Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Old Postcard Wednesday--Leadville and Mt. Massive, Colorado

The following information is from a Capsule History of Leadville, Colorado:
Leadville was the greatest of all the Colorado mining regions. Mining in the area began in 1859 and continues today. The history of Leadville is a series of boom and bust periods following the fortunes of the mining industry.

Early Placer Mining

Placer mining for gold was started in California Gulch in 1859. By 1861 5,000 prospectors covered the area and the settlement of Oro City was established. The placer deposits quickly played out and even though the Printer Boy Mine was successfully opened in 1868, by the 1870's the area was almost deserted. In 1878 a metallurgist named Alvinius Woods and his partner William Stevens visited the area and discovered that the local sands which had made sluicing gold so difficult were composed of carbonate of lead with an extremely high silver content. The mother lode was discovered on the side of Iron Hill. This discovery led to the second boom in the area, the silver rush would lead to the founding of Leadville.

The Silver Boom

Thousands were drawn to the area by the discovery of silver in the mid 1870's. As a result of this explosive growth, the city of Leadville was incorporated in January 1878. At an elevation of 10,200 feet, it is the highest incorporated city in the country. By the end of 1879 the population in Leadville reached 18,000. By 1893 the estimated population reached 60,000. This was the period when great fortunes were made and lost throughout the district.

By 1881 there were 14 smelters and reduction plants operating in the Leadville district. Some of the leading mining properties in the district included the Matchless, Morning Star, Iron Silver, Catalpa, Chrysolite, and Little Pittsburgh. Silver production reached a peak of over $11,000,000 in 1880, leveled out at about $10,000,00 for a number of years and then began to decline.

The history of Leadville is rich with stories of various characters. Some of these tales have become legends; how much truth is in them is now difficult to tell.

. . .{Note: I am including a few of the interesting legends mentioned in the article. The second one relates to the Little Johnny Mine pictured in this old postcard.}

  • Horace Tabor became one of the richest men in the world and took as his second wife the beautiful Baby Doe Tabor. He died a pauper. On his deathbed Tabor instructed Baby Doe to "Hang on to the Matchless. It will make millions." It didn't, and Baby Doe froze to death in the mine building years later, a penniless widow.
  • Molly Brown, wife of John Brown, the superintendent of the Little Jonny Mine, accidentally burned hundreds of thousands of dollars in the stove where he had hidden them. After this episode it was claimed Johnny went out and discovered another mine. Molly went on to fame after her voyage on the Titanic as the Unsinkable Molly Brown. She never confirmed or denied the tale of the burned money.
  • Alva Adams made a fortune with the Blind Tom mine and later became governor of Colorado.
  • The Ice Palace, constructed entirely of ice blocks 8 feet thick, covered 5 acres during the winter of 1895. It contained huge ice statues, and was the scene of various balls and special events. In the spring it all melted. 
Click HERE to continue reading about the other booms experienced by Leadville: the Gold Boom that followed the demonetization of silver in 1893 and the Molybdenum Boom in the early Twentieth Century.

At Visit I was delighted to find that this post is timely to highlight the upcoming annual Leadville Ski Joring and Crystal Carnival! Here is more from the website (click link for full schedule of events). Note in the text that accommodations should be reserved in advance.

Leadville Ski Joring and Crystal Carnival
2012 Event Schedule

In North America’s highest city, the sounds of winter include hoof beats, whoops and hollers echoing the streets of downtown Leadville, the swish-swish-swish of cross-country skis, and a wild chorus of yips from sled dog teams, especially during the town’s annual ski joring and Crystal Carnival weekend coming up Mar. 2 – 4, 2012. Leadville, which was recently named the number two True Western Town in the country by True West magazine, is where the cowboys come to play in the winter. One part Old West, one part extreme sports, this scenic Colorado mountain town celebrates winter with ski joring; Nordic, sled dog and mountain bike races; a paintball biathlon; a children’s parade and contests; and broomball games.

Leadville’s main thoroughfare, Harrison Avenue, and its side streets are lined with antique and specialty shops, restaurants, museums and galleries, offering visitors a bite to eat or a shopping break during the events.

The Crystal Carnival, which commemorates the original winter sports festival held in Leadville in 1896, offers winter fun for the entire family. All events are free for spectators; some require fees for participants. 

Never heard of ski joring? Neither had I. Below is an explanation from Leadville Ski Joring, followed by some photos from the website that I think show an amazing sport/exhibition.
Ski Joring is a competition where a horse and rider pull a skier at a fast pace through a course that has gates, jumps and rings. The skier is timed through the course, and penalties are assessed by missing gates or jumps, and by missing or dropping any of the rings. The competitors race for cash prizes, and teams are made up by a randon draw before the start.

The Leadville Ski Joring event has been going on in Leadville since 1949, and is one of the premier events of its kind in the country.

Ski Joring is always the first full weekend in March, and it is a good idea to book your room well in advance if you are planning on coming to either participate or spectate as the available rooms fill up fast.

Start planning for March 3rd and 4th in 2012!




Rob-bear said...

Fascinating. As always. I really enjoy all the information you squeeze into (or tease out of) these local histories. Thanks.

Not fascinating. Having to prove I'm not a robot. This word verification stuff is a very difficult form with which to work.

Hattie said...

Yes, half the time I can't figure out what the letters are.
I think a lot, too, about the history of the west and always enjoy these posts.

Owen said...

Ah, mining in the mountains... the stuff of Robert William Service poems. Hard to imagine those dreams of riches, and the lengths men went to in wild places to strike it rich...

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

what an odd name for a place - even if you DID find Lead there you'd think it would be named after a person - however, i did see that there's a place in USA called Intercourse...

It's amazing the daft sports that people will take part in - being pulled on skis behind a horse!!

We have cheese rolling in the UK- where they throw a truckle of cheese down a big hill and lots of people run after it, inevitably breaking limbs

I would ask why "unsinkable" Molly Brown's other half hid lots of money in a stove in the first place - but in the current economic world it would probably still be safer than in a bank!

Shelley said...

Was this where the mining strike was?

Darlene said...

I think the strike Shelley is referring to is the famous one that occurred in Bisbee, Arizona. The striking copper miners were savagely beaten by thugs brought in by the owners. Not one of Arizona's proudest moments.

Lydia said...

Rob-bear and Hattie~ Thank you for your comments about the post, and about your frustrations with Word Verification. I added that feature some time ago after being heavily spammed by forces in Bulgaria that attached me to some pretty horrid sites. But, for your sakes, I thought I would do away with it ...however, Google has changed the way add and delete Word Verifications, and now require that we request a "blog review" to "whitelist" a blog from the spam-control feature. Right now I don't have the patience to go through all that. Sorry.

Owen~ They did go to great lengths to strike it rich! I never heard about the history of Leadville before but it reminded me of the history of Virginia City, Nevada.

Pixies~ I totally agree with you about the name of the town, and the daftness of ideas for sports that people invent!
Your final paragraph is both funny and wise. :)

Shelley~ Please see Darlene's comment just below yours (I did not have the answer and am grateful to her!).

Darlene~ Thank you so much for the info regarding Shelley's question. Another wild west event I was not aware of...



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