Trappers employed by the American Fur Company first came to the Cache la Poudre Valley in 1828 and established a trading post at present-day Laporte, Colorado, some five miles northwest of where Fort Collins would later be built. The settlement of Laporte grew up around the trading post in the early 1840s and grew as it became a stopping place on the long trail through the Rocky Mountains to Utah and California. Settlers in the area grew once again during the Pike’s Peak gold excitement of 1859-60, making the settlement the chief town in the region.
In early 1864, Lieutenant-Colonel William L. Collins, the commander of the Military Department of the Platte River, headquartered at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, came to the Cache la Poudre Valley in search of a location for a military post. With the objective to protect the Overland mail route that had recently located through the region, Camp Collins was established on the Cache La Poudre River, near the settlement of Laporte. However, the post was short-lived, as a flood destroyed the camp in June 1864.
Soon, the post was moved several miles further down the Cache La Poudre River, at the site of the city of present-day Fort Collins. The post was originally manned by two companies of the 11th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. The following year, the six square mile military reservation was renamed, Fort Collins. Soon, the town of Fort Collins grew up around the post.
By 1867, the dangers from Indian attacks had diminished and the fort was decommissioned. It then became an Indian Reservation until 1871. Nothing remains of the old fort today. The site was located adjacent to the present historic “Old Town” portion of the city of Fort Collins.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.