Cortez has founding father
History credits J.W. Hanna with lead role in new community
An obituary published July 23, 1910, in The Denver Times credits pioneer J.W. Hanna for founding Cortez.
The obituary headline reads: “Empire Builder Dies of Dropsy; J.W. HANNA, PIONEER, DEAD; Old G.O.P. Leader and Discoverer of Montezuma Valley; SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE IN 1890; Established Town of Cortez and Made Fortune in Mines.”
Later published in Volume 1 of the Montezuma County Historical Society's “Great Sage Plain to Timberline” series, the obituary provides the following description of Hanna's contributions to the Montezuma Valley:
“James W. Hanna, a pioneer of Colorado, at one time the leader of the Republican party in this state, discoverer of Montezuma Valley and founder of the town of Cortez, died yesterday morning at his residence, 1242 Washington Street, of dropsy, after an illness of more than a year.
“Hanna was 67 years of age. He was born in Cadiz, Ohio. He came to Colorado after the close of the war, during which he served with distinction under Generals McClellan and Rosecrans, with the Ohio volunteers commanded by Colonel Collins, who established the fort that was afterward named after him.
“Shortly after his company was mustered out, he went into the mining, land and irrigation business. His political career also had its inception at that time. He was the exploiter of the Montezuma Valley, now one of the richest fruit and agricultural sections of the state, and was the founder of the town of Cortez, which he also named. He was the promoter of the famous Montezuma canal, which to this day irrigates the greater part of the Montezuma Valley. He sold out his extensive interests in the Montezuma country, which had returned him a fortune, twenty-two years ago, and went into the mining business. He also garnered a fortune from the earth and was one of the largest operators of the state.”
“In later years the wealth that he had made in land, irrigation and mining was lost through a number of unfortunate mining ventures, and he died with but a small portion of the fortune that he had won during the early days.
“Twenty-seven years ago he resided on the corner of Seventeenth and California streets, where is now located the California building. In 1890 he was elected to the Eighth general assembly from Arapahoe County, and was made speaker of the House of Representatives.
“Though he had been a sufferer from dropsy for many years he was ever active in the various mining and irrigation schemes in which he was interested, and only a little over a year ago was compelled to retire.
“He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Anna E. Hanna, two daughters, Jessie I. and Alice C. Hanna and two sons, Howard W. and Louis E. Hanna.”