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The Trail of Gold and Silver

The Trail of Gold and Silver: Mining in Colorado, 1859-2009

Duane A. Smith
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 420
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  • Book Info
    The Trail of Gold and Silver
    Book Description:

    In The Trail of Gold and Silver, historian Duane A. Smith details Colorado's mining saga - a story that stretches from the beginning of the gold and silver mining rush in the mid-nineteenth century into the twenty-first century. Gold and silver mining laid the foundation for Colorado's economy, and 1859 marked the beginning of a fever for these precious metals. Mining changed the state and its people forever, affecting settlement, territorial status, statehood, publicity, development, investment, economy, jobs both in and outside the industry, transportation, tourism, advances in mining and smelting technology, and urbanization. Moreover, the first generation of Colorado mining brought a fascinating collection of people and a new era to the region.   Written in a lively manner by one of Colorado's preeminent historians, this book honors the 2009 sesquicentennial of Colorado's gold rush. Smith's narrative will appeal to anybody with an interest in the state's fascinating mining history over the past 150 years.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-011-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiii)
    Thomas J. Noel

    Duane Allan Smith has been called many things, but no one can deny he is Colorado’s most prolific historian, surpassing even the late, great LeRoy Hafen. The Trail of Gold and Silver is Smith’s fiftieth book. The University Press of Colorado’s Timberline Books series, which features the best current work on Colorado as well as classic reprints, proudly presents this master historian’s survey of 150 years of Colorado gold and silver mining.

    An outstanding teacher as well as an author, Duane has been honored by Fort Lewis College, the Colorado Endowment for the Humanities, and the Carnegie Foundation, and he...

  4. [Map]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. 1-10)

    “Gold! Gold in the Pike’s Peak Country,” shouted newspapers throughout the Midwest in the late summer and fall of 1858. The news spread over a country still stirred by the tremendous excitement of the California gold rush a decade earlier. Wonder of wonders, had it happened again? Trapped in the worst depression in living memory, many Americans hoped against hope that it had. It would take nearly a year to sort the rumors from the reality.

    The golden saga, though, did not begin here. Rumors of mineral wealth in the area dated back almost to Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the...

  6. 1 Pike’s Peak or Bust
    (pp. 11-28)

    A gloomy winter slipped past, but gave way to a spring of 1858 that was not much brighter economically. The flowers bloomed, but too briefly to take most people’s minds off the trials of daily life. Still, for two groups of people, spring finally brought the chance to follow their cherished dreams of gold beyond the western horizon. Gold, they had every right to believe, was waiting out there. One group, in Indian Territory, prepared to travel the relatively short distance to the foothills of the central Rockies, where some of them had found gold back in the California excitement...

  7. 2 1859: The Year Dreams Became Reality
    (pp. 29-46)

    When the speeches ended, the distinguished “keynoter” Greeley became an onlooker as the miners set about creating a rudimentary set of mining laws. Technically, those mining on Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Ute land were trespassers, who had no legal rights to their claims. Their company also included those who were mining in parts of the Kansas, Utah, and Nebraska territories. All these very interested parties gathered at a miners’ meeting, a democratic institution that brought everyone together to chart the development of a “district.”

    They had a precedent: Californians had taken similar measures when they overran the Sierra Nevadas a decade...

  8. 3 1860–1864: “To Everything There Is a Season”
    (pp. 47-62)

    William A. Crawford, writing to his cousin Mina from the Rocky Mountains, captured perfectly the expectations of “Young America,” as the press liked to call the generation that opened the second season of Pike’s Peak mining. William and his crew were living in a tent “on the mountain about one half of a mile back of Gregory Point and we are enjoying ourselves very well. The only fault we have to find is that we can not hear from home oftener”—a “fault” that was the subject of many and frequent complaints. This determined worker criticized the go-backers who, when...

  9. 4 1864–1869: “Good Times a-Comin”—Someday
    (pp. 63-78)

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens had published those words just as the Pike’s Peak rush started. His popular A Tale of Two Cities undoubtedly traveled west that summer, packed away in some fifty-niner’s luggage, and as 1865 dawned, Coloradans could apply his description to their own situation. They were certainly glad to leave the year 1864 behind; the “gold bubble,” as the mining-stock frenzy came to be called, had lifted them up and knocked them down in less than a year, but its effects in the territory lasted for the rest...

  10. 5 1870–1874: Bonanza! “Three Cheers and a Tiger”
    (pp. 79-94)

    The promised land! Prospectors and miners had been looking for it in the mountains of Colorado since 1859. Before the decade of the 1870s ticked into history, some at least would finally reach it. To paraphrase the words of another popular song of the post-Civil War era, it was the “Decade of the Jubilee”: the 1870s, Colorado’s great mining decade in which all the stars aligned. Before 1880 dawned, Colorado reigned as the premier gold and silver mining state in the United States. Not bad for a territory that ten years before had ranked behind Nevada, Montana, and California—and...

  11. 6 1875–1880: “All Roads Lead to Leadville”
    (pp. 95-112)

    Thus did Leadville welcome author and artist Mary Hallock Foote, who arrived in May 1879, with her mining engineer husband, Arthur, when the town was booming as none other in Colorado’s short history. That summer Leadville stirred men’s minds with boundless silver dreams and riches almost beyond imagination. It was the moment Colorado and Coloradans had been waiting for since the days of the ’59 rush.

    All that lay in the near future, however. As 1875 dawned, though, the Colorado mining situation looked more promising than it had for years. With railroads expanding into the mountains and the depression begun...

  12. 7 The Silver Eighties: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
    (pp. 113-128)

    As the tide of Colorado mining ebbed and flowed in the 1880s, many Coloradans scrambled to make a living in a world that seemed far different from that of twenty years ago. They may even have grown a little nostalgic about the “good old days.” Mining had become big business, because, as one wag put it, it “took a gold mine to operate a silver mine.” As the mines sank deeper, the expenses mounted, the equipment required grew more costly, the geology became increasingly intricate, and the ore generally decreased in value. The international price of silver did not help,...

  13. 8 “There’ll Be a Hot Time”
    (pp. 129-150)

    From the horse to the horseless carriage. From the candle to the electric light. From the train to the plane. From the stage to the motion picture. From the telegraph to the telephone. From rural farm to teeming city. From a wilderness territory to a state. A teenager in the Pike’s Peak rush would have seen it all by the time he or she reached a seventieth birthday. By then, as World War I neared, several mining booms and busts had occurred, oncebustling camps had become ghost towns, and that teenager’s generation had been hailed as pioneers.

    It had been...

  14. 9 “The Everlasting Love of the Game”
    (pp. 151-172)

    Mabel Barbee Lee, in trying to portray the allure of mining for her readers, recalled a meeting she had had with an old-time Cripple Creek prospector during a 1951 visit to the then ghost-like town. No longer the exciting, booming “metropolis” of her youth, Cripple Creek languished in yesterday:

    The shine of hope and faith in the old fellow’s eyes followed me long after he had disappeared from sight, and it came to me, as it had once long ago, that it wasn’t the gold he wanted. It would likely slip through his fingers in no time, or be given...

  15. Photographic Essay: Nineteenth-Century Colorado Mining
    (pp. 173-186)
  16. 10 1900–1929: Looking Forward into Yesterday
    (pp. 187-208)

    As the new century dawned, only Cripple Creek and the San Juans upheld Colorado’s mining reputation of yesteryear in the present. Other districts looked more to their past and relied on history to entice investors, along with their finances, for tomorrow. Still, every spring, doggedly optimistic prospectors and miners re-caught mining fever. Finding an antidote was getting harder, though. No new camps or districts were opening, and much of Colorado had already been exhaustively prospected, examined, probed, and dug. In May of 1911, both the Denver Republican and the Durango Herald asked the same question: “What has become of the...

  17. 11 Mucking through Depression, War, and New Ideas
    (pp. 209-226)

    Mucking is defined as “the operation of loading broken rock [ore, debris] by hand or machine[,] usually in shafts or tunnels.” In the 1930s through the 1960s, mucking pretty much described what the mining industry was doing on various levels, from the office, to mining methods and innovations, to miners working at the breast of the drift. Eventually, the industry had to confront the new attitudes of the general public toward mining.

    Long before all that happened, however, mining, Colorado, the rest of the United States of America, and the whole world had to face the crash of October 1929...

  18. 12 Mining on the Docket of Public Opinion: The Environmental Age
    (pp. 227-244)

    Almost from the days of the Pike’s Peak gold rush, there had been Coloradans and others concerned about mining’s impact on the environment. The reasons have been many, but the discussions and actions generally were local. Rossiter Raymond raised the issue of the destruction of trees in a national forum, but Rico dealt with the problem at its immediate community level.

    Sitting beside her adored O-Be-Joyful Creek, in the heart of the Gunnison country, Helen Hunt Jackson mused about the effects of mining. To her, the sparkling stream and the nearby field of purple asters were far more valuable than...

  19. Photographic Essay: Colorado Mining in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
    (pp. 245-256)
  20. Epilogue: A Tale Well Told
    (pp. 257-262)

    David Lavender, in his One Man’s West, tells the tale of a heaven-bound prospector/miner stopped at the pearly gates by St. Peter. Inquiring why, the miner receives this startling answer:

    “You can’t come in. I passed a bunch of miners last month, and now they’re assaying their harps, digging up the golden streets and stoping out the Elysian fields. It’s driving the rest of the angels frantic.”

    “I’ll make a bargain with ye, Pete,” the prospector said. “If ye’ll let me in I’ll get rid of every mother’s son of them hard-rock stiffs.”

    The two struck a bargain, the gates...

  21. Notes
    (pp. 263-272)
  22. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 273-276)

    Colorado mining has attracted an increasing number of researchers, historians, writers, and ordinary but interested folk over the past 150 years. It is a fascinating story, one well worth digging into with vigor. While it is impossible to list all the books, articles, and primary source materials that are available, the following are places to start prospecting. The field opening to you is limited only by your own interests.

    The chapter footnotes provide a sweeping panorama of sources, each one of which will lead to others. Although it takes time to pursue research through them, Colorado newspapers hold a high-grade...

  23. Index
    (pp. 277-282)