Thursday, September 24, 2009

Central City and Nevadaville

Early, we get up and enjoy our "free" breakfast and though there is a scattering of snow on the ground, its plenty good for exploring the area. We begin with Nevadaville, which sits just outside Central City.


This old mining camp got its start in 1859 soon after John H. Gregory found the first lode gold in the area. The camp boomed quickly with miners working the Burroughs and Kansas lodes. One of the most important mining settlements in the area, it once boasted about 4,000 residents. In November, 1861, the town was mostly destroyed by a fire but most of it was rebuilt. It continued to prosper until about 1900, after which the population declined sharply. Today, this small community of just about six residents still displays its more prosperous days in mining ruins, crumbling structures and a few intact buildings.

On May 6, 1859, John H. Gregory followed Clear Creek upstream looking for gold. As he pulled a low tree branch out of the way and began to pan the creek, he discovered what was later called the "The Gregory Lode". Located in a gulch between what later became Central City and Black Hawk, he staked the first of many mining claims in the vicinity. Immediately prospectors flocked to the region and within two months, the population grew to 10,000 people seeking their fortunes. The Clear Creek Mining District was so rich with ore it became known as the “Richest Square Mile on Earth.”

When the town was just three months old, it already had some 300 buildings and a population of nearly 3,000. By August, 1860, the easy pickings were over and mining for gold became more difficult. As the depth of the mines increased, extracting gold from the ore became more complex. Due to the primitive technology, as little as 1/3 of the assayed amount of the ore was recovered. Other problems contributed to an economic slow-down in the area, including the Civil War and frequent Indian attacks on wagon trains crossing the Plains. The miners were becoming a rowdy bunch and in 1861, Central City recorded 217 fistfights, 97 revolver fights, 11 Bowie knife fights and 1 dogfight. Amazingly, no one was killed.

On May 21, 1874, a fire started in Dostal Alley, behind Main Street. The fire destroyed about 150 buildings in the downtown area. Afterwards, the community rebuilt its buildings in brick. By 1880, Central City, with a population of 2,547, began a period of relative stability that lasted about twenty years. However, Colorado was also growing and the Little Kingdom of Gilpin was no longer as influential as it had been. From the early 1880s until the early 1900s, Central City was merely a good mining town. Central's "boom" days were over.

In the early 1900s, gold production again declined as the mines were getting so deep that it had become too expensive. By 1920, the city supported only about 500 people and was quickly on its way to becoming a ghost town. However, in 1991, a statewide referendum legalized low stakes gambling, saving not only Central City from becoming a total ghost town, but also Blackhawk and Cripple Creek to the south. Though gambling has changed the atmosphere of these old mining camps, Central City still displays dozens of historic buildings and mining remains can still be found dotting the area.

Beyond Central City, we make our way northward to Estes Park, where we book into the allegedly haunted Stanley Hotel and are scheduled for a ghost tour. Stay tuned.

For more on Central City, click HERE.

No comments: