The twin mountains known as the Spanish Peaks can be seen for miles, and were used as a landmark by all those who passed through this area.
The Peaks were known to the Comanche as “Wahatoya,” which means “Double Mountain.” The ancient Indians believed the Spanish Peaks were the home of the rain gods, and therefore the source of life and thought of them as the “breasts of the world.” Later, Native Americans who often hunted and camped here were the Apache, Arapaho, Kiowa and Ute.
The Spanish Conquistadors arrived in New Mexico in the 1500’s. They noticed the mountain range west of the Peaks turned red at sunrise, and named them the “sangre de Cristo,” or “blood of Christ.” Other landmarks in the area also given Spanish names include Cucharas (spoon), La Veta (the vein), and Huerfano (orphan).
Other explorers and travelers followed the Spanish. Among them was Col. John M. Francisco, who came to the Valley in 1840. He was a settler at Fort Garland until he built his plaza in La Veta to serve as a ranch headquarters in 1861. He supplied nearby settlers as well as the gold miners around Denver. His plaza provided protection from Indian attack as well. It is now Francisco Fort Museum. The first post office was established in 1871. The railroad depot was located here in 1876, when La Veta was incorporated.
The upper Cuchara Valley was once known as Nunda Canyon (nunda is an Indian word for “potato,” and early settlers found the climate excellent for the crop). In 1908, George Mayes moved to the Valley for his health, and was convinced Cuchara would be a great health resort. He named his resort Cuchara Camps. By 1910, several cabins had been built, and Cuchara was a summer community.