The Ute Indians
Originally, Montrose County was home to the Ute Indians, who hunted, fished, and lived off the land of the Uncompahgre Valley. Chief Ouray and his wife, Chipeta, are two of the best-known names from that era. The Ute Indians were removed from Montrose County to a reservation in Utah in 1881. The town of Montrose was founded in 1882, with the county officially established in 1883. Joseph Selig, one of the founders, named the town after the Duke of Montrose, a character from one of the Sir Walter Scott’s novels.
Early Montrose was a typical frontier freighting and cow town. At the turn of the century, the settlers of the highly fertile, semi-arid Uncompahgre Valley explored the formerly inaccessible regions of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. The search for irrigation water was one of the first Bureau of Reclamation projects and resulted in an astonishing engineering feat, the seven mile Gunnison Tunnel. The tunnel enabled Montrose to become a highly diversified agricultural area.
After growing only slightly in population and experiencing slow economic growth through much of the 1980s, Montrose experienced strong growth in the 1990s, a trend that has continued into the new millennium. Continued diversification of the Montrose economy through economic development efforts is one of the highest local priorities.