How Denver got its name

Colorado’s capital is named after James W. Denver (1817-1892), a 19th-century Renaissance man who served in Congress, fought in the United States Army, and served as Governor of the Kansas Territory.

In November 1858, while Denver was still serving as territorial governor, William Larimer, Jr., a land speculator from Leavenworth, planted the townsite of “Denver City” along the South Platte River in Arapaho County in western Kansas Territory (the present-day state of Colorado). Larimer chose the name “Denver” to honor the current territorial governor with the intention that the city would be chosen as the county seat of Arapaho County.¬†Denver retired as territorial governor in November 1858 and was reappointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs, serving until his resignation on March 31, 1859.

He only visited his namesake city twice, in 1875 and 1882, and was reportedly unhappy that the residents didn’t give him more of a hero’s welcome.