CO Historical Markers: Hardscrabble, Colorado

The village of Hardscrabble was established in the 1840s. Founded by traders and trappers, the town was located below the fork of the Hardscrabble and Adobe creeks. While little trace of the settlement still exists, we know that the walls and homes of the town were made of Adobe, creating a square to protect them against Native American attacks, especially from the Ute and Arapaho.

The Hardscrabble area attracted many Native American tribes, including Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sioux and Kiowa. According to the Wetmore Historical Society, Spanish explorers even came to the area in the 1600s in their search for gold and treasures. American, French and Mexican settlers, trappers and traders started coming to the area in the 1830s.

In 1844, Americans from El Pueblo created a trading post at San Buenaventura de los Tres Arrollos. This was about 5 miles northeast of Ft. LeDuc, which had been built around 1830 by French trappers who were seeking trade with Native Americans, settlers and mountain men. The name of the trading post was later changed to Hardscrabble.

The historical society indicates that:

According to George Simpson, one of its founders, the name came from the “hard scrabbling to get in a crop” in the gravelly soil. 

Tow of Hardscrabble in Custer County Colorado

The town of Hardscrabble traded with nearly anyone who passed through the area, but it wasn’t enough to sustain them. After only a few years of operation, Ft. LeDuc closed in the 1840s, and many residents of the surrounding areas left for the California gold rush.

For Hardscrabble itself, it’s location was a deterrent to success. It was far away from the Santa Fe Trail, and the community was tiny. By 1848, the community was nearly abandoned as observed by John C. Fremont and his men as they were passing through the area.

What’s left of Hardscrabble is located in Custer County. The historical marker is located off Highway 67 between the town of Wetmore and Florence: N 38° 15.872 W 105° 05.265.

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