Sunday, May 17, 2020

Bovina Ex-pats - John Coulter, Colorado

John Coulter was the son of James and Nancy Coulter, born in Bovina in April 1842. He spent his childhood in Bovina and when he was 20, enlisted in the 144th New York Infantry in August 1862.  We know a bit about what he looked like from his enlistment. He was described as six feet tall with blue eyes, dark hair and a fair complexion.  John enlisted as a Sergeant and was promoted several times, becoming a 2nd Lieutenant before he was discharged on July 12, 1865. His brother Solomon enlisted around the same time as his brother John and also was in the 144th. Sadly, Solomon was a fatality of the war, dying in 1864 of Typhoid. 

After the war, John headed west, settling in Georgetown in what was them the territory of Colorado, where he was a pioneering citizen. His home is still open for occasional tours, noted as the place where “Judge John Coulter was instrumental in drafting this territorial charter.” Coulter became a lawyer and a justice of the peace and, later, served as mayor of Georgetown.  John also served one term in the state legislature (Colorado became a state in 1876).

From a Colorado Newspaper, December 1867

In 1874, he married Annie Gaffney Leggett, a widow, and adopted her two children. 

During his one-term as a legislator, Coulter had some notoriety outside of his state. In early 1881, he introduced a bill calling “for the destruction of Indians and skunks…” This action was reported in several newspapers, including the New York Times and the Delaware (Delhi, NY) Gazette. The New York Times was highly critical of Coulter, noting in an editorial in its February 18, 1881 issue, that “to class Indians and skunks together is the habit of the free and boundless West.” The editorial speculated it was a joke but concluded that the bill reflected the sentiment of most of the legislature. A week later, however, the same paper reported that the bill “was promptly snubbed in the House…” The local Colorado newspapers blasted Coulter for introducing this bill, as did the leaders in the House. One representative noted that “this bill is an insult to the civilized and enlightened population of Colorado. I have no patience with it.” He closed his remarks with “I move, Mr. Speaker, that the resolution be chucked under the table.” The motion used those exact words and with one dissenting vote, that of Mr. Coulter himself, the resolution was carried. Whether this resolution was why Coulter served only one term is not clear, but his party would not even nominate him to run for re-election.

Coulter was a judge for many years and often referred to as Judge Coulter (and his wife as “Mrs. Judge Coulter.”) He served as mayor of Georgetown in 1891 and 1892. He moved to Routt County, Colorado (later split off to become Moffat County) a few years later, continuing his legal practice.  In 1915, he moved to Boulder and retired from the law, though the previous year had returned to Moffat County to serve as a judge.  On New Year's Day, 1919, John Coulter died of heart disease and senile dementia at the age of 78.  He was buried in Boulder.


  1. Coulter Post Office and Stage Stop was named for him, near Granby Colorado.