The town of Montrose was originally known as Pomona, but early settler and town father, Joseph Selig, suggested the name Montrose after a favorite character in Sir William Scott's popular novel, The Legend of Montrose.
Uncompahgre (Un-com-PAH-gray) comes from a Ute Indian word meaning "Red Lake" or "Hot Water Spring". The name has been attached to the valley in which Montrose is located and to several other geographical sites in the region.
When United States President William Howard Taft visited Montrose in 1909, he called the Uncompahgre Valley, "the Incomparable Valley with the unpronounceable name."
Early History of the Area
Long isolated geographically from other parts of Colorado and the West, the Uncompahgre Valley was one of the last frontiers settled. For centuries the region had been known only to the Ute Indians and a handful of Europeans who had ventured to explore the region.
Following the forced removal of the Utes in 1881, settlers soon arrived. The town of Montrose was laid-out in 1882 by co-founders, Joseph Selig and O.D. "Pappy" Loutsenhizer, in conjunction with William Eckerly, John "Dad" Baird, S.A. Culbertson, and A. Pumphrey.
Who Were the Early Settlers. and Why Were They Here?
Joseph Selig was a German immigrant who came into the region with the express purpose of laying out a townsite. Many of Selig's personal dreams for Montrose were cut short when he died at the age of 39 of stomach cancer.
O.D. Loutsenhizer was originally a prospector who collaborated with Selig in the founding of the town. He completed the first irrigation project in the Uncompahgre Valley, a four-mile ditch from the Uncompahgre River to Montrose.
Early-day Montrose was a typical western town characterized by wooden sidewalks, hitching racks, and when it rained, deep-rutted, muddy streets. Despite the lack of conveniences and the typical "rough and rowdy" element attracted to frontier towns, Montrose began to emerge as a major trade, service, and distribution center for southwestern Colorado. Permanent buildings were eventually constructed that housed banks, general stores, a newspaper, and livery stables. Along with an expanding agricultural and fruit-growing base to serve the settlers and mining camps, there was a steady
Starting in the late 1870s, round-ups, cowboys and trailing operations were familiar scenes in this part of Colorado. Often the cattle trails led right down Main Street as hundreds of head of livestock were driven to the open range or to market via the railroad. Cattle ranching remains an important part of Montrose's economy. Even today, you can see working cowboys trailing cattle from one range to another.
Sheep were introduced to the Uncompahgre Valley around the turn of the century. At times there were conflicts over grazing and water rights that ended in bloodshed. Tensions between cattle and sheep interests eased after 1920, and the sheep business continues to play a vital role in the local economy.