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John P. Elliott, Sr. papers

Identifier: COU:570

Scope and Contents

The John P. Elliott Papers and the Elliott Consulting Engineering Papers consist primarily of the business correspondence and letter, engineering records, and legal documents relating to Elliott’s development of the Homestake Water Diversion Project and the Yampa River Diversion Project. These projects divert water from the Western Slope of the Colorado Rockies to Front Range urban centers. Elliott began the Homestake Project in 1952 and the Yampa Project in the mid 1960s. Elliott’s activity in these endeavors provides the researcher with insight into the rationale and complexities of natural resource development undertaken by private enterprise. The collection also houses numerous other smaller projects in which Elliott was involved. The collection provides a case study of both an entrepreneur and creative engineer grappling with issues such as the persistent competition for water rights in the semi-arid West, and the continuing local controversy between Western and Eastern Slope interests in the Rocky Mountain region.

There are other aspects of the collection beyond its documentation of the Homestake and Yampa Projects. Elliott was the promoter of the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. Elliott was an amateur politician and semi-professional political pollster throughout the 1950s and the early 1960s. His scrapbook concerns itself with the Four Counties Water User’s Association with emphasis on editorials, water needs and Senator Aspinal.

The two scrapbooks contain dated newspaper clippings from June 1949 to October 1965, a few months before Elliott’s death. There are also 1967 articles regarding Elliott’s projects collected by his family. In general, the articles document Elliott’s political activities, and water diversion projects. They also provide a thorough record of other water projects and controversies in Colorado and the West during the 1950’s and early sixties. The original scrapbooks were returned to donor on June 7, 1983. One large red scrapbook filmed and xeroxed original returned to donor.

The fieldbooks are engineering surveys primarily related to the Homestake Project, but also include smaller projects for clients such as International Harvester, U.S. Rubber, Sears, and smaller reservoirs. Though the chronological order is not always consistent the numerical sequence designated by Elliott is adhered to.

Series 1: Correspondence, Papers, etc. contains the documentation of all of Elliott’s projects, including the Homestake and Yampa projects, as well as his legal and political endeavors and other miscellaneous personal items. Series 2: Field Book and Notes holds Elliott’s field documentation from his various projects and endeavors including Homestake, Gold Park, Yampa, East and West Portals, and Lake George. Series 3: Audio/Visual and Fragile Materials houses sensitive materials from the Elliott Collection. Included are photographs, microfilm scrapbooks, glass negatives, and The Ditch Book. Series 4: Scrapbook 1966-1968 is a four part collection of photocopied news articles pertaining to Elliott’s work. Series 5: Maps is a group of maps, both in folders and tubes, of areas in which Elliott worked.


  • 1897 - 1979

Biographical Note

John Paul Elliott was an active participant in the affairs of the business, political, and social communities of Colorado. Born in Cedaredge, Colorado on December 25, 1897, he was educated in the Boulder Public Schools and at the University of Colorado. Elliott graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1919. In 1923 he married Agnes Loretta McGrath. The Elliott’s had a son and three daughters: John Paul Elliott Jr.; Mrs. Thomas W. Herrick of Amarillo, Texas; Mrs. Ray Holmberg of Los Alamos, New Mexico and Mrs. J.H. Hannemann of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Elliott died on June 16, 1966 of injuries sustained from a fall at his home.

Elliott was known primarily as the creator and developer of the Homestake Water Diversion Project that provides water from the Eagle River watershed on the Western Slope of the Colorado Rocky Mountains to the Eastern Slope cities of Colorado Springs and Aurora. At the time of his death, Elliott was also developing a plan to divert water on the upper Yampa River watershed to urban areas on the Eastern Slope. In both the Homestake and the Yampa Projects, he was involved in lengthy judicial disputes with Western Slope interest. In October, 1961, he won a significant Colorado Supreme Court decision affirming his filings on the Eagle River watershed which enabled him to continue development on the Homestake Project. In June, 1962, Elliott and his financial partner, Boettcher and Company, sold all rights, title, and interest in the Homestake Project to the cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs. This transaction made Elliott a millionaire.

Elliott won another major state Supreme Court decision in April, 1966, just prior to his death, in regard to his claims on the Yampa River watershed. Just as the Metropolitan Water Users Associated had been formed by Elliott, Boettcher, Aurora and Colorado Springs to develop the Homestake Project, the Yampa Project was to be under the auspices of the Four County Water Users Association. At the time of Elliott’s death, his son John P. Elliott Jr., announced plans to continue the corporation. Before launching his major water diversion projects in the early 1950’s, Elliott was employed by several sales and engineering firms in Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Chicago, and Denver. In 1946, he established his own private consulting practice.

In addition, he was an ardent promoter of the Denver-Boulder Turnpike and served as a consultant on the project after passage of the toll road bill in 1948. He gained political notoriety in the 1950s for his local political activities. He ran unsuccessfully for Regent of the University of Colorado in 1950 and for the State Senate in 1952. His successful polling experiments were more significant than his earlier defeats. He became known as the “Slide Rule Political Seer” for his scientific predictions in estimating the vote in local and national elections. Elliott also organized and chaired the Lodge-For-President campaign in 1964. Elliott was a member of the Denver Athletic Club, Cherry Hills Country Club, The 26 Club, The Rocky Mountain Electrical League, and The Denver Chamber of Commerce.


8 linear feet (oversize and maps, papers)

Language of Materials



The John P. Elliott Sr. Papers consists of maps, engineering records, business correspondence and documents relating to Elliott’s development of the Homestake Water Diversion Project, northwest of Leadville, Colorado as well as numerous other projects. The collection also includes genealogy of the Elliott family, information on the Denver-Boulder Turnpike and information on Elliott’s career in politics.

Custodial History

Gift of John P. Elliott Jr., 1977 October

Processed by Rickey L. Hendricks, James K. Jeffrey, and Mohammad Adra; Reformatted and Edited by Heidi Buhr, May 2008; Rehoused by Kyle Shurtz, June 2010; uploaded to ArchivesSpace by Jennifer Sanchez, 2020
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States