Parrott City

Prospectors and Mule

Two unknown prospectors and a mule in Parrott City. Catalog number: 89.15.2

  • John Moss negotiated with Ute Chief Ignacio for permission to seek mineral riches in the La Plata Mountains. In exchange for blankets, livestock, and other goods he was allowed access to 36 square miles.
  • In 1873, Moss and a group of 10 miners from California began searching for silver and gold in the sediments of the La Plata River. They named their operation “The Bar” and its surrounding area the “California District”. They were soon joined by miners from Arizona.
  • The group was forced out by winter weather, but returned the next year with reinforcements, as well as backing by a San Francisco banking firm, Parrott and Company.
  • Moss and E.H. Cooper platted the townsite in 1874 and named it Parrott City after Tiburcio Parrot, their California investor. The camp was officially declared part of the California Mining District, located in La Plata County, which contained today’s San Juan, Montezuma, Dolores, San Miguel and La Plata counties. The county seat was Howardsville, about 4 miles from Silverton.
  • A post office was established in May 1876, effectively making Parrott City the county seat.
  • When Colorado became a state in 1876 the new state legislature carved San Juan County out of the northern part of La Plata County. Voters approved Parrott City as the official county seat of La Plata County. John Moss was elected to the Colorado General Assembly, but he (in)famously never attended a legislative session. Moss and his new wife left Denver for California and never returned to Colorado.
  • During 1876 Parrott City consisted of some 50 buildings, constructed of logs, milled lumber and adobe. There was also a courthouse and two sawmills. There was produce and cattle to sustain the town.
  • In March 1877 Tiburcio Parrott sold his interests in the La Platas to a New York firm, who failed to capitalize on the investment. Placer mining ended in August of that year, and by the end of the month no merchants remained. A few faithful miners hung on, and Parrott City remained the county seat until 1881, when Durango’s growth made it the logical replacement. The Parrott City post office was decommissioned in 1898, officially marking the end of Parrott City.
John Moss

John Moss, founder of Parrott City. Catalog number: 89.15.1

Parrott City

Parrott City drawing by Emil Fischer. Catalog number: 89.15.3

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