Founded in 1858, Denver was originally a mining town created during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Part of Kansas Territory, the main town center was on the banks of the South Platte River. This new town was named Montana City.
Montana City was one of three settlements that were positioned roughly in the same place near the base of the Rocky Mountains. The others were St. Charles City and Auraria, which was named after the gold mining center of Auraria, Georgia.
When General William Larimer placed a claim on land in the existing St. Charles City, he named the parcel Denver City after the Territorial Governor of Kansas, James Denver.
Denver City had much in common with the other frontier towns of its day, providing services and supplies to miners. Saloons, brothels, dry goods stores, gambling parlors, and livestock trading were all in great demand.
With the new growth, came new opportunities, and the Colorado Territory was established in 1861. When Denver City became the Territorial Capital in 1867, the name was reduced to that which we know it by today.