Colorado History and Genealogy Project





Park County Colorado ~  1870

Lies chiefly in a semicircular basin; its southern, western and northern rims form a curve in the main Rocky Mountain range, from a point near Pike's Peak, on the southeast, to Mt. Lincoln on the northeast; its eastern boundary a series of mountain spurs broken by the tributaries of the Platte, which connect Pike's Peak and Mt. Lincoln by a nearly direct line, about 100 miles in length, running northeast and southwest. This county is the central division of Colorado, and is bounded on the south by Fremont County; on the east, by El Paso, a corner of Douglas, and Jefferson; on the north, by Clear Creek and Summit; and on the west, by Lake. An elevated plateau, over 10,000 feet above sea-level, the South park, covers the larger portion of this area, locked in by mountain chains, and is the principal feature of the county. The park embraces almost 3,000 square miles, nearly level, except where traversed by numerous spurs of the mountains that form its boundaries; is well watered with tributaries of the South Platte, and covered with luxuriant grasses and pine forests. One hot and several warm mineral springs, and extensive salt springs, have been discovered in the park, the latter about twenty miles from its northern border. In 1866, large salt works were erected at these, by Messrs. Rollins, Hall and Lane, at considerable expense, which were worked for several years with profitable results, supplying the greater portion of the Territory; but at present, from causes unknown to us, are idle. The springs, two in number, furnish large quantities of brine of fair strength. The valley in which they are located is covered with an efflorescence of alkali, and there is every evidence of extensive salt beds. About eight miles from the northern limit, lignite, suitable for ordinary fuel purposes, has been discovered in considerable quantities, and evidences of good coal beds present themselves at different parts.

The soil of the park is exceedingly fertile, and, notwithstanding its great elevation, the hardier cereals, potatoes, turnips and other vegetables, mature and yield largely; and no better grass or hay-growing country can be found anywhere. The numerous streams which traverse the surface of the park, and break through its eastern boundaries to the great plains and the greater ocean beyond, are filled with brook trout of the finest species ; and game, such as ducks, geese, deer, elk and mountain sheep, is abundant everywhere. At the head of the park that giant among the mountain-monarchs of this region, Mt. Lincoln, rears its snow-crowned summit far above timber line, to an elevation of over 17,000 feet (Prof. Dubois' estimate). The melted snows from its eastern declivities supply the principal tributaries of the South Platte with clear, sparkling, eternal waters; and those from its western slopes reach the Pacific Ocean through the Blue, Grande and Colorado. The scenic view from Mt. Lincoln is unsurpassed in beauty and sublimity.

The principal town and county seat of Park county is Fair Play, located at the head of the park on a tributary of the Platte, at the base of the foothills, ninety-five miles from Denver, by the Buckskin Joe, or Fair Play wagon road, seventy-five miles from Cañon City, seventy miles from Colorado City, forty miles from Granite, in Lake, and thirty-five miles from California gulch. This town is on the direct or mountain route, from Denver to Santa Fe, by way of San Luis park, and is reached from Denver, by a daily line of first-class coaches, owned by the Colorado Stage Company; from San Luis park and Lake County, by a semi-weekly line, owned by Frank Logan; from Canon City, by a weekly line, the property of W. H. Berry, of Fair Play; and from Montgomery and other mining towns above, a weekly line. Montezuma, Breckinridge, and the mining districts of Summit, are reached by a good road, through one of the lowest passes of the main range. Fair Play has a good church (Methodist Episcopal); school, with forty-five scholars; two hotels, the South Park House, Hugh Murdoch, proprietor, and Clinton House, David Miller, proprietor; two stores, general merchandise and miners' supplies, A. M. Janes; drug store, L. H. Valiton. The post-office, express office and land agency are at Janes' store. Livery stable, McLaughlin & Hall, proprietors. The county officers are: S. A. Safford, county clerk and recorder; Thomas Hubbard, probate judge; A. Hall, sheriff; treasurer and collector, W. H. Berry; assessor, R. Ware; school superintendent, J. Marshall Paul, attorney at law; commissioners, Charles W. Lowe, James Moynahan, S. S. Slater; justice of peace, Thomas Willey. There is a United States land office at Fair Play, with James Castello, receiver, and N. H. Owings, register. Six townships around this town have been surveyed and are in the market for sale, and four more have been surveyed and are open for preemption. They are all in or near the park, well watered, well timbered with spruce and pine, and a large portion of them good agricultural lands. The present population is about 400, within the limits of the town, and 600 in the surrounding mining districts, with this as a base of supplies. From the valley or gulch in which Fair Play is located, over 8250,000 in gold was taken out in 1859, and all the placer diggings in the vicinity are rich and have produced largely, among them, "Beaver Creek gulch," where Messrs. Pease and Freeman have recently put in a bed rock flume, and have good prospects; and " Four Mile gulch," where Charles W. Lowe was actively and profitably engaged last summer. The entire range of mountains in the vicinity is traversed by a rich belt of lodes, carrying minerals of all kinds. Those of the greatest value and best developed are the "Orphan Boy." Mosquito district, from which a large amount has been taken (the ores in this lode are sulphurets of iron, copper, lead and zinc, bearing gold and silver); the "War Eagle" and "Hattie Jane," also Mosquito district; the "Parsonage" and "Herrington," Montgomery district; the "Priest lode," Beaver Creek district; and "Ten-forty," "Excelsior," "Sub-let," "Union Four," and celebrated "Phillips" (from which more than a quarter of a million dollars was taken in a short time), all in Buckskin district.

The other towns in the county worthy of note are Montgomery, at the base of Mt. Lincoln, twelve miles from Fair Play (an important mining camp as early as 1860), surrounded by a belt of lodes of unusual richness, many of which have been extensively worked, and over a third of a million dollars taken out since 1859; several quartz mills. Buckskin, on Buckskin creek, about nine miles north of Fair Play, surrounded by rich gulches and mines; a prospect of active operations here next summer. Mosquito, on Mosquito creek, also in the midst of a good mining district, considerably developed; with two stamp mills and several arastras constantly employed; and prospects of reduction works, for silver ores, next summer. Several gulch claims between Montgomery and Fair Play were worked, during the past year, with fair results, and over $100,000 in gold produced, being the principal yield of the county, owing to the existence of causes adverse to active mining operations; principal among these, the lack of proper works for reducing ores, and insufficient capital for mining purposes. The principal companies owning mining and milling property in these districts are the Stephens Company, Philadelphia capitalists; South Park Exploring and Mining-Company, who own the "Orphan Boy;" and the Pioneer Mining Company, who own lodes and stamp mill and arastras in Montgomery district.

Stock-raising is fast becoming an important feature in the industries of Park County, for which its superior pasture-lands afford unusual advantages. There are already over 6,000 head of cattle and 700 head of horses owned by parties near Fair Play, and these herds will be increased rapidly.

The vast mineral and agricultural resources, superior water powers, coal beds, mineral springs and salt beds, unrivalled scenery and healthful climate, will eventually secure large wealth and population to this county. Its principal town is already a good business point, and, from its beautiful and healthful surroundings, should be a fashionable resort for summer tourists.

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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