Very few people likely think of the namesake of Cameron Avenue and Cameron Court in Cañon City, but they actually honor someone who was heavily involved in the development of Colorado. General Robert Alexander Cameron was born on February 22, 1828 in Brooklyn, New York. His family moved to Valparaiso, Indiana when he was 14 and he began to have an interest in medicine. He graduated from Indiana Medical College and attended Rush Medical College in Chicago, Illinois before giving up his studies. He returned to Indiana to practice medicine but soon decided to purchase the Valparaiso Republican newspaper instead. He gained an interest in politics and became a delegate for Abraham Lincoln and attended the Republican National Convention of 1860. He was elected as a representative in the Indiana Legislature later that year.
The outbreak of the Civil War interrupted his political career when he enlisted to serve in the Union Army. He was appointed captain of Company H, 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment. After that group finished their service of only three months, Cameron was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the 19th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to colonel and commander of the 34th Indiana Volunteer Regiment, then to brigadier general in command of the Third Division, 13 Army Corps, before ending his military career as a brevet major general at the end of the war in 1865.
Cameron became involved with organizing a settlement in the west with Horace Greeley and Nathan Meeker. They looked at many sites and settled on a spot in what is now northern Colorado, which they named Greeley. Cameron was elected as the president of the board of trustees but left soon after when William J. Palmer offered money to help establish the Fountain Colony, which shortly thereafter became known as Colorado Springs. Cameron lost money in an attempt to establish a colony in Fort Collins and left for California where he started a magazine. It went under after only two issues and he returned to Colorado.
He served as an inspector for the U.S. Postal Service before he was offered the position of warden of the Colorado State Penitentiary (now known as Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility) in 1884. Cameron put many reforms in place at the prison but never saw the benefits of these reforms. He was replaced in 1886 when a new governor took office. Cameron moved his family to Cañon City when he became warden and purchased a fruit farm in the east part of the city. He passed away in March 1894 and is buried in Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery.
Happy Birthday General Robert A. Cameron!
The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.