Indiana Sopris Cushman was Denver’s first female schoolteacher and one of the city’s very early pioneers. She was born in 1839 in Indiana; some say she was the namesake not of the state but of a riverboat (named the “Indiana”) that her father worked on in his youth. She arrived here in a covered wagon in 1860 with her parents and some of her seven siblings. Since there were few young women here at that time, she and her sister Irene were very popular. She later wrote that when she got to Denver, “We found some very pleasant people here, but not very many families, mostly men, very few young ladies; my sister and I and half a dozen other young ladies were all there were in Denver. Of course, we were all belles then.”
On May 7, 1860, when she was only 21 years old, Indiana opened a private school and later taught in the first public school in Denver. She was also one of the organizers of the First Congregational Church and its Sunday school. She married businessman Samuel Cushman in 1866.
Her father Richard Sopris was one of the most prominent of Colorado’s early pioneers. He came here ahead of his family in 1859 and was one of the first Gold Rush prospectors and an original shareholder of the town of Auraria. He was elected to the Territorial Legislature of Kansas representing Arapahoe County (which was then the westernmost county of Kansas). He became a captain in the First Colorado Infantry and a year later was chosen to be the first president of the Colorado Agricultural Society. In 1862 Richard Sopris was elected sheriff of Arapahoe County. He served as president of the Colorado Pioneer Association and was mayor of Denver from 1878 to 1881, after which he was the city’s parks commissioner. Mount Sopris is named for him.
Indiana’s mother Elizabeth was considered the oldest of Denver’s pioneers when she died in 1911 at the age of 96. A descendant of Ethan Allen, she was widely known as the “Grand Old Woman of the Ladies’ Aid Society.”
Indiana Sopris Cushman died in 1925 at age 86 and is buried at Riverside Cemetery with her parents and several other family members.