Silt Area History
Town of Silt: established 1915
The simply irresistible little town known as Silt began as George Furguson's Ranch after the Ute Indians' land was opened up to homesteading in 1881. Mr. Ferguson operated a ferry so the first settlers could cross the Grand River (know today as the Colorado River) until the first bridge was built in 1908.
The area was named Ferguson until 1889, when the Denver and Rio Grande Junction Railway named their section house and depot "Silt" after the powdery soil in the area. The name Silt most likely stuck after Mr. Ferguson passed away in 1892. He is buried in Highland cemetery at New Castle.
Agriculture was prevalent in the area with sugar beets as the primary crop. After harvest, the beets were loaded onto trains in Silt and shipped to the Holly Sugar plant in Grand Junction for processing. The Grass Valley reservoir (Harvey Gap) was completed in 1894. The following year it failed and washed out the tracks seven miles below the dam, just west of town. The reservoir was rebuilt in 1907 with an ambitious plan for orchards, farms, and investors seriously considered a cannery.
Henry Hasley bought fergusons ranch in 1899. Mr. Hasley had the town of Silt surveyed and platted in 1907. The citizens tried to incorporate the town in 1912. Due to the railroad not wanting to be taxed by the town it took three more years to become a town. The Town of Silt was the last town incorporated in Garfield County in 1915. In 1908, the town of Grand River was platted a half mile east of Silt (presnet day 16th St.) but nothing became of it.
After a few buildings were lost to fire one winter evening in 1917. (The fire was slowed by all the fresh snow.) It was decided the town needed a water system complete with wooden pipes. A couple of them were used into 1970s! Silt boasted over twenty businesses before the Great Depression including a bank, lumber yard, movie theater, pool hall, grocery and mercantile stores, with several bars and restaurants. Silt had very little growth until the oil shale boom and bust of the late 70's and early 80's. Among other things Silt benefifed by gettting its streeets paved for the first time by 1982. Since the town of Silt has more than doubled in size due to the housing developements, a business park and river preserve along the colorado river.
The town's first festival, Hey Day, was started in 1969. The Party at the Pavilion concerts were started in 2011.
Want to learn more about Silt's history? Here are some useful links:
The Cayton Ranger Station, one of the first Ranger Stations in the US, was built in the White River National Forest in 1909 by a Forest Ranger named James Grimshaw Cayton. He and his wife lived in the barn they built first while constructing the cabin. The site was designated a National Historic Place in 2005 and the Cayton Ranger Station Foundation was created to preserve the Cabin. Several SHP volunteers were involved in the preservation project, and SHP has a copy of the Cayton Diaries.
Looking for more historical sites to visit in the area? The Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Site has you covered!
History Colorado links you with historical museums in Colorado and has a wealth of information about Colorado history.
The Silt Branch Library is full of sources that can help you discover more about this area.