Cripple Creek Colorado

photo courtesy of Cripple Creek Heritage Center.

Cripple Creek Colorado claimed there were millions of dollars in gold ore buried there, but during the California gold rush in 1849, no one even thought of gold in Colorado as they migrated westward.

So who discovered gold in this area?  A man named Bob Womack that's who.

Keep in mind, a survey company had been out to the Pikes Peak region and had sent a report stating there was the potential for a large gold strike in the area.

Womack was a visitor to a ranch in the area, owned by Levi Welty.

He believed the survey report and started digging for gold in an area called Poverty Gulch, between present day Cripple Creek and Victor.

Bob found gold in 1890, but not enough.  After a few months of digging, he gave up and sold his claim for a few thousand dollars.

He should have kept searching because the prospectors who bought his claim found millions not far from where he was digging.

In 1891, the Cripple Creek/Victor Mining District was established, and the rush for Pikes Peak gold was on.

Near the present day town of Victor, one prospector in particular, Winfield Scott Stratton, struck in rich on July 4, 1891.  He filed the Independence and Fourth of July claims.  Remains of these mines can be seen today.

With all the gold being mined in the area, it was difficult to get it to the assayers.  So three railroads came along to help with the gold boom.  I'll tell you about them in another section.

These railroads increased the rise in the production of gold.  They provided access to the smelting factories in Pueblo and Denver for high grade ore.

Cripple Creek Colorado became a popular place to live.  Mining equipment was easily brought in now, food and dry goods arrived, as well as the miners families from back east.

Lumber mills were built, hotels erected, saloons were busting at the seams.  Doctors arrived, as well as newspapers and lawyers.

In 1892, electricity was brought in and the streets and homes  all over town were illuminated. 1893 saw the city's water system completed.  The town was completely modernized.

The total population of the town in 1894 was about 50,000 people.

The mines here provided many jobs and the economy of Colorado flourished.

All of the gold from these mining operations was sent to the Federal Mint and the nation's economy also grew.

A few interesting facts:

The town was named for a cow that broke its leg while crossing the stream that fed through Poverty Gulch.

In 1896, a fire destroyed almost all of the town, not once, but twice.

The first was due to a fight between a dancer in the "red light district" and her boyfriend. 

Reports say they were fighting rather vigorously when they knocked over a kerosene lamp and the fire broke out. 

It spread quickly because of brisk winds and most of the buildings were made of wood.

The miners started rebuilding right away.

The second fire was caused by a hotel cook who overturned a pan of grease on the stove.  This was three days after the first fire.

The rest of the town not burned by the first fire, was destroyed by this one.

When rebuilding commenced, it was voted that the buildings be erected using brick. And so it was done.  The businesses you see today housed in these buildings are the original from the 1890's.

The Wild Donkey Herd that roam the town freely, are the descendants of the original animals that helped the first prospectors mine for gold.

These cute critters are protected and cared for by the Two-Mile High Club of the town.

During the summer, you can see the donkeys all over town, sometimes walking in the front door of one of the casinos. 

Yes, it's true, I saw it with my own eyes. Don't know if the door host asked for I.D., but the little guy didn't stay long.

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