18; II Chronicles 32:33 and 33:1-23).

14. Stinking Water (Ute): Pagosa [Springs].

15. Fly (Spanish): Mosca. The origin of mosquito — “little fly” — should be evident.

16. Rodent (Spanish): Raton [Pass and Mesa].

17. Breasts of the Earth (Indian): No one seems to know what language this is from, but the word is Wahatoyah, and a similar linguistic process produced the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. Colorado’s eminences near Walsenburg are also known as Los Cumbres Españolas and the Spanish Peaks.

18. Route of the Buffalo (Ute): Cochetopa.

19. Spoon (Spanish): Cucharas.

20. Flowery (Latin): Florissant. Florida Creek would also work.

Now for some history with the geography. Several counties have endured conflicts over the location of the county seat (Grand County even had a shooting war in 1882), and the seats have changed over the years.

So, here’s a list of one-time county seats, and you get to match the county. They’re all in rural Colorado, and most, but not all, are around here.


1. Ula

2. Dayton

3. Wason

4. Guadalupe

5. Granite

6. Laurette

7. Badito

8. Parrott City

9. San Miguel

10. Boggsville


A. Bent

B. Lake

C. Park

D. Chaffee

E. Conejos

F. Mineral

G. Huerfano

H. La Plata

I. Costilla

J. Custer