Cortez, the metropolis of the grand and vast valley of the Montezuma, is situated in the very center of the western half of La Plata County. Cortez is already a rapidly growing town and will be the center of traffic for a region embracing hundreds of miles in extent and will take foremost rank among the industrial and manufacturing of the young Centennial state.
Cortez is a beautifully situated, being on an elevated slope at an altitude of about 6,800 feet above sea level, on the north side of what is known as McElmo Creek about nine miles south and a little west of the Big Bend of the Dolores River where the Montezuma Valley Water Supply company takes it supply of water. On the north and northeast as far as the eye can reach are seen the snow caped peaks of the Dolores Mountains, Lone Cone and Mount Wilson. Nearer and a little north of East tower the majestic La Plata Mountains with Lewis peak the grandest of them all – 14,000 feet above sea level. On the southeast and south are Lookout Mountains and Mesa Verde. In southwestern portion of the valley and not more than eight miles, the tragic old Ute Mountain looms up 9,950 feet above sea level and as far as the eye can see to the northwest, the picturesque Blue Mountains are discernible.
Cortez was surveyed and platted by J. M. Mack, December 15th, 1886. Its streets are laid out at right angles, or as we may say, square with the world. Main Street, which is laid out east and west and Market Street, which crosses Main in the very center of the town, are each 100 feet wide and will probably be the principal business streets. Montezuma Avenue is also an east and west street and lays along the highest rise in Cortez, is 120 feet wide through its center will be a running stream of water, on either side of which are to be planted rows of shade trees, with sidewalks along the water’s edge and drive ways on each side of the avenue similar to Cleveland, Ohio. From the main stream of water, all other streets will be watered. D.H. Lemmon, the contractor, informs us it will be completed by March 1st, 1888.
Cortez now contains about 300 inhabitants, fifty or sixty of whom are ladies. Its school district No. 17 has upwards of sixty children of school age. There are about seventy buildings; one general merchandise store. A.L. Thompson and Co., D.H. Harris grocery and provision store, D.W. Harrison and Co. both on Main Street. Charles Schalles and Darrah have a large hardware establishment on Market Street and a blacksmith and general repair shop, Market near Main; Dr. G.W. Williams has also a drug store on Market Street. Dr. Williams is also a practicing physician. Byrne and Adam have a drug store on Main Street; B.J. Bryne, M.D. postmaster, C.L. Petherbridge, proprietor of the Hotel Clifton, corner of Main and Chestnut streets; A.T. Gibson meat market on Main street near Beech; O.C. Cannon, photographer; M.M. Molenaor, architect and builder; Mrs. Caswell Saterlee, milliner and dressmaking; Caswell Saterlee, John Monteith, E. Crane, O.C. Elliot, contractors and builders; Wm. Parker, watchmaker and jeweler; C. Johnson and Alice Hanna, restaurants; Mrs. E.R. Lamb, dressmaking and milliner; O.C. Connor, draughtsman and architect; F.P. Adam and J. Y. Carpenter, freight and teaming contractors; Charles Minter, blacksmith and wagon maker, Market Street near First; John Buckley, brick and stone mason; J.A. Coppinger, livery feed and sale stable, hay and grain merchant; J.H. McCrakin livery, feed and sale stable; T.J. Tarsney, attorney at law; Julius Thompson, attorney at law; Cooper & Blackmer, attorneys at law, land real estate and insurance. Goodman and Hood, painters and decorative paper hangers, also wallpaper, paints and glass, have one of the largest stocks in the state outside of Denver; H.W. Tarrant, boots, shoes, clothing and saddles and harness; Monte Chase lumber, lath doors and sashes; R.E. Scott, liquor dealer; Charles Gross, tobacconists and cigar manufacturer on Main Street between First and Main Streets; Wm. Baily, tonsorial artist; Chinese washee, and two other laundries; E.R. Lamb, painter; Wall and Treec, coal dealers; Perly Wason, Cortez water supply company; Peter Baxstrom, stone and brick mason; H.W. Harrison & Co. real estate insurance and loan agents; John Garritson, real estate and land agent.
The first house in Cortez was built by E.H. Cooper and occupied Jan. 1887. F.M. Goodykoontz opened the first boarding house and restaurant in a tent, January 8th, 1887. (Location of both near the corner of Main and South Market streets). E.S. Turner opened a bank in 1887, and it closed in 1891. There is an excellent school building, and school is now in session with an average attendance of about forty scholars. Our school district No. 17 was organized and school began August 1st, 1887. E. H. Cooper is entitled to much credit for his determination in establishing schools, Sunday schools, voting precincts, etc. The Montezuma Valley Land and Development company, whose officers are B.L. Arbecam, Boston, president; James W. Hanna of Cortez, vice president and general manager; E.S. Turner of N.Y., secretary; and H.B. Chamberlain of Denver, treasurer, have completed a stone building 50 by 80 feet with tin roof, galvanized iron cornice, with all the modern improvements and conveniences, with an office for banking purposes property fitted up, and the Montezuma Valley Bank, with a cash capital of $30,000 is now doing a good business. In 1905, C.J. Harrison opened a state bank called The First Bank of Montezuma Valley and later was the Montezuma Valley National Bank. H.A. Harrison is cashier. The state of Colorado does not contain a finer building for the size and purpose for which it is intended. On the first floor is the office of the Montezuma Valley Bank and Engineer’s offices; the second floor is at present occupied or apartments for the officers of the several companies (the Stone Block building). The Montezuma Valley Land and Development Co. have broken ground for a grand hotel building to be 75 by 150 feet; three stories high to be built of stone of which no finer quality can be found in the state. (This may have been the “Parker Hotel” building).
Article furnished by Howard J. Hanna, grandson of James Hanna, who was one of the founders of Cortez, to June Head, historian, Montezuma County Historical Society. She can be contacted at 970-565-3880.