Mount Vernon was one of Colorado’s first settlements, with not much more than a cemetery and two stone homes standing today. It’s located in Morrison in the Matthews/Winters Park.
Today the area is common for hiking, jogging and mountain biking. Thanks to the Jefferson County Open Space, the former townsite is preserved, as well as the important landscape surrounding Red Rocks and Dinosaur Ridge.
George Morrison’s Mount Vernon home still stands as a private residence, known as the Mount Vernon House. It was listed in 1970 on the National Register of Historic Places, Jefferson Counties first site to be listed. There’s also another stone home, called the Baugher Residence. Both are visible just south of I-70.
In the fall of 1859 Dr. Joseph Castro founded the town of Mount Vernon in modern day Jefferson County, then Jefferson Territory. It served as a staging area for miners heading west through Mount Vernon Canyon, to recent gold discoveries by John Gregory in Black Hawk and Central City. Looking to get rich, Castro and a small group of three built a toll road connecting his town with the mining camps.
He offered free plots of land to anyone agreeing to build on them. The territory governor from 1859-1861, Robert W. Steele, was an early resident of town. Because the government lived here, the town conducted many capital meetings here. It became the de facto capital of the unofficial territory. The town was named after George Washington’s estate in Virginia.
It was a stop on the Wells Fargo Express, as well as part of a toll road that lead to Park County. In its two year heyday, as many as fifty wagons passed through town every day. In 1860 there were dozens of cabins, two hotels, a saloon, general store, blacksmith and school.
The future founder of Morrison, George Morrison built his home there, which over the years served as a hotel, a stage depot, post office, general store, and a private residence.
Denver took away the town’s political prowess, when the federal government created the Colorado Territory in 1861, never officially recognizing Jefferson Territory. Steele left, his house burned down (a monument marks the spot), and the former governor left for Apex to the north and built his own competing toll road. Several other routes in the mountains led to Mount Vernon becoming useless.
While the town slowly decreasing in size, the railroads heading west into the mountains from Denver in the 1870s further spelled Mount Vernon’s demise. By 1885 the town only hosted the Matthews family as its sole residents.
This is fairly easy to reach, however, you can’t drive up to this one. Situated inside Matthews/Winters Park, of the Jefferson County Open Space, you’ll have to park at the trailhead and walk.
From Morrison – Take Hogback Rd/Country Rd 93 2.6 miles north from town to reach the Matthews/Winters Park. Take the trailhead to see the former town plot and cemetery.
Nearby Towns: Morrison, CO
County: Jefferson County
Roads: 2WD, hike-to
Season: Year round