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COLORADO

George A. Jackson's Lost Mine

THE TALE

In the annals of mining history only a lucky few have been fortunate enough to make the "big strike". Fewer still have been blessed with the chance of making two or more fabulous strikes during their lifetime. In some cases, these individuals go on to be incredibly successful men; in others, they squander and fritter away their wealth until nothing is left. On rare occasions, they lose their new found wealth before it's literally out of the ground.

In Colorado mining history, a number of individuals are famous for making two or more big strikes. Originally hailing from Georgia, prospector Abe Lee worked in the California goldfields prior to the Colorado Gold Rush in 1858. Like many prospectors in the West, Lee migrated to Colorado where he became famous for making the first big gold strike in California Gulch (near Leadville) in 1860. Lee also discovered a rich lode of silver ore in the area after the "Carbonate Craze" swept through the state during the 1870's. Unfortunately, he frittered away both fortunes and ended up peddling on the streets for the rest of his life.

John McCombe was another prospector who cashed in on the great carbonate discoveries near Leadville during the late 1870's. McCombe discovered rich silver-bearing ore on the west side of Carbonate Hill and promptly opened up four claims on the massive lode. He sold out, went home to Ireland, got married, and then returned to Leadville with his bride. McCombe apparently became bored with his domestic life and started prospecting again. He then proceeded to uncover two more rich lodes!

Born William Harvey in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1842, the noted prospector Nicholas Creede served as an Army scout and a cowboy before he made his fortune as a miner. In 1878, he discovered indications of silver west of Salida, Colorado. Later that year, he found a small glory hole that netted him $13,000! For the next eleven years Creede worked at various jobs and prospected when the opportunity presented itself. Then in 1889, he discovered the rich Holy Moses lode high above Willow Creek, in the San Juan Mountains.

He sold the mine for $70,000 in 1890 to David Moffat, then proceeded to prospect a nearby mound known as Bachelor Hill. Here, he made a tremendous silver strike that yielded $2 million in only one year of operation!


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A Missourian by birth and cousin to Kit Carson, prospector George A. Jackson worked in the California goldfields from 1853 to 1857. Like many prospectors in the West, Jackson migrated to Colorado when gold was discovered there in 1858. He became the first man to uncover the incredibly rich placer deposits on Clear Creek, west of present-day Denver. In January of 1859, Jackson made his famous discovery near the junction of Chicago Creek and Clear Creek. That discovery put his name in the history books.

What is not usually found in the history books is George Jackson's prospecting activities from 1867 to 1868. It was during this period that Jackson and a partner found another rich gold deposit somewhere near Walton Peak, in the Middle Park area. The two prospectors organized a large party in Georgetown to return and work the deposit for as long as possible. They managed to mine and cache some $10,000 worth of gold but were driven out of the mountains by Chief Colorow's Ute Indians. Jackson himself was never able to return to the mine - he accidentally shot himself to death before he had the chance. As far as anyone knows, the other prospectors were barred from returning by the hostile Utes. When they finally did come back, they were unable to locate the cache or even the site of their old camp. Apparently, a former employee of the U.S. Forest Service stumbled upon some old workings on Walton Creek believed to be from the Jackson party, but unfortunately there is very little gold in Walton Creek. The mine and cache remain hidden to this day.

MINING HISTORY

The Gore Range is one of Colorado's longest mountain chains. The northern end of the Gore Range begins at Rabbit Ears Pass and extends a distance of nearly 100 miles to the southeast. The southern end terminates near Climax which actually lies at the junction of three mountain ranges: the Gore Range which marches away to the northwest, the Tenmile Range which runs straight north, and the Mosquito Range which rises up to the south. The northern portion of the Gore Range makes up part of the larger Park Range which extends northward nearly to the Wyoming border. The Sierra Madre Range continues where the Park Range leaves off, extending northward well into Wyoming.

The brief history of mining in Routt County, Colorado reflects its general lack of precious metal deposits. It is Routt County's misfortune that it is not part of the great Colorado Mineral Belt. Its mineral deposits are mostly concentrated in the northeastern part of the county near Hahns Peak. The small mining districts at Slavonia and Farwell Mountain contributed very little to the county's total production of gold.

 


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In 1862, a German prospector named Joseph Hahn and two companions discovered gold near the peak that now bears his name. Two years later, a small mining camp known as the Hahns Peak Diggings (or Hahns Peak Village) was established near the mineralized volcano. Prospectors scoured the slopes of Hahns Peak and the surrounding streams for the yellow metal. In 1866, the first mining district was organized in the area; by the early 1870's the mines were working to capacity. In 1874, the Hahns Peak mining boom peaked with $5 million worth of precious metals produced from the mines and placer deposits surrounding the peak. That was the high water mark for the Hahns Peak Mining District. During the late 1870's, gold production plummeted as the richest deposits were eventually depleted. By 1880, the mining district was finished. Only sporadic mining occurred during the 1890's and early part of the 20th Century. Mining finally ceased by the end of the 1920's.