Colorado, Pioneer Settlements in
Author: Jensen, Richard L.
The first Latter-day Saints in Colorado were predominantly from the American South. In 1846, converts from Mississippi, expecting to join Brigham Young and the pioneer company en route to the Great Basin, wintered at the site of present-day Pueblo after learning that the first company of Nauvoo emigrants would not leave the Missouri River until the next spring. A group of sick members of the Mormon Battalion, including women and children, joined these Mississippi Saints, and all left Pueblo in time to reach the Great Salt Lake Valley in July 1847.
Southern converts also formed the nucleus of permanent LDS colonization in Colorado, wintering in Pueblo in 1877-1878 and settling in 1878 in the San Luis Valley. Joined by settlers from Sanpete County and elsewhere in Utah and by two families from New Mexico, they founded several settlements in the following decade. The San Luis Stake, with headquarters at Manassa, was organized in 1883 and consisted of LDS colonists in Conejos County. Jack Dempsey, a son of expatriate southern Latter-day Saints, was born in Manassa and, as world heavyweight boxing champion, bore the nickname "Manassa Mauler."
Beginning as early as 1880, LDS settlers began to establish farms along the Mancos River in southwest Colorado. In 1901, after land in the nearby Fort Lewis Indian Reservation was made available for settlement, Latter-day Saints began to establish farms on the Fort Lewis Mesa. They constituted a majority of the settlers in that area, though Mancos itself was not a predominantly Mormon town. The Young Stake, organized in 1912, consisted of Latter-day Saints in Mancos, the Fort Lewis Mesa, and northwestern New Mexico.
Early growth of the Church along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains came largely through the proselytizing of the Western States Mission, long headquartered in Denver; branches of the Church were established there and in Englewood, Fort Collins, and Pueblo by 1930. Farther west, additional growth came in Alamosa and Grand Junction in the first third of the twentieth century. By 1990, after continued proselytizing and in-migration, there were 87,000 Latter-day Saints in Colorado.