Lafayette’s connection to the “Champion of Silver” and the 1891 Silver Brick Case

Interests vying for low-priced public lands in the 1860s, including land that would eventually become Lafayette, could be classified into three categories: Settlers seeking opportunity, railroad companies seeking right-of-way, and speculators desiring to exploit minerals.

Area settlers and experienced farmers such as Adolf Waneka, Hiram Prince, James B. Foote and Mary and Lafayette Miller comprised the first category. The second category was dominated by the Union Pacific railroad company which, between 1864 and 1902, patented over 6,000 acres of public land in and near Louisville and Lafayette.
The third category, those interested in the minerals laying below the surface, included coal speculators Francis P. Heatley and Edward Chase, who ran a billiard hall on Blake Street in Denver. Heatley and Chase owned the land where Old Town Lafayette sits, which they sold to town founder Mary Miller and her husband, Lafayette, in 1868.

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Mary Miller’s temperance beliefs influenced Lafayette’s street names

Mary Miller’s 1888 town of Lafayette plat featured 8 streets laid out on 37 acres.

When town founder Mary Miller attached street names to her newly-created Town of Lafayette, she did so in pairs and in an anti-alcohol state of mind. Her initial 37-acre, 1888 platting of the town featured eight streets that were named for family relations and temperance allies John B. Foote and John H. Simpson; famous temperance movement leaders John B. Gough and John B. Finch; cities she was fond of including Geneseo, N.Y. and Cleveland, Ohio; plus two states, Iowa and Michigan.

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1860: Colorado came close to be named “Lafayette”

When the question of territorial organization came up in the United States Senate the name “Jefferson” was promptly turned down. The list of proposed names included “Tampa,” “Idaho,” which was the name first accepted, “Nemara,” “San Juan,” “Lula,” “Arapahoe,” “Weappollao,” “Tahosa,” “Lafayette,” “Columbus,” “Franklin” and “Colona.” When the bill was about to pass, the name “Colorado” was ordered substituted for that of “Idaho.” On February 28, 1861, President Buchanan signed the bill creating the Territory of Colorado.

The name “Colorado” is the past participle of the Spanish verb “Colorar,” “to color,” with a secondary meaning of “ruddy” or “blushing;” and was originally applied by the Spaniards to the Colorado river, whose water is red in hue when swollen by the heavy rains from the disintegration of the reddish soils through which it flows.

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James H. Couch and J.D. McClane considered Lafayette’s first doctors

Dr. Couch’s obituary, from Feb. 15, 1901, Lafayette News.

In her “Facts on Early Lafayette” column for the Lafayette Leader, Dorothy Kolar wrote March 31, 1950, that “the first physician in Lafayette was Dr. McClane.” In a 1968 presentation to a class at Lafayette Elementary School, town founder Mary Miller’s grandson, Frank Miller, said that “Dr. Couch was the town’s first doctor.”

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