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History of Chaffee County

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Chaffee County was carved out of Lake County in 1879 and named for Colorado’s first senator, Jerome Chaffee.  Granite was the original county seat.  In 1880, Buena Vista won an election to relocate the courthouse.  But the officials in Granite claimed the election was illegal.  One evening, a group of well-armed BV businessmen drove a train to Granite, broke in, loaded up all the county records, the safe and even the stove, and hauled it to BV.  For the next couple years, county business was handled in the back of various stores along Main Street.  The new courthouse was finished in 1883.  

In 1928, Salida organized another election and out-voted BV.  Their population was significantly larger by then due to the Rio Grande rail yards.  This time, the election was protested in court rather than with guns.

In the early years, Chaffee County had three main industries: mining, agriculture, and the three railroads.  As mining decreased and the railroads closed, tourism became ever more important.  Chaffee County is mostly public lands which allows for virtually unlimited recreation. From brew-pub to roasteries, art galleries to ghost towns, rafting to rock-hounding, hot springs to winter sports, the county offers /activities for every taste.

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