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’.
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.
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.
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
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.