Central City - Boom &
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"By the first of June
1859, Gregory Gulch from North Clear Creek to the confluence of Eureka,
Nevada and Spring Gulches was literally crowded with human beings huddled
together in tents, wagons, log cabins, dugouts, houses made of brush, and
of every conceivable material that promised shelter."
--Daily Central Register, June,
Central City, 1865
On May 6, 1859, John H. Gregory followed
Clear Creek upstream looking for gold. As he pulled a low tree
branch out of the way and began to pan the creek, he discovered what
was later called the "The Gregory Lode". Located in a gulch
between what later became Central
City and Black Hawk, he staked the first of many mining claims in
the vicinity. Immediately prospectors flocked to the region and within
two months, the population grew to 10,000 people seeking their
fortunes. The Clear Creek Mining District
was so rich with ore it became known as the "Richest Square Mile on
Earth.” Gregory’s discovery is commemorated by a stone monument
at the eastern end of Central
An article in the Daily Central City
Register described the living conditions at the time as thus: "By
the first of June 1859, Gregory Gulch from North Clear Creek to the
confluence of Eureka, Nevada and Spring Gulches was literally crowded
with human beings huddled together in tents, wagons, log cabins,
dugouts, houses made of brush, and of every conceivable material that
Other gold deposits
were found in surrounding gulches and several mining camps sprouted
up, including Springfield, Bortonsburg, Missouri City, Nevada City,
Dog Town, Eureka, Russell Gulch, Lake Gulch, Black Hawk Point, Chase's
Gulch and Enterprise City. By the middle of July 1859, between
20,000 and 30,000 people were living in and around Gregory Gulch.
There are two popular stories about how Central
City was named. The first involved William N. Byers, founder of
the Rocky Mountain News, who pitched his tent squarely in the center
of the mining district in June 1859. Supposedly, he suggested
that a town be laid out in that vicinity and since it was about half
way between Nevada City (Nevadaville) and Mountain City, it should be
City." The second is of a miner's supply store, which was in
the same area and was called the "Central
City Store." Either way, Central
City was born --- its official name: The City of Central.
The first newspaper published in the mountains was the Rocky
Mountain Gold Reporter and Mountain City Herald. In its first
issue, dated August 13, 1859, it contained the following article
regarding Mountain City:
three months old, it contains already some 300 buildings substantially
erected, with a population of between 2,800 and 3,000, nearly all of whom
are miners. Yet the arts and trades are well represented, we have about 25
stores, 2 jewelry shops, 3 tailor shops, blacksmiths, shoemakers,
In late September, the first snow began to
fall and most of the miners returned to lower elevations; however, a
census taken just the next month revealed that nearly 2,300 men were still
in the gulch area.
By the end of the year, the The Rocky
Mountain News estimated that "From a million and a half to two
millions of dollars in dust has been taken out, which has found its way to
all parts of the Atlantic States and Territories..."
winter of 1859-60, many new gold discoveries were made throughout the
mountains and by February, miners were beginning to return. During
that month, there was "a report of the discovery of a six pound nugget
near Gregory's." The discoverer was offered $16 per ounce for it, but
refused to sell.
February, 1860, the first steam engine was assembled in Mountain City. It
was used to produce shingles and was ready to crush quartz as soon as the
mines would begin delivering ore. This engine cost $1,500 when it was
purchased at the foundry in Chicago in late 1859. In March 1860, it was
sold at Mountain City for $15,000.
On April 25, 1860,
the Rocky Mountain News reported, "The emigration is coming in
at the rate of over one hundred men each day, and constantly
increasing." Just a little over a month later, they reported
that the emigrants were coming in at the rate of a thousand a day.
In June 1860, The
Western Stage Company began running daily stagecoaches from Denver to
Mountain City – the ride taking seven to eight hours. Only one year
earlier, it had been a three or four day journey. During
the summer, the population around Gregory's Diggings began to
stabilize. The 1860, the United States Census, listed Central City at
598, Mountain City 840 and Nevada City 879. About 5,000 people were in
the immediate area and 34,000 in the mining region.
Central City today, by Kathy Weiser,
This image available for prints & downloads
By August, 1860, the easy pickings were
over and mining for gold became more difficult. As the depth of the
mines increased, extracting gold from the ore became more complex. Due
to the primitive technology, as little as 1/3 of the assayed amount of
the ore was recovered. Other problems contributed to an economic
slow-down in the area, including the
Civil War and frequent Indian
attacks on wagon trains crossing the Plains. The miners were
becoming a rowdy bunch and in 1861, Central City recorded 217 fistfights, 97 revolver fights, 11 Bowie knife
fights and 1 dogfight. Amazingly, no one was killed.
Central City became the county seat when Gilpin County was organized in
1861. The Territorial legislature granted a city charter to the City
of Central in March 1864. This was 12 years before
achieved statehood in 1876.
In 1865 Nathaniel P. Hill, a Professor at
Brown University, began studying the problem of extracting gold from
the sulfide ore. He developed a smelting process that rid the
ore of most of its impurities, producing a concentrate of copper, gold
or silver. The concentrate then had to be separated and refined.
In 1867, Hill began operating the Boston & Colorado
Smelting Company in Black Hawk and mines began shipping ore to the
smelter for processing. The concentrate of copper, gold and silver was
then shipped to Swansea, Wales (over 7,000 miles away), where the
metals were separated and refined.
As a result of this smelting and concentrating
process, the district was "booming" again by early 1868. This "boom"
resulted in extensive construction in Central City
during the summer of 1868. The Daily Miner's Register of June
16, 1868 noted that: "No less than eleven brick store houses will be
put up on Main street this summer. Hurrah for Central City." Two of those brick storehouses, built in 1868, survived the fire of 1874
and are still standing. They are the north half of the "Roworth Block" on
Main street and the "Seavey Block" on Spring Street.
In 1870, the population of Central City,
Black Hawk and Nevadaville was about 4,000 - the same as Denver. The 70’s
provided many events of significance to the City of Central. The city had
become the most important city in the territory and by 1871; the
settlement boasted 13 blacksmiths, 5 boarding houses, 10 butchers, 1
dentist, 4 drugstores, 12 grocery stores, 18 lawyers, 7 physicians, 11
shoemakers and 5 tailors.
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