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
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.