Members of the Cheyenne Tribe

Early History and Homesteads


The City of Federal Heights is located on land that was part of vast open spaces inhabited by a Paleo-Indian culture, the Folsom Complex, more than 14,000 years ago when large mammals roamed the land.  The Folsom culture was characterized by the use of Folsom spearheads for hunting and scrapers for slicing and skinning bison. 

During the 1500s and 1600s, the Spanish and French both claimed ownership of this land.

When early American trappers, explorers, and gold miners visited and settled in the area, they encountered two major groups of bison hunter Native Americans in this area – the Cheyenne and Arapaho.  The two nations, originally from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, had migrated westward in the late 17th or early 18th century.

After the Revolutionary War in 1776, American statesmen realized the potential great benefits offered by the undeveloped land in the West.  On May 20, 1785, the Land Ordinance Act authorized the Treasury Department to survey and sell portions of government land to generate revenue to pay debts incurred during the war and to reward soldiers for their service. 

A standard survey procedure system with Ranges and Townships was implemented.  Each Township was six miles by six miles, divided into 36 sections that were one square mile each (640 acres).  In Colorado, each Township reserved two of the 36 sections for public schools, Section 16 and Section 36.

The 1803 Louisiana Purchase added about 827,000 square miles of land to the United States, doubling its size, providing a gateway for land ownership for millions of Americans


In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act allowing settlers to acquire up to 160 acres of land from the government at no cost except for filing fees.  This was done to encourage free farmers as opposed to slave-based farming. 

The law went into effect on January 1, 1863, the same day that President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Conditions on the Colorado frontier - wind, blizzards, and insect plagues - presented a challenge and threatened crops.  Many homes were built of sod because the open plains offered few trees.  While 160 acres was sufficient for a farmer in the eastern United States, it was often not enough to sustain agriculture on the dry plains.  The settlers also often had strained relationships with the railroad companies who owned a large portion of the land in the Western territory, having been granted almost 128 million acres of land before the passage of the Homestead Act.  As a result, many original homesteaders did not stay on the land long enough to fulfill their claims.

Five homestead claims were made in the 1800s within the boundaries of current-day Federal Heights: