Colorado History and Genealogy Project

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Gilpin County Colorado ~  1870

The smallest, but most important, of the political divisions of Colorado, lies chiefly in the foot-hills, and embraces, within its limited borders, the richest gold mining region in the world. Its entire surface is broken by mountain ranges and their intervening gulches and chasms, and presents the serrated profile peculiar to all the mountain districts of the Territory; but it is rich in gold, pure, glittering, precious gold; and, to the gold-hunter, jagged mountain steeps, inclosing the precious metal, are gently-sloping declivities; and deep chasms, whose sands are glittering, are pleasant dells, beautiful and enchanting; and all the surroundings of the coveted treasure, rose-hued and delightful. And, even to the ordinary observer, Gilpin County presents unusual beauties of scenery. The mountains are robbed of their naked horrors by a garb of fine forests of pines, luxuriant grass, and flowering vegetation; and the ravines of their terrors, by rippling water-falls and grass clothed bottoms. The bottoms occasionally widen to valleys of considerable extent, which are unusually fertile and productive; and, under the careful culture of ranch-men, yield abundantly. They are peculiarly adapted to the culture of hay and vegetables, and have already made the agricultural interest of Gilpin of considerable importance.

The northern limit of the county is Boulder County; it's eastern, Jefferson County; its southern. Clear Creek County; and its western, Summit County. Its principal city and county seat is Central City, located in the central portion of the county, on Gregory gulch, which is the water-course of one of the branches of North Clear creek. This is the second city, in population, in the Territory, and the great centre of the mining enterprises of Colorado. It is surrounded and traversed by the richest belt of gold mines in the world, and is in the immediate neighborhood of gulch and placer diggings that have yielded millions of dollars worth of the precious metal.

Nearly east of Central, on Clear creek, is the city of Black Hawk, also surrounded and traversed by belts of rich gold lodes, paved with placer and gulch diggings, and resonant with the clang of machinery and the thud of the ponderous ore stamp.

West of Central, and also joining it, on a tributary of North Clear creek, is Nevada, also belted and crowned and paved with gold mines and placer diggings, and noisy with the unwieldy music of steam-engines and the "fall" of the ore-crushing stamp.

The first discovery of gold in the mountains occurred in Gilpin County; and some strange fate guided the first explorers of the region to the richest deposits ever discovered by mortal man. The assertion that the gold mines of Gilpin County are not equaled, in richness or extent, by those of any other district in the world, of equal proportions, is a sweeping announcement; nevertheless, one that can be, and has been, fully confirmed by reliable statistics. It cannot be averred, however, that this paramount advantage has secured large wealth or unusual prosperity to the inhabitants. The history of mining enterprises in Gilpin County, as well as in all other parts of the Territory, is not the description of a series of successful operations, yielding immense profits; but, in too many cases, the story of gigantic failures and proportionate losses. That gold should exist extensively, and in paying quantities, in a district, and not be a source of large wealth to the inhabitants thereof, seems impossible, but has been proven a fact, by actual results, in Gilpin County. The various causes that bring this about receive due condemnation elsewhere, and are, mainly, incompetent mining captains and mill-men, swindling mining operators, buncombe companies with penniless directors and senseless agents; charlatan metallurgical professors, with their worthless processes; and not either the quality or quantity of the ores, or the unusual actual expense of mining or reducing these. The wrecks, left by the storms of failure and disaster that have swept over the country, are painfully apparent everywhere. Crumbling walls and tottering chimneys of played-out reduction works; ponderous machinery, rusted and broken; and curious furnaces, whose fires have been extinguished years ago, mar the fair face of this golden county, and chill the hearts of capitalists anxious to invest in her rich mines. These accumulations of unsightly debris should be removed at once and forever. They do a vast amount of injury to the mining interest of Colorado, and benefit nobody. The charlatans and humbugs, who have induced honest capitalists to invest money in their useless processes, are disappearing rapidly from the country; and these monuments of their follies and failures should not be permitted to outlive their projectors. The lessons they inculcate have been already thoroughly learned by the practical miners of the country, who are gradually becoming excellent and experienced mining captains and competent mill-men, and can get along very fairly, without the aid of imported German-Freiburg brains, or "Toothorn" professors.

The cry of "refractory ores'' has been raised against the gold-bearing sulphurets of Colorado, and has been reiterated by every charlatan ore reducer, who has failed, in the country, and harped upon by every discontent and swindling operator, who has cursed it with his presence. This howl, however, is being borne away on the pure mountain winds of the ' region, and entirely suppressed by the rush of flames in Prof Hill's reducing furnaces, which are daily melting precious gold, from over twenty-five tons of these same refractory ores, in such quantities, and at such trifling expense, that his company can declare dividends on capital stock of more than 100 per cent, annually.

To fully establish the mining interests of Gilpin County, upon a permanent, paying basis, and secure a complete development of the great mineral wealth of the mines, other reduction works, of greater capacity, are required immediately. The attention of capitalists is already directed to this important matter, and, without doubt, the much needed works will soon be constructed. Probably the most suitable location for these is at the base of the mountains, near some of the extensive coal beds in Boulder or Jefferson County, on account of the abundance of fuel; but works can be constructed I in Gilpin County, where forests still supply great quantities of cheap fuel, and be carried on with large profit to their owners, as is proven by the works, referred to above. To make such works valuable to the whole county, and, the means of fully developing her resources, they should be conducted by capitalists, who would be satisfied with a reasonable percentage on the money invested, and be sufficiently public spirited and honest to insure fair and liberal management of the enterprise.

Many years of expensive experiment have proven that stamp mills are only adapted to the treatment of surface auriferous quartz. They fail to save even fifty per cent, of the gold in the mineral ores, and, consequently, cannot be used for the treatment of such without incurring large and shameful loss. While the stamps are, and will always continue to be, a cheap and appropriate method of reducing surface quartz and low grades of ores carrying a large amount of gangue, they can never be available for the treatment of the deeper and more valuable ores. In view of this, and the absence of large reduction works (except. Prof. Hill's, which can be supplied by any one of the large mines of the county, if fully worked), it is not strange that the mining industries of the county should be cramped and impeded.

As the successful treatment of sulphureted gold-bearing ores is no longer doubtful, and the fact of their existence, in numerous true fissure veins, fully established, all that is now required to fully develop the mining interest of the county, and insure large wealth to its inhabitants, are extensive reduction works, skillfully and economically conducted, and liberally managed. Notwithstanding all disadvantages, mining is not at a stand-still in the county, as will be fully understood by a perusal of our chapter on mines and mills. The ore taken out, annually, yields a large amount of bullion, and enables the mine owners to pay liberal wages, $3.50 per day, to common miners, and realize handsome profits besides, in spite of the large loss of gold by the stamp mill process, and the comparatively trifling price paid for smelting ores by Prof Hill.

The mercantile and commercial interests of the county are important, and are skillfully managed by a class of merchants and business men, possessing unusual enterprise and ability. Educational and religious institutions and privileges are liberally sustained, and carefully fostered; the professions represented by gentlemen of learning and character, and the "Press" conducted with unusual enterprise and ability. A detailed description of all these appear in appropriate chapters.

The altitude of Central is 8,300 feet above sea level, and the average altitude of the whole county nearly 9,000 feet. The climate is mild, and, like that of all the foot-hill regions, unusually healthy. Altogether, Gilpin County offers great inducements to capitalists for safe, paying investments; to laborers, the assurance of good wages and prompt payment, and to all classes of emigrants, a most desirable abiding place. Superior wagon roads traverse the county in all directions, and furnish ample facilities for communication between all parts of the mining districts, and the towns and cities of this and surrounding mountain counties, and the plains beyond; and soon the iron track of the Colorado Central railway will connect this land of gold with all sections east and west.

Rocky Mountain Directory & Colorado Gazetteer

Source: Rocky Mountain Directory and Colorado Gazetteer, 1871, S. S. Wallihan & Company, Compilers and Publishers, Denver, 1870.

 

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