Fort Convenience, the adobe fur trade fort built in the 1820s by Pierre Louis Vasquez at the confluence of Clear Creek and the South Platte River, was the county's first Euro-American structure. This mud fort had melted by 1858 when Captain Jack Henderson set up a ranch on a small island in the Platte. Henderson's Island became a popular stop along the Platte River Road, where immigrants traded weary stock for those refreshed by grazing in the grassy river bottom. Other ranchers and farmers also settled in the Platte bottomlands, raising food for Denver and the mining camps.
Adams County was created in 1902 and named for Colorado governor Alva Adams. As the county seat, voters selected the farm town of Brighton on the South Platte River, which meanders through the western end of the county. This western part has evolved into large Denver suburbs, such as Commerce City, Northglenn, Thornton, and Westminster. Adams County also has small, unincorporated towns that maintain much of their rural character. The eastern third of the county remains sparsely populated and agricultural.
Gravel dredging and heavy industry have become the chief economic resources. More recently, residents concerned about polluted water and the degraded landscape have begun a cleanup. Once neglected riverfronts and creekfronts are being incorporated in a greenway system of foot trails and parks.
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