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La Plata County, Colorado (U.S.)

Last modified: 2024-02-03 by rick wyatt
Keywords: la plata county | colorado |
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[flag of La Plata County, Colorado] image by Jens Pattke, 11 April 2018
based on:

Known Flag - indicates flag is known.
No Known Flag - indicates it is reported that there is no known flag.

Municipal flags in La Plata County:

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Description of the flag

The La Plata County flag is yellow with the seal in centre.

From 23 February 2018 (archived):

The history of the La Plata County flag and seal - and yes, such a thing exists - seems to be a mystery in and of itself. "We don't know when it was adopted," said Megan Graham, spokeswoman for La Plata County. "We kind of hit a dead end."

Right now, the La Plata County flag and seal, of which there is only one known in existence, hangs in the commissioners' board room at the county administration building, 1101 East Second Ave. The bright yellow flag features a seal with a farmer behind a plow, being driven by a mule and a backdrop of mountains and trees.

With the county at a loss about the flag's history, The Durango Herald turned to local historian and Fort Lewis College professor emeritus Duane Smith, the go-to person for many local history questions. "I didn't even know we had a flag," Smith said.

OK, well, how about the employees at the Animas History Museum? "No one here has even heard about a La Plata County flag," one employee said.

And a last-ditch effort to a Facebook page dedicated to sharing the history and lore of the Durango area - "If you are from Durango, Co, remember when...?" - came up empty as well.

Seemingly out of options, the Herald recently learned the elusive history of the seal and flag intrigued at least one county employee to the point where she was driven mad to know the story behind it. "I hate when I can't find something, so it's been driving me nuts," said Ashli Stuckman, chief deputy clerk for the county's Clerk and Recorder Office. "I looked up and down all our records, all our minutes, and nothing came up."

So, Stuckman contacted Nick Kendziorski, the archives manager for Fort Lewis College's Center of Southwest Studies, and the two got to digging through piles upon piles of county archives that date back to 1874. The pair's research led them down a rabbit hole, to a time before La Plata County was ever officially a county, raising even more questions about the county's earliest days.

Although La Plata County was technically formed in 1874, the first board meeting of La Plata County commissioners took place June 12, 1876, Stuckman said. In the records for that first board meeting, Stuckman and Kendziorski found no mention of any flag or seal - odd for a meeting that mostly dealt with the nuanced particulars of a county establishing itself. However, they did find a document dated on that same day that was embossed with the La Plata County seal. Kendziorski said the seal on the 1876 document has some variations but is mostly the same as the one seen today on the flag. That means the seal was conceived and adopted before La Plata County was officially a county, Kendziorski said. "Which also means we may have to look a little further back," he said.

Before the lines of La Plata County were drawn as they are known today, Southwest Colorado as a whole was part of a broader 'Conejos County,' which extended from the San Luis Valley all the way to the Utah border. As more people moved into the area, the all-encompassing Conejos County was broken up. Through a few iterations, La Plata County was once part of Montezuma County and even San Juan County, Kendziorski said.

It is Stuckman's and Kendziorski's suspicions that the seal must have been created sometime during this period, as evidenced by the scene it depicts of a farmer behind a mule. 'The seal was created before the railroad, before the smelter moved down from Silverton to Durango,' Kendziorski said. 'So it was created before we became that industrialized area.'

The pair have vowed to continue their research into a sliver of La Plata County's history, likely through more comprehensive state records that may have more information about the county's earliest days.

A cursory look at the presented photos would be enough to dispell half this so-called mystery, as the textile details of the printing, sewing, and appliqueing exhibited by the flag itself, as well as its condition, allow to date it to the 20th century - well after any mysteries of a remote past. And indeed the news article veers off to chronicle local history buffs' quest to identify the adoption date for the seal, which seems to date at least of 1876.

It is reported that, although this single copy of the flag hangs in a more or less public venue in an conspicuous manner, "local historian and Fort Lewis College professor emeritus Duane Smith" is reported to have declared that "I didn't even know we had a flag", while "employees at the Animas History Museum" likewise reported that "No one here has even heard about a La Plata County flag."

This points, in my opinion, less to any particular mystery around this flag than to a more general fact of vexillology that most flags are most times 'invisible' to most people, while paradoxically in abundant display. I think it's safe to assume that the seal was created in or shortly before 1876 and remained in discrete - even if likely assiduous - use.

Sometime in the 20th century, someone had a flag made using the seal as its main motif. Who did it, and the resons behind the design choices, remains unknown, but there's no reason to find that mysterious or even unusual, as neither is the apparent subsequent oblivion that the flag (and seal?) eventually met.

Antůnio Martins-TuvŠlkin, 22 December 2023


[flag of La Plata County, Colorado] image located by António Martins-Tuválkin, 21 December 2023

The seal on the center of the flag shows a naturalistic scene of a farmer, with hat and overalls, tilling a field with a mule-drawn plow, seen going hoistwards; behind it a tree and in the background a series of mountain peaks; the whole is in black on white, except the foliage of the tree, which is green.

The word "SEAL", arched, shows on the bottom of this scene, the whole encircled in a beaded line and outwards of it the seal rim has the wording "La Plata County" above and "Colorado" below, also arched around the center of the disc; these two texts separated with two small upright five-pointed stars; all text is set in serif capitals; the outer edge of the seal is encircled by a thicker ropework line, everything is set in black on white.
Antůnio Martins-TuvŠlkin, 21 December 2023