Lafayette was founded in 1888 by Mary Miller. She and her husband, Lafayette Miller, had moved to the area to farm land acquired via the Homestead Act in 1871. In 1874 the Millers moved to Boulder. Lafayette Miller ran a butcher shop and was a town trustee. Lafayette Miller died in 1878, after which Mary Miller moved back to the farm with their six small children. In 1884 coal was discovered on the Miller farm, and in 1887 John Simpson sank the first shaft, thereby starting the coal mining era. In 1888 Mary Miller designated 150 acres of the farm for the town of Lafayette, which she named after her late husband. In July 1888 a second mine, the Cannon, went into operation and the first houses were built. On January 6, 1890, the town of Lafayette was incorporated. As stipulated in the original town deeds, no alcohol was sold east of what is now known as Public Road.
Lafayette quickly became a part of the coal-mining boom that all of eastern Boulder and southwestern Weld counties were experiencing, with the Cannon and Simpson mines being the largest and most productive. By 1914 Lafayette was a booming town with two banks, four hotels, and a brickworks. Lafayette was also the location of a power station that served Louisville, Boulder, Longmont, and Fort Collins.
Mary Miller continued to be a leader in the community, especially in January 1900, when the town burned. She founded the Miller Bank in 1892, and it became the Lafayette Bank in 1902. She was elected president of the bank, and at that time was the only woman bank president in the world. The bank closed in 1914 because of roughly $90,000 in bad loans to the United Mine Workers. She remained devoted to the temperance movement and eventually ran for state treasurer on the Prohibition ticket. Miller died in 1921 at her daughter-in-law's home at 501 E. Cleveland Street.
Lafayette continued to thrive as a coal-mining town. Many miners struck in the aforementioned strike in the 1910s, which was nationally recognized as a great Wobbly (Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labor group) strike, noted for the Ludlow Massacre of miners' families by the National Guard in the Southern Coal Field near Trinidad, Colorado.
In 1927, Lafayette's coal miners struck again. This time, the mining massacre was closer to home, resulting in the deaths of five Lafayette resident miners just northeast of town in the Columbie Mine Massacre on November 27, 1927, in what is now the ghost town of Serene near Erie.
Coal mining declined as an industry by the 1950s as natural gas replaced coal. The Black Diamond mine closed in 1956, and Lafayette became once more an agriculture-based community. As Denver and Boulder grew, residential growth in Lafayette increased. With the increase in residential growth, the farm-based economy changed and commercial, small industrial and manufacturing factors became more important.
This little community is growing as the Front Range becomes more popular for all the transfers coming into Colorado.
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Information provided by the City of Lafayette,CO
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