It was in the year 1761 that the first white man, Don Juan Rivera, arrived in the
vicinity of the present Delta area and carved a cross, his name, and the year, on a
cottonwood tree standing in a meadow at the junction of the Uncompahgre and
Gunnison Rivers. The principal objective of his excursion was to explore the
area. This area was again visited by white men in 1775 when Pedro Mora and
Gregoria Sandoval arrived at the same spot as had Rivera, and there witnessed
the carvings on the tree by Rivera. It was on July 4, 1776 that the famous
Escalante Expedition set forth from Santa Fe. Two Spanish priests, Father
Escalante and Father Dominquez, led the party in search of a shorter route to
their California Missions. They traveled over the Uncompahgre Plateau and
called the river the San Francisco, but the Ute Indians called it “Anacopogri” or
Uncompahgre, meaning Red Lake. The Indians had so named it because there is
a spring of reddish colored water near the source of the river.
In the 1830’s, a Frenchman from St. Louis, named Antoine Roubideau
established a trading post about 4 to 5 miles west of Delta. Soldiers camped there
and it was called Fort Uncompahgre (Roubideau Trading Post).
The Uncompahgre townsite was laid out by the Uncompahgre Town Company
and the plat was filed on April 6, 1882. The name was later changed to Delta
because of its location on the delta of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison Rivers.
This townsite, occupying about 540 acres, was covered with squawberry bushes
and brush. Samuel Wade surveyed the townsite.
On March 21, 1882, the first white child, a girl, was born in Delta. In April of
1882, Delta had two stores, two saloons and twelve other buildings. The first
store in Delta was opened in a tent by T. H. McGranaham. Delta’s first post office
was established in 1882, as was the first church. The railroad was expected the
The first mayor, M. C. Vandeventer was chosen in 1882. The professional men at
this time consisted of one minister and two lawyers. The first newspaper, “The
Chief”, was published by Robert D. Blair on March 7, 1883. During the same
year, on February 11, the General Assembly created Delta as the County Seat. The
first commissioners served at this time with officers in a small adobe building
until a courthouse was built in 1884.
On September 7, 1893, legendary bank robbers, Tom, Fred and Bill McCarty,
robbed the Farmers and Merchants Bank where they killed banker, A. T.
Blachley. In attempting to escape, Fred and Bill were gunned down by W. Ray
Simpson, a local hardware businessman. Tom McCarty escaped and was able to
evade a posse.
Raising livestock is one of the oldest industries in Delta county. In the early
1880’s the countryside was all open range with some fences being constructed in
1887. Cattle brands used prior to 1900 are still in use today. Mrs. A. W. Carr
opened the first school even before a schoolhouse was built. The first graduation
was held in 1889.
One of the historic landmarks in Delta is the “COUNCIL TREE” located in North
Delta. This tree was the site of many councils of the UTE INDIANS before the
coming of the white men to the valley. CHIPETA, wife of OURAY, sat in tribal
council under this tree. She was the only woman ever accorded that honor.
These are just the highlights. Delta has had its share of range wars, shootings
and cattle rustling. It is from this background that Delta has grown to its present
size, a modern and progressive city of about 7,000 people.
Information obtained, in part, from C & J Cafe