Trinidad was first explored by Spanish and Mexican traders, who liked its proximity to the Santa Fe Trail. It was founded in 1862 soon after coal was discovered in the region. This led to an influx of immigrants, eager to capitalize on this important natural resource. By the late 1860s, the town had about 1,200 residents. Trinidad was officially incorporated in 1876, just a few months before Colorado became a state. An important milestone for the town occurred in 1878, when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway reached Trinidad, making it easier for goods to be shipped from distant locations. In the 1880s, Trinidad became home to a number of well-known people, including Bat Masterson, who briefly served as the town's marshal in 1882. By 1900, the population of Trinidad had grown to 7,500. It was now home to two English-language newspapers, and one that was published in Spanish.
In the early 1900s, Trinidad became nationally known for having the first woman sports editor of a newspaper, Ina Eloise Young. Her expertise was in baseball, and in 1908, she was the only woman sportswriter to cover the World Series. During the same period of time, Trinidad was also home to a popular semi-pro baseball team that was briefly coached by Damon Runyon.
In the photograph to the right it is believed that Ina Eloise Young is sitting in the center of the front row, above the white dog, with her mother and father seated on her left. This was a good location to keep a box score and report on the game. Although there is no byline, Ina Eloise Young, as sporting editor, certainly wrote the article that appeared in The Chronicle-News on September 3, 1907 about the three-game series. Damon Runyon is possibly standing on the far left with the other dignitaries in the front-center of the photograph. This event illustrates the popularity of baseball in Colorado at the time and shows Ina Eloise Young and Damon Runyon right in the middle of it.
On August 7, 1902, the Bowen Town coal mine, six miles north of Trinidad, experienced a horrific gas explosion, killing 13 miners. At the time it was one of the worst mining disasters in the state; conditions in the mine provided the impetus for several labor strikes. At one point in late 1903, an estimated 3,000 miners, members of the United Mine Workers of America, went out on strike. In, 1904, Trinidad experienced several disasters. In mid-January, a fire destroyed two blocks of the business section of the town, causing more than seventy-five thousands dollars in damages. Then, in late September, the Trinidad area and the region along the Las Animas river endured an unusually heavy rainstorm, leading to severe flooding; the flood destroyed the Santa Fe railroad station, wiped out every bridge in town and caused several hundred thousand dollars of property damage. But as Trinidad continued to grow, this was also a period of time when a number of new construction projects began in the downtown area, including a new library, a new city hall, an opera house, and a new hotel.
On April 20, 1914 just eighteen miles north of town was the site of the Ludlow Massacre.
Trinidad was dubbed the "Sex Change Capital of the World", because a local doctor had an international reputation for performing sex reassignment surgery. In the 1960s, Dr. Stanley Biber, a veteran surgeon returning from Korea, decided to move to Trinidad because he had heard that the town needed a surgeon. In 1969 a local social worker asked him if he would perform the surgery for her, which he learned by consulting diagrams and a New York surgeon. Biber attained a reputation as a good surgeon at a time when very few doctors were performing sex change operations. At his peak, Biber was performing roughly four sex change operations a day, and the term "taking a trip to Trinidad" became a euphemism for some seeking the procedures he offered. Biber was featured in an episode of South Park, in which elementary school teacher Mr. Garrison undergoes a sex change operation. Biber's surgical practice was taken over in 2003 by Marci Bowers. Dr. Bowers has since moved the practice to San Mateo, California. The 2008 documentary Trinidad focuses on Marci Bowers and two of her patients.
Drop City, a counterculture artists' community, was formed in 1965 on land about four miles (6 km) north of Trinidad. Founded by art students and filmmakers from the University of Kansas and University of Colorado Boulder, Drop City became known as the first rural "hippie commune," and received national attention from Life and Time magazines as well as from reporters around the world. Drop City itself was abandoned by the early 1970s, but influenced subsequent alternative living projects across the country.
Trinidad is located at 37°10′15″N 104°30′23″W (37.170944, -104.506447). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.3 square miles (16 km2), all of it land.
Trinidad is situated in the Purgatoire River valley in far southern Colorado at an elevation of 6,025 feet (1,836 m). The city lies 13 miles north of the New Mexico border. On the northern end of the town is Simpson's Rest, a prominent bluff named for early resident George Simpson, who is buried atop. North Avenue leads to a rut-prone county road to the top of Simpson's Rest for overviews of the city. The vista from Simpson's Rest includes Fisher's Peak, a prominent mountain of 9,600 feet (2,900 m) in elevation, southeast of the city. To the northwest are the prominent Spanish Peaks as well.
Trindad experiences a semi-arid climate, with hot summers and cold winters. Summers days are hot, but due to Trinidad's high elevation, summer nights are cool, and temperatures drop sharply after sunset. Winters are cold, but milder than in many mountain towns in Colorado. In the winter, daytime highs are usually above freezing, but temperatures below 0 °F or −17.8 °C are possible, especially at night.
As of the census of 2000, there were 9,078 people, 3,701 households, and 2,335 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,439.4 people per square mile (555.5/km²). There were 4,126 housing units at an average density of 654.2 per square mile (252.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 79.97% White, 0.54% African American, 3.02% Native American, 0.43% Asian, 0.14% Pacific Islander, 12.12% from other races, and 3.78% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 48.07% of the population.
There were 3,701 households out of which 29.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.6% were married couples living together, 14.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.9% were non-families. 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.98.
In the city, the population was spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 24.2% from 25 to 44, 22.6% from 45 to 64, and 18.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 92.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $36,681, and the median income for a family was $33,992. Males had a median income of $27,817 versus $19,064 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,271. About 16.2% of families and 18.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.6% of those under age 18 and 20.0% of those age 65 or over.
For many years Trinidad housed the miners who worked in the coal mines of the Raton Basin south and west of the town. The coal mines are now closed, but since the 1980s, companies have been drilling new gas wells to extract coalbed methane from the remaining coal seams.
Trinidad's location at the foot of Raton Pass, along the Santa Fe Trail between St. Joseph, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico, has always made it a favored route for travellers, first by foot, then horse and ox-drawn wagon, then by railroad. Today Interstate 25, the most highly traveled route between Colorado and New Mexico, passes through Trinidad, and was recently reconstructed through the city to upgrade the aging raised viaduct in which the highway used to go through city. I-25
Trinidad (Amtrak station)
Stop # 17 along the Southwest Chief
Perry Stokes Airport
Stanley Biber, physician
Marci Bowers, physician
John Elway, Denver Broncos quarterback, executive, pro football Hall of Famer; resident of Cougar Canyon Resort.
John Gagliardi, a native, coached football while attending high school in Trinidad and playing on the squad; NCAA all-time, all-division winningest football coach.
Erick Hawkins, modern-dance choreographer and dancer, was born in Trinidad.
Snatam Kaur, singer of Sikh religious music, was born in Trinidad.
Cissy King, dancer of The Lawrence Welk Show was born in Trinidad.
Ronnie Lane, rock musician, lived in Trinidad during final years of his life.
Bat Masterson, Old West gunman, town marshal of Trinidad during the 1880s. His brother Jim Masterson was also town marshal during the 1880s.
Mortimer M. Miller, Alaska state legislator and writer, was born in Trinidad.
Arthur Roy Mitchell, Western artist, a Trinidad native; the Mitchell Museum houses many of his major works.
Erskine Sanford, actor most notable for his work with Orson Welles in films like Citizen Kane
Bernard J. Sullivan, Roman Catholic bishop, was born in Trinidad in 1889.
Alice Ivers Tubbs, frontier gambler known as "Poker Alice".
Thomas Wilson, composer, was born in Trinidad in 1927, lived there 17 months before moving to Glasgow, Scotland.
Ed Wolff, actor and circus giant.
Ina Eloise Young, first woman sports editor.
Garrett Neumann (snitch/informant)