Colorado History and Genealogy Project

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 Idaho Springs, Clear Creek County Colorado 1871

This town, one of the oldest in the mountains, and formerly the county seat of Clear Creek county, is located on South Clear creek, eighteen miles from its junction with the Platte River, thirty-five miles from Denver, six miles from Central City, thirteen miles from Georgetown, and three miles from the mouth of Fall River. At this place Clear Creek valley, noted for its beauty even in the "Switzerland of America," where grandeur and picturesqueness are everywhere apparent, widens out to nearly half a mile in breadth, is quite level and was covered with dense pine forests and luxuriant grasses before the adventurous prospector and miner destroyed them in his determined search for glittering nuggets. Chicago and Soda creeks, tributaries of South Clear creek, after passing through deep canyons and pleasant valleys, mingle their sparkling waters with those of that stream within the town limits, and Virginia canon, a deep gorge through which the wagon road from Central winds its circuitous way, terminates at the northern boundary of the town. The mountains on either side rise gradually to an elevation of at least 1,000 feet, their slopes covered with grass and timber, interspersed with bare rocks and rugged crags. Towering above these mountains, southward are the Squaw, Papoose and Chiefs, the latter rearing his bald head, above timber line, to an elevation of 11,000 feet above sea level. The ascent to the summit of the Chief is so gradual that it can be reached easily on horseback, and the tourist is enabled to enjoy, without fatigue, a view of mountain scenery rarely excelled.

The town is built on each side of the creek, which is spanned by good bridges. The residences, store houses and public buildings are wooden structures, the lumber from mountain pine, painted white, and neat and tasteful in architecture. The principal streets follow the course of the creek, and wind along the base of the mountains; are in excellent condition, and always free from mud. The cross streets reach from mountain to mountain, and intersect the longitudinal streets at right angles. The first settlers in Idaho were gulch miners, attracted thither by reports of rich deposits of gold in the gravel and sands of the bed of Clear creek. The first white men who invaded this district, staked out a claim and broke ground, were George A. Jackson and his party, early in the spring of 1859. A. P. Smith, at present a resident of Idaho, and others, commenced gulching about this time. This was on Chicago Bar, at the mouth of Chicago creek now within the town limits. These pioneer miners were fairly successful, and at times took out large pay, often as high as $20 or $30 per day. This attracted miners from other locations, and in the fall of 1859 there was in the district a population of over 300. But little attention was paid to house building or town improvements by these hardy gold hunters. Their homes were rude cabins and tents, and their household fixtures and culinary apparatus of the crudest character. The first hotel, the "Saints Rest," was part tent, part wagon cover, and the parlor a wagon box, with a sheet for roof. The first mercantile house was established by S. D. Hunter, early in the spring of 1860, and the first bakery about the same time, by H. S. Thomas, familiarly known in the district by the cognomen of "Old Shakespeare." These establishments were primitive in character, but their owners soon realized considerable money from their investments, and either left for the States with their "pile," or sought profitable investments in the Territory, which, by the way, was not found in all cases.

The discovery of rich lodes in the surrounding mountains, and the continued evidence of gold in paying quantities in the valley, convinced the miners that Idaho would be a permanent mining district, and early in 1860 a town company was organized, with the following members:

J. W. Hamilton
James Julien
William Rumsey
W. E. Sisty
F. J. Hamilton
William Spruance
S. D. Hunter
Robert Diefendorf
L. W. Bliss
W. L. Campbell
M. J. Dougherty

The name chosen was Idaho, and a survey and plat was made by William L. Campbell, and the town site preempted under the Territorial laws of Jefferson Territory. In the summer of 1860, a survey and plat of Grass valley, which is now a portion of Idaho Springs, was made by P. E. Charruand. These surveys still define the boundaries, streets and blocks of the town. The site includes the entire valley, about one and a half miles in length. The recognized authority, previous to the organization of the county, was the miners' court and code of laws; since that, the county officers.

The county seat was moved from this place to Georgetown, in 1867, in accordance with the wishes of a majority of the citizens of the county; but Idaho Springs can well afford to lose the guardianship of the county archives, and could dispense with her rich belt of gold and silver lodes, and valuable placer claims, and still possesses features that would attract tourists and immigrants from all quarters, her mineral springs. These remarkable hot springs burst from the ground near Soda creek, within the town limits. The temperature of the water is about 100° Fahrenheit, and the flow sufficient to supply two large swimming baths with a renewed charge of pure water every twenty-four hours.

For bathing purposes they are unsurpassed. The temperature is sufficiently high in winter to make the bath pleasantly warm, and can be regulated to suit all seasons and all classes of bathers. They were discovered by James Jack and son, in 1860, whilst engaged in sinking a shaft to the bed rock for gulch mining purposes. At a depth of sixteen or eighteen feet they were compelled to abandon the work on account of the heat of the water that flooded the shaft. This prospect hole, filled with hot water, was used as a bath occasionally by citizens and travelers, but excited little attention, and remained unimproved until 1863, when Dr. E. S. Cummings obtained possession of the property and erected the building now known as the Ocean Bath House, which is owned and kept in excellent condition at all seasons by Mr. H. Montague, who resides on the premises and attends personally to the wants of his customers, and does everything in his power to make the springs and the Ocean Bath a pleasant resort. Since Mr Montague has had possession of the springs, he has improved the building and surroundings, and has now a swimming bath, 24 x 40 feet, four feet in depth, the water in which is renewed every twenty-four hours from the springs, private baths for ladies, with female attendants, private baths for gentlemen, and a hot and cold shower bath, all in first-class order, and the dressing rooms comfortable at all seasons. We have indulged in the luxury of a plunge in the swimming bath in summer and the tub and shower bath in winter, and having experienced the peculiar exhilaration and agreeable sensation that follows, must believe bathing at Idaho Springs to be beneficial to invalids, and healthful to everybody.

The Mammoth Bath Co. have also a large, comfortable and convenient building, in which they have a swimming bath, 45 x 65 feet, five foot in depth, ladies and gentlemens private baths, shower baths, and all appurtenances complete. This is in charge of J. H. Phillips, who does everything in his power to make the Mammoth Bath House a pleasant feature of the Saratoga of the mountains.

Besides the spring above described, there has been discovered, near Soda creek, a soda spring, whose waters are nearly as sparkling and effervescent as those charged with carbonic acid gas for use at soda fountains. This spring is not improved, nor has its waters been analyzed, but without doubt they possess curative properties, and will soon be used extensively by all visitors to the springs. Tourists, pleasure seekers and everybody visiting the Rocky Mountains should not fail to spend some time at this beautiful watering place. The will find first-class hotel accommodations, good liveries and delightful drivers over fine roads surrounded by unrivalled scenery agreeable people and good billiard hall. If these desire a view of rugged mountain scenery, let them ascend the Chief; if interested in mining matters, a belt of gold and silver lodes surround the town, among these, the celebrated Seaton, and good gulch claims are worked within its boundaries. If the frequenters of Saratoga of the East would try one season (and no doubt many of them will) at the Saratoga of the Rocky Mountains, they would go to their homes wiser, better and healthier people. The purity of mountain air, and the grandeur and beauty of mountain scenery, inspire in all a love of the pure and good, and will protect this beautiful retreat from the follies, vices, debaucheries and extravagance of fashionable watering places. This alone should induce rich fathers and husbands to bring their fashion and folly stricken daughters to Idaho Springs, a Saratoga free from follies and crimes.

Schools, Churches, Etc.

The interest taken in educational matters by the citizens of Idaho Springs is manifested practically by their school building, a fine wooden structure, capable of accommodating seventy-five scholars, finished in first-class style, and furnished with Sherwood's improved school furniture, two fine chandeliers, a good bell, and all requisite appurtenances. This building was completed in the winter of 1868-9, at an expense of $2,500. A visit to the school, which is in charge of Mr. H. Montague, convinced us that educational matters received proper attention in this mountain region.

Calvary Church, a neat chapel erected under the direction of Bishop Randall, with funds donated by a member of Calvary Church, of New York, furnished by the ladies of this district, and consecrated by the Bishop, assisted by Revs. Messrs. Jennings, Whitehead and Byrne, in July, 1869, affords religious privileges to citizens and visitors. This is a mission chapel, and services are held here as often as possible by the rectors of Central, Nevada and Black Hawk. Besides this, the Methodist, Congregationalist and other societies have church organizations, and will soon erect suitable places of worship.

Hotels, Business Houses, Etc.

There are two good hotels, the Beebee House and Springs' House, The former, the first hotel built at the springs, and with the additions and improvements completed in 1869, the largest in the mountains. It has accommodations for 100 guests; the sleeping rooms well ventilated and comfortable; the parlors elegant; the dining-room spacious; the table well supplied, and the landlord and attendants always attentive and agreeable. The Beebee House merits the liberal patronage it receives.

The Springs' House, John N. Harden, proprietor, is a new hotel building, with first-class accommodations for thirty guests, centrally located in the immediate vicinity of the springs, and kept in good style by an agreeable and competent landlord.

The Idaho billiard hall is one of the pleasant features of this watering place. The building, constructed expressly for this purpose by the proprietor, J. H. Warner, is large, well ventilated, fitted up in excellent style, with four Phelan & Collender tables, and all first-class appliances. This place is so conducted that it is an agreeable place of resort for citizens and visitors. Among the leading merchants, whose business cards will be found elsewhere, are Dennis Faivre, who is an old pioneer miner and merchant, whose business was established in 1862; Peter Theobold, one of the pioneers of 1859, also a miner and prospector, who conducts business, is the oldest hairiness house in the district, and Cowell & Patten, whose business was established in 1861, and conducted by the present owners since 1864. They are also pioneer miners. The post-office and agency for the Colorado Gazetteer are at this store.

Among the leading citizens of the Springs, to whom we are indebted for valuable information and mining items, and to whom all visitors can apply for reliable intelligence, with the assurance they will receive the same, we will mention the following, although if space would permit, we could and would most cheerfully give the names of many more equally as responsible:

Dr. E. F. Holland, physician and surgeon, a graduate of Harvard University. He came to the Territory in 1860; has represented the county in the Territorial legislature, and is largely interested in mining and milling enterprises, and well informed in all matters pertaining to the mines and minerals of the district.

Dr. A. M. Noxen, a leading citizen since 1860, He was engaged in the practice of his profession for some years, but is now an active operator in mining enterprises, and the owner of valuable mining property.

Hopkins Barnes, justice of the peace, notary public and Democrat; a leading citizen since 1860, justice of the peace since 1862, a democrat since the earliest recollection of the oldest inhabitant, a hospitable, whole-souled gentleman for the last forty years, and a trusted and worthy citizen at all times. He has commenced the construction of a large building for an ale brewery, public hall and reading room, which, when completed, will be a pleasant resort for tourists. He is learned is the mysteries of clam-chowder.

J. K. Womack, mining operator and one of the proprietors of the celebrated Seaton lode; a resident since 1860, and thoroughly well informed in all mining matters. P. E. Charraund, also a mining operator, and completely identified with the mining interests of the district; a resident since 1860, and a prominent citizen. Also William Hobs, a pioneer prospector and miner. J. A. Dory, a pioneer miner and mill-man, and proprietor of reduction works in Cascade district. John Needham, one of the 1859 pioneers, and still a miner and mine owner. H. B. Graeff, a miner and prospector, and resident of the district since 1860, except during his term of service in the Second Colorado volunteers. Thomas Ray, a pioneer of 1859, and one of the first gulch miners in the district. T. H. Todd, an experienced and successful prospector; and last, though not least, our esteemed friend B. F. McHurd.

To Harry Kearsing, a metallurgist and assayer of extensive experience in the mining districts of California and Colorado, we are indebted for valuable statistics.

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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