Early Days On The West Side of Pikes Peak

Post (c) Doris McCraw


With the release of the latest Pikes Peak Library Districts History Symposium book, “Disasters of the Pikes Peak Region”, I thought I’d share a bit from my chapter, ‘ The Cripple Creek Volcano: a thirty-five million year disaster’.

goldfield east of Battle Mountain
Goldfield fromeast side of Battle Mountain. Cripple Creek District, Teller County, Colorado.     October 7, 1903 (USGS image)

Early Days in the Region:
Some of the earliest people in the region were probably the Utes and various other Native American tribes. There is little written about that time and what is known is mostly supposition. It appears there may have been found some artifacts from the native people around the Mt. Pisgah area and that it may have been used as a signal mountain for those early inhabitants. Between 1842 and 1844 Capt. John C. Fremont explored the region and his travels around Pikes Peak took him into the Cripple Creek area. As the ’59r’s headed toward South Park and the mines up there, they traveled just north of the Cripple Creek area.
During the 1871 Hayden survey there was some gold specimens found by a member of that survey, but nothing of any impact came from that find. In 1874 H.T. Wood, of the same Hayden survey party, returned to the Cripple Creek district and he along with other prospectors set about trying to find gold. Wood organized the district under the name of Mt. Pisgah. The hunt was on to find the source of the gold ‘float’ that lead to one of the first ‘runs’ for gold in the Cripple Creek-Victor district. Despite this groups quest, no one was successful in finding the source.
In 1884 a second discovery started yet another rush to the area. In this rush there were as many as 5,000 people, looking for their own pots of gold, who came to the area in search of that elusive prize. The founder of this rush, one ‘Chicken Bill’ as he was known, was found to have ‘salted’ the area and barely escaped lynching. For those who don’t know what ‘salting’ is, it is the process of adding gold or silver to change the value of the ore with intent to deceive potential buyers.


mt pisgah
Mt. Pisgah near Cripple Creek

Early Settlers:

One of the early families that moved into the Cripple Creek area was the Welty family. At the time the Welty’s arrived in the area, it had not been surveyed for homesteading, so technically they were squatters.. Welty and his sons built a cabin and corral near to the stream, around the year 1871.
The next family to arrive was the Womack family. The Womack’s purchased the Welty squatter rights for $500 and claimed a second homestead two miles south of the Cripple Creek stream with Womack’s son Robert (Bob) building a cabin at the bottom of a ravine the Hayden Survey called Poverty Gulch.
Although other families squatted or homesteaded in the region by the mid 1880’s most of the settlers had left and/or returned to their places located on the plains east of Colorado Springs. This eastern plains as part of the Pikes Peak region had become active in the cattle and sheep industry which was thriving in the 1870’s. The abandoned homesteads were purchased by the Pikes Peak Land and Cattle Company, a partnership composed of three local residents and Phillip Elsworth, an eastern glove manufacturer. When Elsworth visited the area in 1885 he felt his partners had misrepresented the companies holdings. He forced them to quit claim their shares and then put the land up for sale. It was purchased by the Denver real estate firm of Horace W. Bennett & Julius A. Myers for $5,000 down and $20,000 if and when it could be paid. These same two men would be in the right place at the right time when the real gold rush began in the Cripple Creek-Victor Gold Mining District.

pikes peak near colorado city 1870
Pikes Peak from near Colorado City 1870 (USGS image)

For those who are interested the book can be purchased from Amazon here: Here

Doris McCraw who also writes under the pen name Angela Raines is an Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women’s History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here

Photo and Poem: Click Here
Angela Raines FaceBook: Here

Every step you take should be a prayer.
And if every step you take is a prayer then you will always be walking in a sacred manner.
Oglala Lakota Holyman.




21 thoughts on “Early Days On The West Side of Pikes Peak

  1. Del and I have talked about going to a gold mine, or panning for gold. We went to the Emerald mine in North Carolina. We got a small ruby and a small emerald. It was fun. Thanks for the post and photis–Nice. Cher’ley


    1. Glad you enjoyed it Cher’ley. Mining can be fun. A friend, who was on “Prospectors” has talked a lot about mining. He goes after gemstones primarily. Doris


  2. Interesting history, Doris. One can tell you greatly enjoy sharing historical places and pieces. Amazing that some of the same party who explored and documented Yellowstone did the same hundreds of miles away in your area. Thanks for sharing more about your beautiful state!


    1. Gayle, you do understand me well. History is in my DNA. I have to admit, the history of my adopted state is something exciting and sharing it is a joy. Of course, Wyoming and most of the west is pretty darn good history also. *Smile* Doris


  3. Interesting! Enjoy reading the history of places and pictures always enhance that enjoyment. For some reason I particularly like reading about Wyoming, Colorado etc areas. You do a fabulous job sharing your knowledge and what must be tons of research.


    1. Thank you for the kind words Neva. I agree, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, etc. have such great history. So much to learn, so many great stories…just not always enough time. *Sigh* Doris PS, I love the research part of it.


  4. When the Womacks boought the Welty’s squatter rights did that mean they chased off the Weltys to somewhere else? Or did the Weltys give up and move away? Fascinating information, Doris. Mt. Pisgah looks like my local mountain that’s named Bennachie except Bennachie is only about 1700 ft – compared to Pisgah at 9600 ft!


    1. Welty’s chose to move away, that’s why they sold. They actually went back to the ranch on the eastern plains.

      Isn’t is funny how elevation is so different, yet the scene is so similiar. If I remember correctly Pisgah is actually a plug from the volcano. Doris


    1. I think the thing I love about where I live now, it is so full of great stories from history, if you take the time to find them. I’m glad you enjoy history, for I do enjoy sharing the things I find. Doris


    1. I loved the classic “Cripple Creek”. There is just something so exciting and interesting about history. Can’t get enough of it either Mike. Doris (PS the Space Symposium was this last week at the Broadmoor here in town. Bummed I couldn’t make it this year.)


  5. Interesting post, Doris. I admire and respect you for doing such thorough and extensive work. It must be fascinating, especially working with primary sources. And satisfying to have assimilated so much from multiple sources. But how do you know when you’re finished?


      1. Me to Kathy. It would be time well spent talking about that amazing woman and her work. This past year the ‘Pioneers Museum’ here in town had a showing of the silent film “Ramona” with live music. The film held up very well, an oh the music. Doris

        (Sometimes when I’m stuck in with my own writing, I go visit her grave and somehow I break through the block. *Strange, I know, but….*

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kathy. In some respects, I don’t think I ever finish, but most times it is the deadlines that stop me. Still once the ‘journey’ is started, I keep coming back, even after moving on to other things. It just makes me happy to find those pieces to the puzzle in my head. *Grin* Doris


  6. Congrats on the book, Doris. I bet it was a lot of fun for you to research and write your chapter fr the book. Was this a closed invite-only submission process? Just curious. Thanks for the interesting history of the Cripple Creek area.


    1. Thank you Sarah. Actually, anyone can submit a proposal on the topic for that year. I also had a chapter in “Film and Photography” book, and have another in the “Myth and Mysteries” one coming up. The PPLD.org website should have next years subject posted in the next month or so.

      I do admit, I love research. So many interesting stories and ideas. Plus living so near the area, I could just hop in the car and 45 minutes later, I’d be walking where the lava had flowed. Doris


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