Baca County History

by the Plainsman Herald

Those Who Have Claimed Baca County As Their Own


By Steve Doner

“Although some may look at this list and say Virgina????, Spain???? this is the most complete listing of entities claiming the area known today as Baca County Colorado. Many such claims were made with the claimant not really knowing what they were claiming. They were essentially saying, “We own everything from here to there. A difficult proposition to defend, but that is essentially how some of those earlier discoverers went about things. Thank you Steve for your diligent and well documented work documenting the previously unknown history of this area.” – Kent Brooks

Entities that claimed what would become Baca County,

……-1540   Native Americas (believed that claiming land as your own was absurd)
1540-1700   Spain (Coronado Expedition claimed this land for the king)
1609-1763   Virginia (claimed the commonwealth’s width from the Atlantic to Pacific)[1]
1700-1763   France (Spain still controlled west of the Continental Divide)
1763-1800   Spain (trades Louisiana territory to France for Tuscany)
1800-1803   France (sold to US by Napoleon to finance war with England)
1803-1819   U.S. Territory (as part of Louisiana)
1819-1821   Spain– (back in Spanish hands after the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819)
1821-1836   Mexico– (belongs to Mexican state of Nuevo Mexico) [2]
1836-1848   Rep. of Texas– (west of the 100th mer. and south of the Arkansas River)
1848-1850   “No Man’s Land” (above 36”30’ lat. slavery line surrendered by Texas)
1850-1854   U.S. Territory (western ¼ of Baca was in N. Mexico Terr., rest in KS. Ter.) 
1854-1861   Kansas Territory set by the Kan.-Neb. Act
1859-1861   Jefferson Ter. formed a constitution, counties, not sanctioned by Congress
1861-1866   Colorado TerritoryHuerfano County (1 of the 17 counties)
1866-1876   Colorado Territory – Las Animas County (1 of 19 counties)
1876-1889   State of Colorado – Las Animas County [3]

While the land that is now Baca County was part of Mexico, its far southeastern corner was part of the busiest branch of the Santa Fe Trail, the Cimarron Cut-off which entered Baca County in the middle of sec.16-34s-41w[4], and existed at sec.15-34s-43w.[5]  Francis Aubrey forged a cut-off from the Cimarron branch in 1851 which entered would be Baca County at sec.33-29s-41w and followed Bear Creek for twelve miles before turning south and existing the county at sec.15-35s-45w.[6]  Springs along Bear Creek, especially at the five mile watering hole, made this route much less risky than the dry main branch that ran southeast of it. Finally the last branch of the Santa Fe Trail to cross Baca County was the Granada-Ft. Union Wagon Road that operated from 1873 to 1875.  It entered Baca County at sec. 5-28s-47 and existed at sec.19-30s-50w.[7] Between these three busy trails operating from 1821 to 1875, 54 years, thousands of people from many races trekked across Baca County soil before there was one permanent Baca resident. The possibility is great that some mule skinners, bullwhackers, cattle drive cowboy, or laborer on one of these trails decided to forge a small cattle or sheep ranch along a stream or in a protected canyon before the wave of cattle ranchers and homesteaders infiltrated the land.


[1] Robert Beverly, The History and Present State of Virginia, 1705, Book II, pg. 3. accessed Dec. 10, 2018. (accessed Dec. 10, 2018.) (Beverly: “Virginia thus consider’d, is bounded … and on the West and North-West by the Californian Sea, whenever the Settlements shall be extended so far.)  

[2] University of Texas Libraries, “Texas Land Grant”, (accessed Dec. 10, 2018.) 

[3]  Dan Stanwyck, “Colorado County Evolution”, (accessed Dec. 10, 2018.) 

[4] US Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records Original Survey Map, Twp. 34s, Rge. 41w, Aug, 1883. Accessed Nov. 10, 2018. 

[5] US Department of the Interior, Original Survey Map, Twp. 35s, Rge. 43w, Aug, 1883. Accessed Nov. 10, 2018. TabIndex=1             

[6] Ike Osteen, A Place Called Baca, (Chicago: Adams Press, 1979), 129.

[7] Osteen, A Place Called Baca, 132-133.

Leave a Reply