The first governor of Colorado Territory, William Gilpin, was appointed by Abraham Lincoln and served 1861-62. Born in Pennsylvania in 1813, Gilpin participated in several western expeditions in the 1840s, served as a Major in the Mexican-American War, and was made a General in charge of protecting white settlers on the Santa Fe Trail. When the Civil War broke out, Governor Gilpin helped raise troops to defend Colorado Territory from Confederate invasion. He was removed from office a the following year after bringing the territory into debt. Gilpin’s post-gubernatorial career focused on railroad expansion. He died in 1894; Gilpin County is named for him.
Publications from Gilpin’s governorship are rare, but you can come to our library to view the 1861 House Journal of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Colorado. Secondary sources on Gilpin include several articles in Colorado Magazine, including
- “The Civil Administration of Governor William Gilpin,” by Sheldon S. Zweig, in the July 1954 issue.
- “My Recollections of William Gilpin,” by Clarence S. Jackson, which is Jackson’s recollections of Gilpin’s visits to his boyhood home in the 1880s. Jackson’s father was the famed photographer William Henry Jackson. This article appears in the July 1949 issue.
- “William Gilpin: Sinophile and Eccentric,” by Kenneth Porter, which discusses his views on the Chinese and railroads, in the October 1960 issue.
- “William Gilpin and the Destruction of the Desert Myth,” in the Spring 1969 issue, which explores how Gilpin served as one of the West’s great promoters and sought to shatter the myth of the “Great American Desert.”
You can also find a biography of Gilpin’s wife, Julia, in “Colorado’s First Ladies: Julia Pratte Gilpin,” in the October 1961 issue.
For more resources on all of Colorado’s governors visit our library’s web catalog.
Photo courtesy Colorado State Archives