Introduction: Arapahoe County Marriages

“Arapahoe County is Number 1.” This message painted on the sides of Arapahoe County trucks refers to its history. The origin of Arapahoe County dates back to the time of Kansas Territoryestablished on 30 May 1854 by the U. S. Congress. Arapahoe County, created in 1855 as a much larger county in Kansas Territory, was named in honor of the friendly tribe of inhabitants known as the Arapaho. The county stretched from the Continental Divide eastward across unorganized territory to the 103rd meridian.

In 1859, this area was divided into six counties, and Arapahoe County had a north-south orientation as opposed to its later east-west orientation. On 28 February 1861, Colorado Territory was carved out of portions of Nebraska Territory, Kansas Territory, New Mexico Territory, and Utah Territory. Kansasbecame a state on 29 January 1861, a month before the birth of Colorado Territory. Thus, for thirty days, a portion of eastern Colorado was not in any Territory and was technically a part of the unorganized public domain. On 1 August 1876, Colorado was admitted to the Union as the “CentennialState” and the current eastern boundary was established. The area was then divided into seventeen counties plus an Indian Reserve established for Cheyenne and Arapaho. Some time later, the Indian Reserve was closed by treaty and the inhabitants moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. ArapahoeCounty stretched from the eastern boundaries of Jefferson and Boulder Counties to the Kansas state line.Arapahoe County was bordered on the north by Weld County and on the south by Douglas County.

By 1884, Yuma County was created from part of Arapahoe County and Weld County. In 1887, theColorado government again rearranged the boundaries of Arapahoe and Weld Counties to createWashington County. In 1901, the state government further divided Arapahoe County when AdamsCounty and the City and County of Denver were established. The newly bounded area was known asSouth Arapahoe County. In 1903, South Arapahoe County was renamed Arapahoe County. After all of these boundary changes, Arapahoe County became less than a third of its original size.

Before 1901, Denver was considered the county seat of Arapahoe County. With the restructuring of Arapahoe County in 1901, Littleton was named as the temporary county seat. In 1904, a vote of the people established Littleton as the permanent county seat for Arapahoe County; Englewood was the contender.

This brief history about county boundaries is provided to help those who find marriage information in this publication and want to research family lines further back in time. A map showing where Arapahoe County is currently situated among other Colorado counties is provided here.

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The earliest documented marriage for this area took place in Auraria, Kansas Territory on 16 October 1859. It was documented in the Rocky Mountain News, the first newspaper published in the area. Other early marriages were found in the pages of newspapers and among Denver Town Company Records. Marriage events from the time of the Gold Rush in 1858-1859 through 1901 were compiled and published in 1986 by the Colorado Genealogical Society, Inc. In the 1930’s, the U. S. Works Progress Administration (WPA) working through the Colorado Division of Vital Statistics indexed all marriages statewide from the time of the Gold Rush in 1858 until 1939. Detailed information was typed on index cards. These cards were filed alphabetically by the surname of the groom only; access by the bride’s surname was impossible. In 1990, this original card index of extracted Colorado marriages was preserved on 104 reels of microfilm. A supplemental Colorado brides index has been compiled from these same WPA cards and is located at the Denver Public Library.

Information contained in these volumes was transcribed from microfilm copy of the original records. A typical Arapahoe County marriage record is shown here.

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Users of indexed marriage records are encouraged to obtain copies of original documents including the applications for marriage licenses. Additional information such as the previous marital status, ages of the bride and groom, and the names of the officiator and witnesses may be found on the record. If a parent had to give consent for a minor to marry, this record will be filed with the application. Users are cautioned that an actual marriage may have occurred in a different county than listed. No attempt was made to research and verify the addresses or geographic information given by the bride and groom at the time the marriage was recorded.

As with any project of this size and assembled by a committee, there may be discrepancies involving the interpretation of names, dates, and places. Various styles of handwriting over the years and fading inks made it difficult at times to distinguish between certain letters and numbers. A separate team from the extraction team entered data into the computer. Another team proofed computerized information against the hand-written transcribed information. Still another team read the original record again where proofreaders marked discrepancies. This technique was designed to minimize errors in the extraction and presentation of this data.