Mining History Association

14th Annual Conference, June 4-8, 2003

Cripple Creek, Colorado

14th Annual Conference of the Mining History Association was held in Cripple Creek, Colorado, June 4-8, 2003. Cripple Creek and Victor are two of the most important and historic mining towns in America.  The program sessions and social functions were held at the Womack Center in the Cripple Creek Parks and Recreation Center.  Registration began on June 4th at the Colorado Trading and Transfer Building.  Registrants were able to take a complimentary tour of the adjacent Cripple Creek District Museum in the historic Midland Terminal railroad depot.

Attendees were able to participate in several tours and field trips during the conference.  An overview bus tour of the district stopped at many of the historic mining sites.  There was a tour of the modern gold mining and processing operations of the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining Company.  The tour of the Mollie Kathleen gold mine provided a glimpse of how underground mining was conducted in the district.  An all-day trip to the Western Museum of Mining and Industry in Colorado Springs included operating displays of many types of mining equipment including an operating 10-stamp mill.  The variety of driving, hiking, and biking tours in the area provided many other options for exploring the mining history and natural beauty of the area.

Cripple Creek can be reached from three directions.  Cripple Creek is about 50 miles west of Colorado Springs via highways US 24 and CO 67.  From the west, highway US 24 joins Teller County road 1 at Florissant for the 18 mile drive into Cripple Creek.  From Canyon City to the south, county road 88, a Scenic Byway, follows the historic Shelf Road, one of the historic access roads to the mining district.  Regardless of the route chosen, there are a number of interesting and enjoyable tourist attractions enroute (see Visitor Information below).  Like several historic mining towns in Colorado, gambling is now legal in Cripple Creek with several casinos providing a chance to “strike it rich.”

Cripple Creek District Mining History

The Cripple Creek mining district lies on the southwestern flank of 14,115 foot high Pikes Peak.  Gold was discovered in 1890 by ranch hand-turned-prospector, Bob Womack.  Relatively meager placers led to the discovery of rich vein deposits.  The rush was on as thousands of would-be prospectors and miners again accepted the challenge of the 1859ers, “Pikes Peak or Bust.”  By 1900, 500 mines had been discovered, the towns of Cripple Creek and Victor had been established, and rail service had linked the district to the outside world.

Gold production peaked around 1900 with production valued at $18 million.  From 1890 to 1910, 22.4 million ounces of gold were produced.  Production was not without its problems.  Unlike discoveries in other western mining camps, the gold in Cripple Creek was contained in gold-telluride minerals.  The mineralogy dictated the use of the chlorination process rather than the conventional stamp milling and amalgamation.  Later, chlorination was replaced by cyanide leaching.

The district is noted for several large and famous mines and is said to have produced 30 millionaires.  Winfield Scott Stratton discovered the Independence Mine in 1901 and later sold it for $11 million.  The nearby Portland Mine at one time employed 700 miners.  The profits from entrepreneur Spencer Penrose’s C. O. D. Mine built the famous Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.

The district was rocked by labor strife during several periods.  In 1894, a five month long strike by the Western Federation of Miners was prompted when the mine owners lengthened the workday from 8 to 10 hours.  Violence between the striking miners and a company-paid militia of sheriff’s deputies resulted in the declaration of martial law with the Governor calling in the army to restore order.  The strike was eventually settled by reinstitution of the 8 hour day and no cut in the $3 daily wage.  The union victory strengthened the Federation in Colorado and elsewhere.  In 1903 rising labor tensions again resulted in the calling in of the National Guard during the Colorado Labor Wars.  After an extended period of violent clashes between union and non-union groups, the Federation was driven from the Colorado mines in 1904.

As the mine workings deepened, water became a serious problem.  A number of drainage tunnels were driven to drain the mines and prolong the life of the district.  The longest of these was the Carlton Tunnel which drained from the deepest levels of the Vindicator Mine.  The tunnel was completed in 1941.  Unfortunately the closure of the mines during World War II limited its effectiveness.  After the war, with the gold price pegged at $35 per ounce, most mines became uneconomic and the district shut down.

The rebirth of the district started in 1976 when Texasgulf and Golden Cycle formed a joint venture, the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining Company.  Open pit mining at the Cresson Mine was permitted in 1994 and production rose steadily.  Ownership evolved through mergers and acquisitions until the present time when the mine is owned by Anglo Gold Ashanti Corporation.  In 2011 the company poured 266,000 ounces of gold including its 4 millionth ounce.

Today the best way to experience the mining history of the Cripple Creek District first hand is to take the Gold Camp Trail self-guided driving tour which visits several of the old mining sites and provides a glimpse of the modern mining still going on.  Walking tours are also available in Victor and Cripple Creek.

Bennett Avenue, Cripple Creek (ca1920).

 

Victor Avenue, Victor (ca1899)

 

Colorado Trading and Transfer Building and Midland Railroad Depot, Bennett Avenue and 5th Street, Cripple Creek (2003)

 

Victor Avenue, Victor (ca2010)

 


Miners at the Vindicator Mine, Cripple Creek Mining District, Victor, Colorado


Winfield Scott Stratton, Owner of the Independence Mine, Cripple Creek Mining District, Victor, Colorado


Portland Mine and Mill, Cripple Creek Mining District, Victor, Colorado

Portland Mine, Cripple Creek Mining District, Victor, Colorado.

 

(Photos courtesy Victor Lowell Thomas Museum, USGS, and Johnny Johnsson)

VISITOR INFORMATION

 

Cripple Creek

 

Cripple Creek District Museum

 

Victor and the Lowell Thomas Museum

 

Gold Belt Scenic By-way

 

Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company

 

Southern Teller County Focus Group

 

Colorado Springs

 

Western Museum of Mining and Industry

 

Canyon City and Royal Gorge

 

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

 

Pike’s Peak Historical Society (Florissant, CO)

 

CLICK HERE FOR PROGRAM

 

SOCIAL EVENTS

 

Welcoming Reception, June 5, 2003, Cripple Creek Parks and Recreation Building,“A Visit with Winfield Scott Stratton,” portrayed by Richard Marold

Awards Banquet, June 6, 2003, Cripple Creek Parks and Recreation Building, Speaker: Duane Smith, “Henry Teller: Colorado Spokesman for Mining”

Presidential Luncheon, June 7, 2003, Cripple Creek Parks and Recreation Building, Speaker: Ed Hunter, “The Cape Nome Conspiracy – the Right Wing Again?”

 

TOURS AND FIELD TRIPS

(CLICK ON TRIPS BELOW TO VIEW PHOTO GALLERIES)

 

Cripple Creek District Museum, Self-Guided Tour, June 4, 2003

Cripple Creek and Victor Mining District Tour (see photos below), June 5, 2003

Cripple Creek and Victor Mining District Tour
 Update 2014

Cresson Mine Tour, Cripple Creek and Victor Mining Company, June 6, 2003

Mollie Kathleen Mine Tour, June 6, 2003

Western Museum of Mining and Industry Museum Tour, June 8, 2003

 

READINGS AND REFERENCES

 

Marshall Sprague, “Money Mountain,” (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979).

Robert Guilford Taylor, “Cripple Creek,” (Bloomington: University of Indiana, 1966).

Frank Waters, “Midas of the Rockies: The Story of Stratton and Cripple Creek,” (Athens: Swallow Press/University of Ohio Press, 1989).

Stewart H. Holbrook, “The Rocky Mountain Revolution,” (New York: Holt, 1956).

George G. Suggs, “Colorado’s War on Militant Unionism,” (Detroit: Wayne State University, 1972).

Elizabeth Jameson, “All that Glitters: Class Conflict and Community in Cripple Creek,” (Urbana: University of Illinois, 1998).

Waldemar Lindgren and Frederick Leslie Ransome, “Geology and Gold Deposits of the Cripple Creek District, Colorado,” Professional Paper 54, U. S. Geological Survey, (Washington: GPO, 1906), Accessed January 28, 2013.

Edgar T. Hunter, “A Thumbnail Sketch of the Cripple Creek/Victor’s Mining History,“ 2002 , Accessed February 4, 2013.

D. M. Vardiman, E. Roy, D. Thornton, D. Nicholson, D. White, and M. Melker, “Geology and Exploration Developments, Cripple Creek Mining District, Colorado, CO” Cripple Creek and Victor Mining Company, 2006, Accessed February 4, 2013.

 

ORGANIZING COMMITTEE

 

Ed Hunter, General Chairman

 

PHOTO GALLERY 1 OF 3

CLICK ON A PHOTO TO DISPLAY A LARGER IMAGE


The Cripple Creek and Victor Mining Company’s Modern Cresson Mine is seen from the American Eagles Overlook, Cripple Creek

MHAers Get a Close-up Look at a Large Haulage Truck during the Tour of the Cresson Mine

Bob Sorgenfrei Inspects the Hoist at the American Eagles Mine, a Stop on the Mining District Tour

Stratton’s Independence Mine Headframe is Preserved near Victor


Mollie Kathleen Mine with a 1000 Foot Deep Shaft was Visited on the MHA Tour of the Cripple Creek Mining District

Ed Hunter with Johnny Johnsson in front of “Ed’s Building” at the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining Company

The Victor Lowell Thomas Museum Interprets the town’s Mining History and It’s Famous Resident

Mine Model and other Exhibits, Victor Lowell Thomas Museum

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO GALLERY – 2 OF 3


Photo Credits: Johnny Johnsson and the Victor Lowell Thomas Museum

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