Many of the early settlers in the Pikes Peak Region, most of them men, were disappointed gold seekers. “There are thirty-two men farmin’ here,” exclaimed one transplanted Pennsylvania woman to a visitor in 1866, “and not one of them married-a set of good-for-nothing old bachelors!” But at the time she spoke, the Civil War had recently ended. A new rush of settlers began heading west to claim their 160 acres, thanks to the Homestead Act of 1862, and railroad companies were again directing their attention to spanning the continent.
In 1870, before the arrival of the railroad, El Paso County had a population of only 987 people. Most of the farming was, by necessity, done by irrigation. The early crops were wheat, corn, oats, barley, hay, and potatoes. Timber was harvested from the forests of the Divide area and sawed into lumber at local mills. Improved land in the county was estimated at 4,457 acres. Ten years later, however, the population had jumped to 7,949, with 3,555 of that total being female. There were 210 farms in the county and improved land now approached 16,000 acres. Over 29,000 bushels of wheat were harvested, 16,000 of corn, and 14,000 of potatoes. Dairy cows produced 8,860 gallons of milk, and farmers made an amazing 46,719 pounds of butter. Agriculture was clearly the primary industry.
Where crops could not be grown, livestock could. Texas longhorns and native Mexican sheep made up the first herds and flocks, but ranchers soon improved these with purebred stock brought from the East. In 1877, El Paso County had approximately 26,347 cattle and 101,643 sheep ranging within its borders-more sheep than any other county in Colorado. In 1880, when the sheep count had grown to 122,416, approximately 568,833 pounds of wool were harvested.
While farmers and ranchers made up a good portion of the region’s population, they were not the only settlers. The arrival of the railroad, the founding of Colorado Springs in 1871, and a growing population, encouraged by creative advertising campaigns, brought health-seekers, merchants, laborers, teachers, doctors, and others. Only one black person lived in El Paso county in 1870. Ten years later there were 159 (the majority living in Colorado Springs) and in 1900 blacks numbered over 1,000.