What’s in a name? Erie, Colorado

by Jim Stull

People often ask how Erie received its name.  The best documented answer is that it is named after Erie, Pennsylvania.  Richard van Valkenburg, considered the “Father of Erie,” named the town after his last official residence before becoming a circuit preacher and providing religious services at various towns and outposts across the great prairie in his quest to find a healthier place to live.

The Erie were a Native American nation that lived along the southern edge of what is now called Lake Erie, from Buffalo, New York to Eastern Ohio.  Erie. Pennsylvania is located in that stretch of land.  The Erie were part of the larger Iroquois nation.  The word “Erie” means “long tail,” “cat,” or “raccoon,” because of the mountain lions that roamed the area where the tribe lived.

Prior to being called Erie, the Colorado town was called Coal Park.

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