Colorado History and Genealogy Project

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Summit County Colorado ~  1870

Summit is the extreme northwestern of the counties of Colorado, and embraces all that portion of the territory lying to the west of the summit of the main range, and north of the parallel 39° 30' of north latitude. To the south of it lies the great counties of Lake and Park, to the west the Territory of Utah, to the north Wyoming, and to the east the counties of Larimer, Boulder, Gilpin, Clear Creek and a part of Park. The length of Summit county, on an east and west line, is about 145 miles, and north and south about 115 miles. Very nearly all of this large area (over 16.000 square miles) is uninhabited, save by wandering Indians; and it is only in the extreme southeastern corner of the county, on the head waters of the Blue, Snake and Swan rivers, that the adventurous and hardy miner has gained a foothold. The county is entered by several passes; the most traveled, and, indeed, the only road into it, being by way of Denver and the South Park, and thence over the Tarryall pass. This road is a good one, and could be readily traveled all winter, were there vehicles enough passing over it to break a road through the first heavy snow.

The Grand and its tributaries are the principal rivers of this county; and it is in the southeast part of Summit that the head waters of the great Colorado River have their origin, as it is from the melting snows of Summit County are fed the streams that make their exit into the ocean, through the great canon of the Colorado river and Gulf of California. The county is densely timbered and possesses immense beds of valuable coal. The principal metals and minerals found in the county are gold, silver, copper, lead, iron and zinc, and the various combinations of these metals with sulphur, arsenic, antimony, etc. The rock of the county is mainly primitive, granite and gneiss; and it is not until some distance from the range is obtained, is there met the younger formations. The sole business of the inhabitants of Summit County is mining, and mainly in the placer deposits of gold, of which the county possesses an immense area.

Commencing on the head waters of the Blue River, and thence north and east as far as the Swan River, the gulches coming down from the range are auriferous. It was in 1859 that gold was first discovered in the gravel deposits of Summit County; and Gold Run, Galena, American, Georgia, Humbug, French, Gibson, Corkscrew, Negro, Illinois and Hoosier gulches, and Stilson's and Delaware flats suddenly became endowed with reputation and a hardy, energetic population of miners. The first extensive ditch, six miles in length, was built in 1860, and the second, nine miles long, in 1862. The production of gold in Summit County, from the time of its first discovery to the present date, has been very large; but owing to the absence of mints, etc., in the early days of the county, no accurate return can be made. Its present production is about $500,000 per annum. Owing to the extent of placer ground in the county, and to the gradual adoption of river mining, and also to the gradual decrease in the price of labor, provisions, etc., the "gold crop" of Summit County will gradually increase and probably soon reach $1,000,000 per year, which rate of production the county can sustain for an indefinite length of time. No gold lodes are being worked in the county, although such lodes undoubtedly exist. Gulch miners, as a class, are opposed to lode mining; and while the placers of Summit County continue to yield as they now do, there is but little lode mining to be done, except in the silver mining districts of Peru and Montezuma. Such of the lodes as have been discovered and opened in the county are mainly those containing ores of silver; this is the case even in the immediate vicinity to the best paying gulches in the county. There is no doubt, however, but that the deposits of valuable ores of both silver and gold, in Summit county, are quite as extensive and quite as valuable as those of any of the mining counties in the Territory. The lodes of the county are characterized by great width and heavy deposits of ore.

Of the fitness of the lands of Summit County for agriculture, but little can be said. No attempt has been made to raise any crops in the county, except a few feeble attempts at patches of potatoes and turnips, yet there is no doubt but that wheat and other small grains, as well as turnips, potatoes and other vegetables can be raised in the county. Summit is, however, admirably fitted for grazing stock. The grasses are those indigenous to the country, red top, wild timothy, wild flax, wild oats, bunch grass, etc.; and they grow with a wild luxuriance, surprising to those familiar only with the plains grasses. The valley of the Blue river and its tributaries, and of the Grand river and its tributaries, are as fine grazing grounds as any in Colorado; and when an outlet is provided to the north and west, to the Union Pacific railroad, or when a narrow gauge railway is built to connect with some of the roads east of the range, there is no doubt but that stock growing will be one of the permanent industries of the county. The extent and size of the timber, mainly pine and spruce, that grows within the limits of Summit County, gives promise of a grand field for future population and wealth. There is no doubt but that Summit County is as well, if not better timbered than any other county in the Territory. The manufacturing of lumber is, however, in a great measure, dependent on railroad communication to carry the product to a market. The water-power of the county is large, and will be sufficient to run any number of mills, and gives, when its resources are fully developed, promise that the manufacturing industries of Summit County are to be of great value to her and to the whole Territory.

The principal town, and county seat of Summit, is Breckinridge, which, as early as 1860, was quite a populous mining camp. It is located in a valley, on one of the tributaries of Blue, near the latter river, in the southeast corner of the county. W. P. Pollock, county clerk and recorder, resides here. Montezuma, a mining camp on a branch of the Snake, at the base of Glazier Mountain, has a population of over 200 in summer. The reduction works of the Sukie & St. Lawrence Mining Co. are located here, also a steam sawmill, the property of F. E. & W. W. Webster. These towns are reached from Georgetown by a wagon road across the main range, near Gray's peak; from Fair Play, Park county, by a road across the range via a low pass at Hall's gulch, on one of the numerous tributaries of the Platte; from Denver, by way of South park and Tarryall pass, by a good wagon road, the best means of reaching these and the mining districts of the county. About half a mile from Montezuma, on a small tributary of the Snake, are the reduction works, saw-mill and other buildings of the Boston Mining Association, the proprietors of the Comstock Lode. This little village is named St. John's, and the greater portion of its inhabitants are employees of the Boston association.

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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