AGUILAR THEN AND NOW

Aguilar is the east portal to the scenic Spanish Peaks & Cordova Pass. The road west of Aguilar over Cordova Pass was designated as part of the Highway of Legends National & State Scenic Byway in 2002.

Situated in the Apishapa Valley, it was first inhabited by native Indians. Tales of gold brought prospectors to the area in the early 1800's but most of the first settlers around 1870 were of Spanish descent and came from northern New Mexico. Juan Trujillo had discovered the Trujillo Creek Valley, 7 miles west of Aguilar in 1867. By the year 1868 there was a large number of settlers on ranches and farms scattered up & down the creeks & rivers.

Aguilar was first called San Antonio Plaza. It consisted of a few adobe dwellings surrounding a small trading post. During the years between the first mission days and the year 1888, the plaza had a series of names, one of which was Shultz's Plaza. In 1879, Jose Ramon Aguilar imigrated to the town that would later bear his name. In his lifetime, he was a member of the State Legislature, county commissioner, Mayor of Aguilar, and a member of the school board. Beginning in 1888, the opening of the Peerless Coal Mine and several other large mines nearby, was the main reason for the growth of the town. As early as 1876, the Rio Grande Railroad reached Aguilar. In 1892 the Colorado & Southern Railway built a branch line into the Aguilar city limits and the growth of the town took place in the years when "coal was king."

Historical & News Events of Interest

  • 1875 -- Parish Church of San Antonio was erected. It was an adobe building facing east toward the Apishapa.
  • 1880's -- Coal mining started in the area & became main industry.
  • Jan 14 1894 --Aguilar was incorporated as a town. Population was about 800. At this time, 18 businesses were listed in the Colorado Business Directory: including one hotel, three grocery stores, a doctor, and four saloons.
  • 1895 --Union Pacific Railroad came to Aguilar & extended a line up the Gonzales Canyon just West of Main St. to serve the Peerless, Empire, Royal & Brodhead Mines, and electrical power was established in the town.
  • 1903 -- Street lights were installed on Main Street. Population at 1200 with 59 business listings.
  • 1905 -- Large number of European immigrants settled in Aguilar, laboring in the nearby mines.
  • 1906 -- The Aguilar Community Church erected. Arcade Saloon and Hotel was completed. This is the building where Ringo's market is now located.
  • Dec 28 1910 -- The First State Bank of Aguilar opens in the Gianella Building.
  • 1915 -- Aguilar population 1400

1916 -- From -- What Made Trinidad-Trinidad by Louise LeBarre Hanks.

Prohibition had come to Colorado in 1916. As early as 1850 there were "Black Hand " cells in American cities where Sicilians had immigrated. One of the biggest hauls ever made by the sheriff's department occurred on Main Street in Aguilar. Seized were 200 gallons of wine, a large quantity of White Mule, 50 gallons of raisin mash in the process of fermentation, a distilling plant & other appurtenances of illicit bootleg business. The liquor was destroyed except for a small amount to be used as evidence. Aguilar was referred to as "Little Chicago" because of the large number of liquor violations that happened there and its connection with organized crime, the Mafia in particular.

An editorial in the Chronicle News claimed that none of this was true of Aguilar which was a respectful town, full of respectful businessmen. But other evidence bears out that there was some truth to the article. An article written many years later, in 1965, said that half the population of Aguilar was engaged in bootlegging, including "fathers, mothers, & grandparents". Signals were given when Revenue Agents were in the vicinity and shots were fired to alert everyone.
  • 1922 -- St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church was completed. At this time there were five dry goods stores, two hardware stores, six garages, one drugstore, two furniture stores, one undertaking parlor, three large coal mines, three churches, and one school.
  • 1925 -- Shade trees lining Main Street were cut down to widen street.
  • Sep 15 1927 -- Aguilar Bank closed. The decline in coal mining was the major cause. Aguilar's Main Street had 57 small business enterprises.
  • Apr 15 1930 -- Royal Fuel coal mine closed. Two hundred miners lost their jobs. Population began to decline.
  • 1940-- Aguilar population at 1,340
  • 1994 -- Aguilar had a Centennial celebration and the Aguilar Centennial Book was published.
  • 2000 -- population 593
  • 2003-- Construction of a new elementary school was completed.
  • 2003 -- Construction of a new community fire station was completed for the combined fire districts of Aguilar, & Spanish Peaks Volunteer Fire Auxiliary.
  • Aug 16 & 17 2003 -- Residents from Aguilar & surrounding areas brought back the fun & games of the old "Aguilar Days".
  • 2004 --- The Aguilar State Bank, or "Gianella Building", was named one of 6 sites on the 2004 Colorado's Most Endangered Places List by Colorado Preservation Inc. Local residents have formed the Apishapa Valley Historical Society with the goal of documenting or preserving some of the most important buildings and sites in Aguilar and in the Apishapa Valley area west of the town, before much of the area's rich history is lost. Another goal is to find a building to establish a museum.