Colorado’s Governors: Henry A. Buchtel

We are continuing our series introducing Colorado’s governors with Henry Augustus Buchtel, Colorado’s 17th governor who served one two-year term from 1907-1909.  As part of the State Publications Library’s effort to digitize governors’ addresses, Buchtel’s inaugural address and biennial message are available in our digital repository.

Early Life

A black and white photographic headshot of Governor Buchtel, who has a serious facial expression and is wearing a black jacket, white shirt, and a black bowtie.
Governor Henry A. Buchtel. Photo from the Colorado State Archives.

Governor Buchtel was born in Akron, Ohio in 1847, but grew up near South Bend, Indiana. He attended Indiana-Absury (now Depauw) University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree, and later returned to earn a master’s degree in theology. Buchtel married Mary Nelson Stevenson in 1873. Shortly after their marriage, the couple traveled to Bulgaria to serve as missionaries.

After returning to the United States, Buchtel worked as a Methodist pastor in several states across the country. He settled in Colorado in the late 1880s, eventually becoming the minister of Denver’s Trinity Methodist Church. Under his leadership, the congregation grew to the largest in Colorado. Buchtel hired Robert Roeschlaub, Colorado’s first licensed architect, to design a new church to accommodate the growing crowd. The new Trinity Church became one of downtown Denver’s most notable buildings and still stands at the corner of Broadway and 18th Avenue.

In 1899, Buchtel left the ministry to become the chancellor of the University of Denver (DU). When he took the position, the university was in debt and in danger of going bankrupt. Buchtel focused on fundraising efforts, raising enough money to pay off the school’s debts and doubling the number of students.

Serving as governor

The Republican Party asked Buchtel to run for governor in 1906. At this time, there was infighting among the Democratic Party that ensured victory for the Republicans, and Buchtel was inaugurated in 1907. In his inaugural address, he outlined his priorities for his term. These included passing railway legislation, providing funding for educational institutions, and passing a local option law that would allow communities to decide whether to allow saloons.

Buchtel inherited a stable financial situation and had a relatively calm term. He was able to accomplish many of the priorities outlined in his inaugural speech, as well as authorizing a public building program that led to 48 new building projects throughout the state, including expanding roads and bridges. In his biennial message to the General Assembly, Buchtel expressed his pride in securing funding for institutional schools and in the high quality of Colorado’s colleges and universities.

Life after politics

Although his actions as governor were popular with many Coloradans, Buchtel decided not to run for another term and returned to his post as chancellor of DU. He remained in that role until 1920. Buchtel died in 1924 and is buried in Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery. Buchtel Avenue, which runs along I-25 through DU, was named in the governor’s honor.