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The 1870s: The University is born

January 28, 2010

What is now known as Colorado State University sprouted its roots 140 years ago on Feb. 11, 1870, when Governor Edward McCook signed the territorial bill that was the first step in establishing the university in Northern Colorado.

Based on President Abraham Lincoln’s Morrill Act, the legislation authorized a grant toward the purchase of public land to establish the institution.

Construction of the first campus building, Old Main, began on July 27, 1878.

Existed on paper only for 4 years

For the next four years the university existed only on paper, lacking the funding to progress. In 1874, the hopes for a Colorado land-grant institution rose again when the Territorial Legislative Assembly allocated $1,000 to aid in the construction of university buildings. This amount was matched by community members, businesses and organizations like the Grange - a fraternal organization of farmers who wished to support the economic and political well-being of the community.

In 1876, Colorado attained statehood and in turn was required to appoint an eight-member State Board of Agriculture, now known as the Board of Governors, to preside over the developing institution.

College opened in 1879 with two instructors

On July 27, 1878 construction of the first campus building, Old Main, began for the fall 1879 opening of the then Colorado Agricultural College. Nine years passed from the enactment of the legislation to the opening of the state’s first agricultural college.

On Sept. 1, 1879 President Elijah Evan Edwards along with two instructors welcomed the university’s first five students who had the opportunity to attend courses in arithmetic, English, U.S. history, natural philosophy, horticulture and farm economy.

Contact: Jennifer Dimas
Phone: (970) 491-1543