Colorado mining history in photographs and images. The Famous Keller Colorado Mining Photographic Collection. Preservation and presentation of Early prospecting and mining operations in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. On-line museum of western Colorado history through vintage photographs.
This web site is not associated with the U.S. Bureau of Mines. It has been more than two decades since the 104th session of the U.S. Congress, eliminated funding for the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM). The USBM closure on March 30, 1996 abolished the Bureau. The agency served the nation since 1910. Prior to that time, many of its operations were conducted under the aegis of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Miningbureau.com's mission is to educate and preserve Colorado's mining history through data and images. Offering for sale, trade or publishing use in exchange for credit, rare historic photographs and artifacts on the Colorado gold rush of 1859.
Engraving showing first settlers at Gregory Gold Diggings 1859. On May 6th 1859 John H. Gregory discovered a gold lode in Colorado. The Gregory mining district, became the first mining district in Colorado.
HISTORY OF MINING.
BY EDSON S. BASTIN.In romantic interest and as a record of human achievement in the face of great difficulties and privations, the story of the discovery and early development of the mineral wealth of this region can hardly be surpassed by any other chapter in the history of the "winning of the West." If in the brief account that follows the personality of these pioneers is lost in the story of their practical achievements, it is because the pen of a novelist rather than a geologist is required to depict the human side of the story.
"Struck it big." Prospectors examing ore specimen, next to a windless over the mouth of the mine shaft located in the high country. Alexander Martin Rocky Mountain scenery #2904. North Star Mountains, Colorado.
The writer (EDSON S. BASTIN) is indebted to publications by Rickard, Fossett, and Hall, for most of the facts here presented.
In the summer of 1849 a party of seven Georgians were taking a herd of thoroughbred horses across the continent to California. Reaching the mountains too late in the fall to effect a safe crossing with their stock, they established a winter camp at the junction of Cherry Creek and Platte River, on the present site of the city of Denver, and during the fall occupied themselves in prospecting the gravels along Cherry Creek, but they did not penetrate into the mountain canyons for fear of the Indians. Gold in quantities sufficient to awaken their hopes was found at several places, particularly at a point 16 miles upstream. With the arrival of spring they proceeded to California, where for several years they engaged in mining, but in 1857 they sold out their interests in California and returned to Georgia. Before separating it was agreed among several of them that in the near future they would form a prospecting party to go to the Rocky Mountains and search for gold. In May, 1858, the original seven and four others met in St. Louis, and in August they reached the present site of Denver, where they established a camp and began prospecting. According to Rickard, one of these parties followed Boulder Creek up to the forks, finding small amounts of gold. Another party proceeded across the ridges to Fall River and Spring Gulch. They did not descend into the valley of North Clear Creek at that time but crossed Quartz Hill and found rich gravel at Russell Gulch, named after its discoverer, W. Green Russell. As it was too near winter to begin mining, the prospectors returned to their camp at Cherry Creek. Six of the party went east to obtain provisions, returning in the spring of 1859.
Crest of the continent , Rocky Mountains
By the fall of 1858 rumors of the gold discoveries had reached eastern Kansas. The East and especially the Middle West was still suffering from the effects of the financial panic of 1857, and this fact undoubtedly accounted in a measure for the enthusiasm with which any plan that promised to revive fallen fortunes was received. Prospectors in large numbers traveled to the new gold field, which became generally known as the Pikes Peak field. The town at the mouth of Cherry Creek, on the present site of Denver, was named Auralia, and there in 1858 wintered a considerable number of people disappointed at the small findings of gold in that vicinity and ready to stampede to any field of new discovery. At the foot of the mountains, where now stands the town of Golden, three prospectors camped for the winter. One of these men, George A. Jackson, a native of Missouri, penetrated into the mountains during the winter of 1858 and discovered the hot soda springs near the present site of the town of Idaho Springs, and shortly afterward, on January 7, 1859, he washed fine gold from the gravels bordering Chicago Creek near its mouth. A monument now marks the site of his discovery. The news of Jackson's find and the display of his gold at Auralia, where he offered it in payment for tools and supplies, precipitated a rush of prospectors to the mountains and resulted in the spring of 1859 in the discovery of gold at many other places. Among those who joined in this rush was John Hamilton Gregory, a native of Georgia, who followed up North Clear Creek. On May 6 Gregory made the first lode discovery in the Rockies, on the lode that bears his name (on Gregory No. 5 claim), between the present sites of Blackhawk and Central City. Other prospectors coming up North Clear Creek soon learned of his discovery, and the news spread and occasioned another rush, many hastening across the hills from Cherry Creek and from the Jackson "diggings," on South Clear Creek. Gregory sold his two claims for $21,000 in the summer of 1859 and soon afterward left the district.
Gold Seekers in Colorado Territory
In June, 1859, shortly after Gregory's discovery, A. D. Gambell discovered gold in Gamble Gulch in the Perigo region, and prospectors from the Jackson and Gregory diggings, spreading over the country in all directions, made many other discoveries at Twelve-mile, Gold Hill (12 miles west of Boulder), and other places.
Early in June, 1859, William Green Russell, (see below) a member of the original party of Georgians, had commenced washing gold in the gulch that bears his name. According to Hollister, "A week's work with six men yielded 76 ounces of gold. Others had taken claims above and below him, and toward the end of September there were 891 men at work in the gulch." By July 1 about 100 sluices were at work in the vicinity of Gregory's discovery, and yields of $100 to $400 for a day's work were not uncommon. Certain lodes averaged $100 a day for months at a time.
Thus was initiated the first period of mining in Colorado. The subsequent history of the district is too complex to be followed here in detail, but attention may be drawn to a few of its salient events. The discovery of other valuable lodes followed fast upon that of the Gregory lode. On May 15,1859, the Bates lode was uncovered, and on May 25 the Gunnell, Kansas, and Burroughs. The Bobtail was discovered in June. On June 8, 1859, the miners at the "Gregory diggings" (Blackhawk) met in mass meeting and framed and adopted resolutions defining the boundaries of the district and the conditions under which claims could be taken and held. One of the resolutions provided that lode claims were to be 100 feet long and 50 feet wide, and "creek" or placer claims were to extend 100 feet up or down the gulch and from wall to wall. These provisions remained in force until the enactment of the Federal mining act of May 10, 1872. Subsequent meetings on July 9 and 16,1859, organized a provisional local government.
In spite of warnings issued through the eastern newspapers by Horace Greeley and other eastern men who had visited the Gregory district in 1859, a second stampede to the district, larger than the first, took place in the summer of 1860. During the early part of summer immigrants bound for the new gold field arrived on the present site of Denver at the rate of 100 a day. The diggings became over crowded and many hardships resulted. In that year the existing mining laws for the Gregory district were codified and amplified. The integrity of the local laws within each mining district was upheld by one of the first acts of the Territorial legislature of Colorado, in 1861, and further supported by an act of Congress, approved July 26, 1866. This act contained the first statement of the famous " apex law." On February 26, 1861, the region, which had up to this time formed a part of the Territory of Kansas, was organized by act of Congress as the Territory of Colorado and William Gilpin was appointed governor.
All the veins of the region were gold bearing in their surface-oxidized portions, and it was not until mining had been extended to the underlying sulphide-bearing ores that some of the veins were found to be rich in silver. The first discoveries of silver ore appear to have been made in 1864 by men from the Empire district. They uncovered the Belmont vein, on McClellan Mountain, which afterward yielded large amounts of rich silver ore. In 1865 and 1866 there was a rush to the Georgetown district, and a large number of rich silver veins were discovered. In 1869 the rich silver ores of the Caribou or Grand Island district, in Boulder County, were discovered. The silver veins of Silver Hill, near Blackhawk, were not discovered until 1877 or 1878.
A notable stimulus was given to the development of mining by the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad to Cheyenne in 1867, and particularly by the completion in the summer of 1870 of the Denver Pacific line between Denver and Cheyenne.
In August of the same year the Kansas Pacific Railroad reached Denver, making two rail connections with the East. In 1870 the narrow-gage railroad was completed from Denver to Golden, and in 1872 it was extended to Blackhawk, and in 1873 to Floyd Hill, on South Clear Creek.
During the early years, when mining was confined to the gravels and to the gossans of the veins and the ores obtained were soft and free milling, they could be cheaply mined and amalgamated with the aid only of such simple devices as sluices, cradles, arrastres, and crude stamp mills. As mining progressed and depths of 50 to 100 feet were attained on the veins, the oxidized ore began to give way to sulphide ores, which could not be treated profitably by such simple methods. With deeper development, too, the handling of water in the mines became a more and more serious problem. For these reasons and because of financial ills consequent upon overcapitalization of many properties the period between 1864 and 1868 was one of depression in the mining industry, which was only slowly alleviated as progress was made in the treatment of the sulphide ores. The further history of mining in the region is so intimately bound up with the progress in ore concentration and smelting that the reader is referred to the discussion of this development in the chapter on ore treatment (pp. 153-171). One event, however, of especial importance was the completion in 1887 of the Gilpin County tramway with 24-inch gage to serve the mines of Blackhawk, Central City, and Russell Gulch. About $100,000 of local capital was invested in this enterprise."
Hollister, O. J.,
The mines of Colorado,
pp. 71-72, 1867.
Rickard, T. A.,
The development of Colorado's mining industry:
Am. Inst. Min. Eng. Trans., vol. 26, pp. 834 et seq., 1897. Fossett, Frank, Colorado, 1879.
History of the State of Colorado,
4 vols., 1889-1895.
William Green Russell 1818-1887. Carte De Visite or card of the visit CDV. This exceedingly rare photograph was captured by Reed & McKenney photographers in Central City, Colorado Territory, produced between 1862-1870.Gold prospectors Levi Jasper Russell and William Greeeberry Russell. Note the beards which they were known to wear, until they needed to transport under secrecy their gold back through the eastern north to the south during the civil war.
"In 1858 this little band of explorers, headed by Greene and Russell, passed up the Platte River to the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and a few of the experienced miners began to prospect for gold. Panning out some of the earth along the streams they found colors; this led to a more extended search, and resulted in the finding of small quantities of the metal and a few Gulches of Considerable richness."
This rare and important photograph of William Green Russell appears to be captured after the Russell brothers gold mining claims paid out, because of the new business suit. William Green Russell found gold in Colorado in 1858. Was the greatest single cause of the Pikes Peak Rush that led to the growth of the State of Colorado.
Hydraulic Mining in Russell Gulch yielded gold abundantly. Note the photographers tent in the right foreground. The water was redirected from Fall River by the Consolidated Ditch Company which was owned by the Russell's.
Collier #167 Hydraulic mining also known as booming back then is a mining method that uses hoses carrying high pressure water to spray the gravel deposits, which washes all but the largest rocks into the sluice boxes where most of the gold is recovered. The water used for this hydraulic mining came from the Consolidated Ditch, which was two ditches that carried water from the head of Fall River to Russell Gulch, a distance of twelve miles. The Russell brothers owned the Consolidated Ditch Company and built the ditch at a cost of $100,000.00 in 1860.
"Green-Russell party of Georgia in 1858 The advent of these men in Missouri and Kansas caused others to move on to the Pikes Peak Country. Prospecting was carried on with moderate success on the tributaries of the Platte River, east of the base of the mountains. The reports carried back to the states by the Russell party spread like wildfire, and thousands prepared to visit the New Eldorado in the early spring. The pioneers of the fall of 1858 founded the town of Auraria. With the spring and summer of 1859 came a stampede westward to the land of promise such as has never been equaled except in the case of California."FossettAlso Check out some great gifts at: