Today, Kit Carson County is probably best known as one of Colorado’s most productive agricultural counties, and as the home of the Kit Carson County Carousel – the oldest working carousel in the state and the only antique carousel in the country with original paint, but the history of the county and the region contains multitudes and bears the hallmarks of the westward expansion of the United States. Named for fur trapper, Army Scout, and wilderness guide, Kit Carson County was established in 1889. Prior to settlement by Anglo-American and Russian German immigrants, the area was inhabited by Native American groups including the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, and Pawnee. As a crossroads of many historic cattle trails and migration routes, Kit Carson County’s first European residents were primarily ranchers. The arrival of the railroad in 1888 brought homesteaders and agricultural expansion, the legacy of which defines the region to this day.
Created in partnership with the Colorado State Library’s CVL Collections program and Burlington Public Library, the Shadows on the Plains digital archive is keeping Eastern Colorado and Kit Carson County history alive with over 900 digital items, which have been shared with the Plains to Peaks Collective, and are now discoverable through the Digital Public Library of America, a national platform for digitized historic collections.
Shadows on the Plains
The centerpiece of Shadows on the Plains is the complete text of The History of Kit Carson County, a volume that chronicles the history of the county, its towns, business, and schools, and reflects the perspective of its authors, who are themselves descendants of families that settled the region. Available for the first time digitally and searchable by its full text, The History of Kit Carson County is organized both chronologically and categorically.
Beyond the expected biographical information for many of the county’s founding families, overview of cities and towns, maps, images, and illustrations, The History of Kit Carson County takes deep dives into local history, lore, and hi-jinks. Take for instance “The Great Stone Face Caper” an incident involving a stone carving that garnered Flagler Colorado national attention through dubious reporting by a Denver newspaper.
At over 800 pages, The History of Kit Carson County offers a comprehensive accounting of a place and the lives and times of its residents. Beyond this resource, Shadows on the Plains also brings together over 100 years of obituaries from the Old Town Museum, and is growing every day. Get to know more about Kit Carson County and watch the collection evolve by visiting https://kccarchives.cvlcollections.org/.
If you would like to learn more about sharing your organization’s historical collections through CVL Collections, please contact:
Collaborative Programming Coordinator
Colorado State Library