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How post office confusion forced two Colorado towns to change their names

Mail mishaps and confusion between Colorado and California forced two Colorado towns to change their names.
How Telluride got its name may depend on which theory you believe. (Courtesy: Telluride Historical Museum)

Two Colorado towns have California to blame for their names.

9NEWS dug through the history books to find how Telluride and Eldora got their names and found an interesting link.

Let's start with Eldora.

Back in the late 1890s, leaders at the mining camp of Happy Valley in Boulder County renamed the town to Eldorado. According to History Colorado, optimistic miners wanted to name the town after the legend of lost treasure.

Towns people and miners gather in Eldora in the late 1800s. (Courtesy: Carnegie Library for Local History/Musuem of Boulder Collection)

There was just one problem. Eldorado, Colorado kept getting confused with Eldorado, California. The Nederland Area Historical Society says mail ended up a couple states West. In some cases, History Colorado says that included paychecks for the miners. The town eventually shortened Eldorado to what we now know as Eldora.

Eldora isn't alone when it comes to mail confusion and California.

Telluride was once called Columbia, Colorado according to the Telluride Historical Museum. The Post Office again confused Columbia, Colorado with Columbia, California.

In 1887, Columbia became Telluride. How town leaders settled on the name Telluride isn't exactly clear, but there are a few theories.

"[Telluride] derives from the saying 'to hell you ride," says Kiernan Lannon, the executive director for the Telluride Historical Museum. "We don't give that too much credence."

The town now famous for its film festival, beautiful views, and skiing didn't always have such a respected reputation.

"Telluride back in the late 1800s, early 1900s was a dangerous place in a lot of ways," says Lannon. "It was crude. It was dirty. It was loud. It was extremely difficult to get to."

Lannon says people traveling may have felt like they were traveling through hell to get to Telluride.

"Telluride in a lot of ways was kind of like hell. It's an apt description...and that's where the saying comes from," says Lannon.

How Telluride got its name may depend on which theory you believe. (Courtesy: Telluride Historical Museum)

The second theory of Telluride's namesake isn't quite as colorful, but experts say it makes more sense.

"It's derived from the element Tellurium. When Tellurium combines in a compound with another element it's called telluride. Gold telluride is a very common form of telluride," says Lannon.

Ironically, though, Lannon says telluride was found in other parts of Colorado but not in the area now known as Telluride.

Unfortunately for historians, there isn't much hard evidence for either theory. He says people have passed down both theories for quite some time, but they can't pinpoint the origin.

"It's definitely something that has been told for many, many years. It's quite a history of its own which makes it a little problematic to try and dispel that," said Lannon. "A lot of people favor the myth and like it for the story it tells. Never let history get in the way for a good story, right?"

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