Notary History: Jefferson Territory 1859
Before Colorado Territory was formed on February 28, 1861, there was Jefferson Territory. Eastern Colorado, west to the Rocky Mountains, was part of Arapahoe County, formed August 1855, in western Kansas Territory.
When gold was discovered in July 1858, 100,000 people moved to the region in the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. In February 1859, Kansas Territory split Arapahoe County into six counties: Arapahoe, Broderick, El Paso, Fremont, Montana, and Oro.
Image: gold prospectors, Governor Robert Williamson Steele
Since the capital of Kansas was 600 miles away, residents voted to form Jefferson Territory on October 24, 1859.
Jefferson Territory was larger than the present State of Colorado, extending 138 miles farther north and 50 miles farther west.
It consisted of 12 counties. Kansas became a state on January 29, 1861, and did not include the former territorial area of Arapahoe County.
Although miners and settlers democratically elected government officials, who served from 1859 until 1861, Jefferson Territory was not legally recognized by the US government. Residents elected Robert W. Steele as Governor. James A. Gray, a notary public, was elected speaker of the house of representatives.
The capital was originally in Denver City (named after Kansas Governor James Denver), until November 12, 1860, then moved to Golden City, until June 6, 1861. The legislature met and wrote territorial laws, many of which were later adopted as territorial laws in 1861 when Congress created Colorado Territory.
Here are the notary laws of Jefferson Territory, 1859.
Chapter XV, An Act, to provide for the appointment of Notaries Public, Defining their Powers and Duties.
Section 1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Provisional Government of the Territory of Jefferson, the Governor approving:
That Notaries Public shall be appointed and commissioned by the Governor upon a certificate of qualifications and good moral character from the clerk of the district court, countersigned by the judge of the district court of the respective counties, and who shall hold their office for two years.
Section 2. Before entering upon the duties of the office, each notary public shall file in the office of the clerk of the district court, to be approved by him, an official bond in the penalty of five hundred dollars, payable to the Territory of Jefferson, on the back of which bond shall be drawn his oath of office, which he shall take and subscribe before said clerk, which bond and oath shall be recorded by the recorder of the respective counties, and also shall have procured an official seal which will distinctly stamp upon paper the following words:
(Name), Notarial Seal, ____ County, Jef. Ter.
Section 3. All notaries shall have power throughout their respective counties,
First: To make protest of all notes, bonds, orders, bills of exchange, and certify the same, and do all other acts which, by the customs of merchants, they are authorized to do.
Second: To take and certify all acknowledgments of deeds or other instruments of writing required or authorized by law.
Third: To administer oaths generally, and to take and certify affidavits and depositions, all of which must be attested by his official seal.
Section 4. The official certificate of a notary public attested by his seal, shall be presumptive evidence of the facts therein set forth, and shall be received in evidence in the courts of the Territory, in cases authorized by section three.
Section 5. Notaries shall receive the following fees:
Making and entering each protest, three dollars;
For acknowledging each deed or other instrument, one dollar;
For administering each oath, twenty-five cents.
Approved November 29th, 1859.
Notary Records: Jefferson Territory
Historic records list several notaries in Jefferson Territory during this time:
James Aikens, J.B. Atkins, Melancthon S. Beach, James A. Gray, W.D. McLain, Elisha Stout, and Thomas G. Wildman.
Melancthon S. Beach (1836-1917) became the clerk and recorder for Colorado City and El Paso County and was one of three original county commissioners who organized El Paso County in 1861.
A cabin built in 1859 by Beach and Dr. James Garvin, now serves as a museum in Bancroft Park in Old Colorado City, operated by the Old Colorado City Historical Society. Territory Days are held in Old Colorado City during Memorial weekend.
In 1862, he enlisted in the Second Colorado Infantry and became a lieutenant in McClain’s Independent battery of the Union Army under General Blunt. He fought in Missouri and the southwest against the Confederate forces. He also served under Colonel Chivington in many Indian battles east of Colorado Springs.
It is rare to find a notarized document from Jefferson Territory, a 16-month period in early Colorado history.