By Logan Smith

DENVER (CBS4) – John Evans was Colorado’s second governor back when it was a territory and not yet a state. Colorado’s fourteenth highest peak is named after him. That may be changing.

A view of Mount Evans from Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (credit: Dawn Wilson Photography)

Evans’ sterling reputation as successful politician, financier of Denver’s railroads, and founder of the University of Denver is increasingly overshadowed by his association with the one of the region’s — if not the nation’s — darkest moments.

It’s known today as the Sand Creek Massacre.

In 1864, during Evans’s tenure, Colorado volunteers soldiers and U.S. Calvary attacked a riverside encampment of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. The early morning surprise attack continued despite truce flags by Chief Left Hand (a.k.a. Chief Niwot) and Chief Black Kettle. Nearly half of those killed were women and children, many as they fled.

The incident “created a feeling of indignation so strong in the East that it prompted a congressional investigation,” according to Colorado state archives. “As a result, Dr. John Evans lost his federal appointment as governor. … In addition, Colorado’s statehood was delayed.”

Nov. 29 is the anniversary of the incident.

John Evans (credit – Colorado State Archives)

Sunday, following the submission of an application to change the name of Mount Evans, government agencies are batting about the idea.

Kate Tynan-Ridgeway, a Denver elementary school teacher, filed paperwork in June asking the U.S. Board On Geographic Names to consider renaming the peak to Mount Cheyenne Arapaho. The board forwarded the documentation to the City and County of Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department, which manages adjacent property at Summit Lake Park, and asked for a response.

“We hope to respond to their request before the end of the year,” Denver Parks and Rec spokesperson Cynthia Karvaski told CBS4 Sunday.

Mount Evans, at 14,265 feet elevation, was officially named in 1895. Its higher reaches contain the highest road in North America.

The proposed name change mirrors other action taken by Colorado municipalities to remove honors previously bestowed to those deemed responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre.

In 2004, Longmont changed the name of Chivington Drive — which had been named after Colonel John Chivington, the commander who carried out the attack at Sand Creek — to Sunrise Drive.

In 2015, Colorado State University renamed its Pingree Park area the CSU Mountain Park Campus. It’s earlier name recognized George Pingree, a government scout and planner of the Sand Creek Massacre as well as a staunch defender of Chivington.

Yet, other places in Colorado, so far untouched by present-day Colorado’s evolving judgement of its own past, continue to pay tribute to history.

Denver’s Evans Avenue and the Town of Evans still bear the former territorial governor’s name.

The National Park Service established the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in 2007.

Less than 10 miles away lies the Town of Chivington which honors the man who perpetrated the attack.

“The legacy of Sand Creek surrounds American society even as sites like the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site seek to heal the wounds of the massacre,” states the NPS’s website.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect credit for the photo that shows Mount Evans. The correct credit on the photo is Dawn Wilson Photography.

Logan Smith is an assignment desk editor at CBS4 with more than 30 years of journalism experience in print and television media.

Comments (6)
  1. Cody says:

    “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered…History has stopped. Nothing exists except the endless present in which the party is always right” — George Orwell

  2. Marjorie Hall says:

    Why are we attempting to obliterate our history? Our history has had it ups and downs. Studying it, remembering it just may get through to our children. Leave our state alone. John Kennedy wasn’t all good…neither was FDR, Lincoln or our founding fathers. Taking down memorials, changing dimes, doesn’t change our history. We must remember and honor our history. We also must remember that we are one Nation under GOD. Want to change that too??

  3. Read the article. I think the mountain should be named Mt. Soule after the captain who refused to give the command to have his unit fire on the unarmed Indians. Later he gave testimony at a hearing about the atrocities that had been committed. He was murdered on the streets of Denver in retaliation for having spoken the truth.

  4. Gary Arpon says:

    I think that FDR should be removed from the dime and his Memorial should be ripped down in DC because he was a racist bigot who sent Japanese Americans to internment/concentration camps in WWII.

  5. Richard Crow says:

    We honor Lincoln and yet he suspended the writ of habeas corpus which was a violation of the Constitution.

  6. Lisa Fisher says:

    I think people have gone too far in wanting to summarily erase history by renaming things and removing statues, etc. Yes, we have some shameful history, but it IS part of our history and we can learn from it. It should not be forgotten. Let these things stand as reminders to continue to improve ourselves.
    In the case of Gov. Evans, he was not all good, not all bad. Let the name stand for the good he did , and as a reminder of what was not good.

Leave a Reply to Marjorie Hall Cancel reply