Longmont began in an unusual way. In 1870, a group of prominent men in Chicago decided to start a new town in Colorado. They sold memberships in this new town called “The Chicago-Colorado Colony” and used the money to buy 60,000 acres of land in a carefully chosen site in northern Colorado. They planned the town and brought people, lumber, and building materials to the barren site, where they built a small town by the summer of 1871. They named the new town “Longmont” in honor of Longs Peak, clearly visible from the town.
While the climate of Longmont is dry, the soil is rich. One of the great achievements of the Chicago-Colorado Colony was building large irrigation ditches to bring water from the rivers to the fields of wheat, fruit trees, and peas. The soil attracted many people from Sweden who settled northwest of Longmont. Germans came, by way of Russia, and farmed the sugar beet fields. People came from Mexico to work in the fields and start a new life. Immigrants even came from as far away as Japan to establish vegetable farms. All these groups continue to be an important part of Longmont’s heritage, and their descendants still live in and around Longmont.
As the town grew, large-scale agricultural industries arrived: first flour mills in 1872, then the J. Empson and Daughter vegetable cannery in 1887. Several leading citizens of Longmont worked together to build a sugar beet factory on the west edge of town, finally developing enough support in 1903 to build what quickly became the Great Western Sugar Company.
By 1910, the population of Longmont had doubled almost every 10 years since its founding, and stood at 4,256 people. Growth slowed after this, with only 5,848 people recorded in the 1920 Census. World Wars I and II, along with the Great Depression of the 1930s and a prolonged drought, had slowed the growth of Longmont but the economy improved in the late 1930s. The agricultural business that had founded Longmont waned in 1970s to be replaced with the technology boom in the 1980s and ‘90s. The 2000 Census measured Longmont’s population at 71,093 – a jump of nearly 20,000 since 1990. The current population of Longmont is estimated at 87,000.