Fun facts

Cotopaxi history shared

During this suspension of activities and sports, I thought it would be fun to throw together a few fun facts about Cotopaxi and its history.

I’d like to thank former Cotopaxi Schools superintendent Larry Coleman, who dug up a treasure trove of interesting history about the area and the school. Larry graduated from Cotopaxi High School in 1969, earned his teaching degree from Western State College in Gunnison before returning to Cotopaxi where he taught science, coached and served as principal and superintendent. His run at the school spanned 1973 to 2003.

I’d also like to thank Betsy Denney, who also has a rich history at the school and provided some great information. Denney’s grandmother started at Cotopaxi School in 1905.

Here are some random facts and pieces of history about Cotopaxi and Cotopaxi Schools. If you see an error, have a clarification, or know of other fun facts to add to this story, email them to

Henry Thomas, also known as “Gold Tom,” is credited with naming Cotopaxi. Thomas was a gold prospector, who also worked for the railroad. In his scouting trips looking for timber for railroad ties, he noted one spectacular valley/mountain vista that reminded him of one in northern Ecuador called Mount Cotopaxi. He reportedly named Cotopaxi after that major geographical feature, according to a story in the Valley Cutlass.

The Cotopaxi School District was formed on July 29, 1882.

W.T. Banta was the Cotopaxi School District’s first president.

In 1915, the town levied 1.5 mils to generate $600 to run the school for the year.

Between 1914 and 1916, new teachers at Cotopaxi Schools signed a contract that paid them $50 a month for an eight-month contract.

Several other area school districts started before the one in Cotopaxi. The Stout Creek School District in Howard began in 1873. The building is still there and was later used by Cotopaxi as its bus barn. Coaldale had a one-room log school house built in 1878. In 1879, the Texas Creek School District was formed. It later became known as the Hillside School. There were also other school districts located in upper Texas Creek, Oak Creek, Yellow Pine and Nesterville. Yellow Pine and Nesterville were 16 to 18 miles north of Cotopaxi.

In 1918, Texas Creek, Upper Texas Creek, Oak Creek, Yellow Pine and Nesterville school districts consolidated with Cotopaxi into Fremont County District 51. There were three teachers, 76 grade school students and 17 high school students in the beginning. The new district purchased two Kessler school buses. A school made of concrete with four rooms was built. In 1928, three rooms were added.

Marion Taylor was the first high school graduate at Cotopaxi High School in 1922.

In 1938, the Cotopaxi school building was destroyed by boiler room fire. The only rooms not damaged were the brand new gym and multi-purpose room. The bus garage was fixed up for classrooms, and the old Nesterville school house, which was moved to facilitate classrooms, became the head custodian’s house that was used into the 1970s.

As part of the federal government’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) program, the school was rebuilt in 1939. The WPA was a work program for the unemployed, created in 1935 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

In 1959, the rest of the little area school districts consolidated to form Fremont School District Re-3: Hillside, Coaldale, Stout Creek and Howard Schools. Construction at the school included the original gym and three new classrooms in 1960, a new cafeteria and kitchen in 1972 and new shops and a classroom in 1975. Fremont Re-3 is a rural region dominated by rugged mountains that encompasses 541 square miles.

A flood in August 1964 took out the water system in Cotopaxi. Several houses were flooded along Barnard Creek, which is the creek one crosses going to the school. It also took out the railroad tracks and railroad bridge. Nobody could cross the the river going north for at least two weeks. They threw food across the river to the people in town.

 In 1975, two new vocational shops, business room, science lab and two additional classrooms were completed.

The football field was constructed in 1977 by the Tezak brothers – Ed, Jim, Mike and Bill. The donated all the machinery and labor. The school’s only obligation to the project was paying $1,200 for diesel used by the heavy machinery. The field is named Tezak Field. There is a big quartz rock at the gate of the field, with a brass plate that says Tezak Field. Ed Tezak went on to buy all the football equipment so the Pirates could play the following year.

In 1980, Cotopaxi became one of 13 school districts statewide to adopt a four-day school week.

One of the best Cotopaxi boys basketball teams placed fourth at state in 1980, led by David Goodwin, who was named Class 1A player of the year. Others on the team included Chris Cooper, Steve McNew, Jed McEnult, Jerry Pearl and Seth Peters. The team won its first game before losing to Hayden in triple overtime. The Pirates then lost the third-place game the next morning.

Four new elementary classrooms were built between 1985 and 1987.  

In 1996, a new secondary building was constructed. It featured a gym with locker rooms and five classrooms. A new elementary addition was also added that has classrooms and restrooms.

The Cotopaxi boys and girls basketball teams qualified for the state tournament in 1991. The next time a Cotopaxi team qualified for state was 2020, when the girls earned a berth and won its first playoff game in Greeley.