While Denver grew out of gold, Fort Collins had deeper ties to the military, fur trade and Spanish.
The first Europeans to see the great plains of Colorado were Spanish conquistadors in the early 18th century searching through the Americas for resources, such as gold and silver, and to lay claim to new areas.These routes and areas in Colorado would have worked with vast trade networks with different tribes through North America. Often missions would follow these groups to establish churches in order to convert Native Americans. Sometimes these missions were successful, where missions would thrive for centuries and churches still stand in places like New Mexico, such as the San Miguel Mission in Santa Fe which was built around 1610.
In the early 19th century Colorado became an area for trappers in the booming and lucrative fur trade. Many people were employed by the American Fur Company. Trade was still carried out with native tribes such as the Ute in the mountains and Arapaho and Cheyenne in the plains areas. Yet no permanent cities or posts were established.
In 1841 the first permanent settlement was near Laporte to the northwest of Fort Collins. In 1862 soldiers from Fort Laramie in Wyoming were stationed near Laporte to protect the Cherokee trail (also known as the trapper’s trail) and Overland stagecoach line. In 1864 the post was moved after a devastating flood on the Cache La Poudre River. This new location in a less flood prone area would be named Fort Collins after a Lt. Col. William Oliver Collins. This Fort only lasted a few years, but the name stayed with the area.