Colorado Gold Rush

Colorado gold rush miner drawing courtesy of "Colorful Colorado" by Caroline Bancroft.


In 1859, the gold rush in Colorado began. Sutter's Mill in California was the site of the first gold discovery in the west.  This was in 1849.

Imagine reading this exciting headline in your local paper: "Pikes Peak, Gold Excitement in the City, A New California".  Well, this news appeared in the Leavenworth Times, Kansas.

The entire eastern region of the United States was abuzz with talk of a new gold rush.  "Pikes Peak or Bust" was the catch phrase of the time.

When Sutter's started to run out, the gold discovered at Pikes Peak sent a mass of migration to the area to mine for more gold.  Easterners moved west and westerners in California moved east, all to meet up and search for prosperity.

GOLD!  People get so excited about it they are consumed with getting rich and living their dreams.  This precious metal affects most everyone the same way.

We felt it when we first moved into our house on a mountain here in Colorado.  The shiny rocks and flakes of shimmering dust were all over our property.  Wow!  We're rich!  WRONG!

Just iron pyrite or fool's gold.  Oh well, it's pretty when you sweep it off the floor or brush it out of the dog's coats.  Sorry, onward...

Imagine the wagon trains heading west from Missouri into the unknown territory.  Packing up your family and belongings, saying goodbye to your home and traveling to a way of life that was hard work with difficult conditions. And dangerous.

Many gold miners heading for the rush struck it rich.  However, there are a lot more who did not. 

Oh, some hit a few thousand dollars worth of the ore, but not enough to sustain themselves and their families for long periods of time.  These people packed up and returned east.

The Pikes Peak Gold Rush was a part of the race west during the Colorado gold rush.  Denver City sprung up as tents and log cabins, housing the newly arrived miners.

The 1859 gold rush happened so quickly there was no time to organize any local town government or law enforcement.

The miners were not concerned with this at all, they were prospecting.  So they quickly formed mining districts.  Their laws and their courts.  Mining camps grew.

Cripple Creek, Georgetown, Fairplay, Breckenridge and many others that are still present day towns.  Miners only wanted to dig for gold and had no use for farming or ranching.

When they had money, they needed supplies, clothes, food to survive. The miners would not leave their stake to get these staples.

In answer to the gold miners prayers, along came others bent on making their fortune, not with , Colorado gold mining , but supplying the miners with what they need.

Shopkeepers, saloon operators, blacksmiths, carpenters, all means of trade set up in the mining camps.

Life in the Colorado gold rush days was pretty rough and bawdy.  Movies and TV only showed us the tamer side.

Also, another element was discovered along with gold.  Silver was abundant in the mines where gold was discovered and many towns were founded based on this blue ore.

The most prosperous of the silver decade was the Leadville silver strike.  And then the inevitable, the gold and silver was mined out and towns were abandoned.

Some once booming towns became Colorado ghost towns.  Names, rotted buildings, stone foundations, this is all that is left of the gold rush days.


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