Mariano Medina was a fur trader, a guide, a horse/pony trader and businessman in the Big Thompson Valley/Loveland area in the mid-late 1800s. He helped Loveland become a community with his toll bridge that took travelers over the Big Thompson River. He was a short-statured man, with big charisma.   

Medina Cemetery Mariano Monolith
Dave Jensen, TSM

When you drive through Loveland, on your way to Estes Park, you pass a liquor store just on the western edge of town: Fort Namaqua Liquors. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell you that the actual Fort Namaqua was located close to the corner of what is now 1st Street and Namaqua Road. It was built by Mariano Medina so that he could protect the horses and ponies he had from being stolen. It became a stage stop on the Overland Trail, including a saloon, livery, and a post office.

Medina made money in the area with his fur trading, guide skills, horse/pony trading and his toll bridge. He built a great, sturdy bridge on his property that crossed the Big Thompson River. He named it 'Mariano's Crossing' and charged people to go across. Apparently, it was a ‘supply and demand’ rated toll: When demand was high for use of the bridge, he’d hardly charge anything. When demand was slow, he’d charge as much as $100. That left folks waiting in the Loveland area for the demand to go up and the toll to go down. Many times, folks just decided to stay; hence, Mariano Medina helped to found Loveland. He raked in SO much money, that reports have it that he lent $61,000 in 1871 to a new bank in Fort Collins so that it could get off the ground- the bank was 1st National Bank. 

On his property, Medina built a cemetery, which still exists today. It’s not the same as he had built it, but it is still there, near the corner of Namaqua Road and Namaqua Elementary Drive. From what I understand, back in 1960 Larimer County had the wall that surrounded the cemetery destroyed, and they moved several of the bodies over to Namaqua Park. Many believe that though there is a marker for Mariano at Namaqua Park, his remains are still at the original cemetery.

The Loveland Historical Society took over managing the original site in 2012, as the site is now on the registry of historic places in Loveland. Can you believe, at one point in the 90s, there was talk of removing the cemetery and putting a Mini-Mart there?

Mariano's life really does sound fascinating. You can read up on him with books by Zethyl Gates and David Jessup, and the Loveland Reporter-Herald.

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