July 20 & 22, 2016
I love reading about the history of places we visit. The following information was gathered from several internet searches and lots of reading.
Mining was far the most significant industry in nineteenth and early twentieth century Colorado. The Pike's Peak Gold Rush brought unprecedented numbers of people into the region that in turn led to the creation of the Colorado Territory in 1861 which in turn led to the admittance of Colorado to the Union in 1876. Driving the back roads around Gunnison, many efforts of prospectors seeking the mother load are visible.
In addition to Crystal and the magnificent Crystal Mine, we have also visited Iris and Pitkin in the surrounding area. Of course, Gunnison also has history, but that is for another day.
Back in the 1890s a series of towns grew up in the low sagebrush covered hill country when gold was discovered. Prospectors poured in from older mining districts and Iris was born. The population of Iris reached over 1,000 with several stores and saloons along "main street". A single phone line from Gunnison provided contact to the outside and mail was delivered 3 times a week. There is not much left of Iris today.
One of several buildings...
the mining shaft...
a hard working prospector's wife...
and several pieces of equipment.
Our drive to and from Iris took us through the Dutch Gulch State Wildlife Area.
It is beautiful country...
Next up Joe and I headed towards Pitkin. I had planned a hike to Silver Islet Mine near there. Our directions were right on, but failed to say that parking to take the hike was at an intersection on private property and we didn't feel safe about leaving Pearl parked there...bummer !
Pitkin got it's start in the 1870s mining silver. It's population grew as continuous discovery of other mines in the area grew. The first covered stage coach ran through in 1880 and the first church service was held in December 1881. It had a telegraph office, a saw mill, a school house and by 1882 there were over 60 business and over 300 residences with a population of 1,000+.
Today, many of the old buildings are still there along with new ones.
In the late 1990s Pitkin had around 80 full-time residents, but summertime brought that count up to 200+.
While we were walking down Main Street, two very nice young gentlemen whose family owns a cabin there asked about our day and we struck up a conversation. As we were talking, an uncle of one of the young men pulled up and joined in the conversation. He was on his way to cut the grass at the church.
Uncle Richard knew lots of Pitkin history and told us Pitkin was the first mining town west of Denver to have electricity in Colorado. He also told us about a hike to Roosevelt Mine that was a couple of miles south of town and on our way home. Yippee ! Exploring, history and a hike all in the same day...more on Roosevelt in the next post.
Until next time, happy days and...