A Road from Denver to Salt Lake 1861

Jim Bridger

June 19, 1861
William Gilpin, the new Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Colorado Territory, wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

“The necessities of our country render necessary the establishment of a great road from Denver to Salt Lake City. This road crosses the Cordillera about 60 miles due west from Denver, and then traverses the northwest quarter of Colorado diagonally. Harvie M. Vaile has been assigned to this region.”
          “Availing myself of the departure of a well selected surveying party, conducted by E.L. Berthoud, a most skillful civil engineer, and accompanied by the experienced guide, James Bridger, I have instructed Agent Vaile to accompany them; to visit Salt Lake City, and confer with the agency there; to ascertain the number, localities, etc. of the Indians living within this superintendency; and fit himself to organize his department and locate at Breckinridge, beyond the snowy Cordillera.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines cordillera as:  “(from old Spanish cordilla, “cord,” or “little rope”), a system of mountain ranges that often consist of a number of more or less parallel chains. Cordilleras are an extensive feature in the Americas and Eurasia. In North America the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevadas, and the mountains between them are collectively known as the Cordilleras, and the entire area has been termed the Cordilleran region. ”

Photo courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

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