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Grand Junction, Colorado

The valley of Grand Junction, seat of Mesa County, was originally inhabited by the Ute Indians. They thrived by hunting and farming. Their initial contact with the Europeans was through the fur trade. Following the annexation of the territory by the United States, the Ute people signed a treaty with the Americans, under which they were allowed to live on their lands. Peaceful coexistence ended with a battle in 1879, after which the Indians were driven to reserved lands in Utah and SouthwestColorado. American settlement in the region began in September, 1881. Grand Junction was incorporated in 1882. The following year, the town was made the seat of the newly formed Mesa County. The name "Grand" was derived from the name formerly given to upper Colorado. Since the Grand Junction area was originally a desert valley, numerous canals and dams were built to bring water from the Colorado River to the new town. Initial developments for the town were made under the leadership of George A. Crawford, head of the Grand Junction Town and Improvement Company, who has been called the father of Grand Junction. The town’s economy received a boost from the construction of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, completed in 1882. By the 1890s, the major driving forces of the economy were agriculture, commerce and transportation. Those industries still play an important role in the city’s economy. Around the year 1900, Grand Junction was promoted to the status of a city. President William H. Taft visited the Mesa County Fair on his way to Montrose in 1909, to dedicate the Gunnison Irrigation Tunnel. The year 1918 saw the completion of the Highline Project, one of the largest irrigation projects in the nation. The project assisted in the cultivation of nearly 50,000 acres of land. The irrigation helped Grand Junction to become a producer of top-quality fruits, particularly peaches. Another major boost to the city’s economy was the establishment of uranium mines and milling in the 1950s. The Atomic Energy Commission’s headquarters are located in Grand Junction. During the period of the Commission's establishment there, more than 35 mining companies based themselves in the city. Around the 1960s, construction of the interstate highway connected the city to the nation’s freeway system, giving a further boost to the local economy. The rising economy of the city and lack of proper planning led to congested traffic and streets. As a result, Operation Foresight began in the Spring of 1962. Under this project, the entire infrastructure of the city was reshaped. Extensive landscaping was done. The city won All America City recognition by Look magazine in 1963, for its innovative downtown shopping park. During the 1970s, the discovery of shale rock oil brought another boom to Grand Junction, but the collapse of oil prices in 1982 led to a recession. The city recovered in the 1990s and since then has made steady progress. The Museum of Western Colorado is headquartered in Grand Junction. Among its many facilities are the Whitman Education Center, built as the Whitman School in 1925 and now restored with classrooms and an auditorium. At Cross Orchards Historic Site, the life of early pioneers is recreated. Mesa Junior College, which held its first classes in 1925, has grown into Mesa State College. The Western Colorado Center for the Arts is the most significant arts organization in the Grand Valley. Colorado River State Park consists of five sections along the Colorado River as it passes through Grand Junction. St. Mary's Hospital, founded in 1890, is the largest hospital between Denver and Salt Lake City. The other local hospital is Grand Junction Community Hospital.