Col. John M. Francisco, the sutler at Fort Garland, and his business partner, Henry Daigre, purchased 48,000 acres of land in Cuchara Valley in 1862. The land was part of the Vigil land grant. They established a settlement for farmers and ranchers, with Francisco Fort as the commercial center. The 100-foot-square building was constructed with 2-foot thick adobe walls, interior rooms, that opened up to a central plaza. It was built with a flat roof with gun ports along the parapets. In 1863, the fort was attacked by a band of Ute people. Men got on the roof to defend the fort, and a volunteer rode to Fort Lyon. The Utes retreated, though, before the troops arrived.
In 1871, the settlement was named Spanish Peak and a post office was established. New settlers came to the area with the arrival of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. The narrow gauge railroad, which crossed La Veta Pass, was the highest U.S. railroad pass at the time. A depot was built one block north of the fort and the town was platted by the railroad in 1876. The fort is now operated by the Huerfano Historical Society. A post office called La Veta has been in operation since 1876. The community was named for a mineral deposit near the original town site, La Veta meaning “mineral vein” in Spanish.
On the morning of 8 November 1913, William Gambling, a miner who had refused to join the 1913-1914 United Mine Workers of America strike against the Colorado Fuel and Iron company, was intercepted and accosted by pro-strikers as he was traveling to the dentist in La Veta. He left the dentist’s office later and was picked up by a car carrying three mine guards and a driver. A volley of gunfire was aimed at the car, killing all but Gambling. At least five men were arrested by the Colorado National Guard in relation to this incident, part of the early stages of the Colorado Coalfield War.
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