Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2008


Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2008, pp. 157.


Copyright 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Ever since 1866 when Junius E. Wharton published his History of the City of Denver from Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Coloradans have been churning out histories. Practically every city, town, and railroad has gotten attention, as have a fair sampling of politicians and entrepreneurs. Consequently, today the trees obscure the forest. In The Rise of the Centennial State, Eugene H. Berwanger tends to both trees and forest so well that scholars and students will thank him for at least the next century.

Berwanger's focus on the 1861 to 1876 period makes sense. Colorado's years as an organized territory began in 1861 and ended in 1876 with statehood. During that formative era, Colorado eliminated or contained its Native Americans, connected itself to the national rail network, created a useful, although far from complete, internal transportation system, diversified its economy beyond its mining beginnings, and refined its society. Because other historians have treated Colorado in its 1858-1865 years, Berwanger concentrates on the 1865-1876 period, including enough of the pre-1865 story to give necessary background. Fortunately, he occasionally extends his narrative beyond 1876 to tie up loose ends.