Otto Mears, a famed Colorado road builder

Otto Mears, a famed Colorado road builder

Born in Estonia and raised in California, Otto Mears was an essential entrepreneur to the development of Southwestern Colorado, building more than 450 miles of toll roads and railroads. He was an early pioneer of road and railroad construction in this area.

When was Otto Mears born?

Pioneer Otto Mears was born in Kurland, in Estonia, which was part of Russia, on May 3, 1840, to an English father and a Russian mother. He was orphaned at age 3 and sent to live with relatives who had emigrated to the United States First he was brought to California in 1854 and moved to Colorado in 1864. He died on June 24, 1931, in California. 

Why was Otto Mears famous?

Mears was an entrepreneurial businessman who built railroads and roads and was essential to the development of Southwestern Colorado. His toll roads and railroads opened southwestern Colorado for settlement and mining, earning him the name “Pathfinder of the San Juan”. He played a major role in the early development of southwestern Colorado, building 450 miles of toll roads that later became most of the modern roads in southwestern Colorado, notably the Million Dollar Highway andEngineer Pass. A friend of Otto Mears described him this way: "Mr. Mears is a man who always said 'I can;' and he did”. He also built three railroads in the San Juan Mountains that helped develop the area’s mining wealth.