The Fascinating Evolution of Arapahoe County, Colorado

Arapahoe County, located in north-central Colorado, is one of the oldest counties in the state. It is bordered to the north by Denver and Adams Counties, to the west by Jefferson County, to the east by Washington County, and to the south by Douglas and Elbert Counties. With a population of more than 572,000, it is the third most populated county in Colorado. Most of Arapahoe County's inhabitants live in the southern Denver metropolitan area, in the communities of Aurora, Englewood, and Littleton.

The eastern part of the county is mainly comprised of farms, ranches, and smaller towns such as Byers and Bennett. The race least likely to be in poverty in Arapahoe County is the white race, with 6.19% below the poverty level. Arapahoe County has a long history that dates back to 1854 when it was created within the Kansas Territory. After gold was discovered along Dry Creek in 1858, a continuous flow of immigrants from the east led to the creation of new counties and Arapahoe County was gradually reduced to its current size.

In 1902, the state legislature divided former Arapahoe County into present-day Arapahoe, Adams, Denver, Washington, and Yuma counties. At first, Littleton was considered to be the temporary county seat; an election in 1904 made it the permanent seat of the new Arapahoe County. During the 1960s, Republican legislators in Arapahoe County were part of the main opposition to efforts to create an “urban county” that would have assimilated Littleton and Aurora into Denver. After a series of annexation disputes between Arapahoe and Denver counties, these efforts were finally ended in 1974 when the Poundstone amendment to the state constitution froze Denver's boundaries.

Although the Arapaho and their allies continued their sporadic incursions during the 1870s, by the end of the 19th century Arapahoe County had been practically free of its original inhabitants. After the Colorado Gold Rush, agriculture and ranching were the backbone of eastern Arapahoe County while cities around Denver continued to develop. The western neighborhood of Arapahoe County is currently home to an expanding Denver metropolitan area with many subdivisions, parks, and businesses. Like many other rural areas outside major American cities, Arapahoe County experienced rapid growth after World War II when housing developments emerged that led to its suburbanization.

Today it remains a vibrant county with a rich history that continues to evolve.

Miguel Eastlund
Miguel Eastlund

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