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Central City, Colorado - Page 4

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Sleepy Hollow Mine Funeral in 1895, courtesy Denver Public Library



Central City was also the unfortunate victim of flooding -- one major flood hitting the settlement in 1893 and another in 1895. If mining itself wasn’t dangerous enough in an of itself, the flood of 1895 took the lives of 14 miners who drowned in the Sleepy Hollow and Americus Mines.


In 1896, violence returned to Central City, when Samuel Covington entered Judge Seright's office to pay a $61 debt. Covington had his revolver aimed at Seright's chest and Judge Seright knocked the gun to the side as it discharged through the floor into Goldman's card room (Golden Rose). Covington again drew his gun on Seright and demanded a receipt.


As Marshall Kelleher opened the office door, Covington turned and fired at Kelleher striking him in the chest. Covington ran downstairs only to meet Dick Williams coming up.




Williams had borrowed a revolver and ran to the scene to provide help. Williams was struck in the breast at point blank just as he fired a shot, which struck the ceiling behind him. Covington then ran back up Main Street with two revolvers drawing on the crowd following him.


Henry Lehman confiscated a Winchester and hopped on Sherman Harvey's wagon in pursuit of Covington. Covington was blazing away on Nevada Street when Lehman aimed and fired as he leapt from the wagon, striking Covington. A mob gathered around shouting, "hang him", but he died before a doctor could arrive. Marshall Kelleher recovered from his wound. Dick Williams died several days later. His funeral was the largest in the county requiring his service to be held at the Opera House.


In the early 1900s, gold production again declined as the mines were getting so deep that it had become too expensive. Secondly, inflation during World War I caused the price of other commodities to rise while the value of gold stayed constant at about $20.00 per ounce. By 1920, the value of gold had changed to at least a 10 to 1 ratio in favor of other commodities. As a result, most mines in the area suspended operations, and many businesses closed. This caused the population of Central City to drop from 3,114 in 1900 to 553 in 1920.


During this time, many frame houses in Central City, Black Hawk and Nevadaville were torn down and the lumber taken to other parts of the state for construction of new residences. Many other houses were abandoned to the elements, tax roles, and vandals.


Lamenting this condition, the following appeared in The Weekly Register-Call on May 31, 1918: "Iron junk is passing through this city everyday for the railroad yards in Black Hawk, where the stuff is shipped to Denver. The same can be said of lumber from old houses which have been purchased by wrecking parties of Golden and Denver, in this city and Nevadaville. Mr. Hawley's old house on Nevada street, opposite the ball park is the latest building to be torn down and there are many more in this city to follow."


During the 1930s, there was some recovery in mining due to an increase in gold from $20 to $35 per ounce and the cheap labor provided by out-of-work men after the depression.


In 1932, the Central City Opera House Association began producing summer festivals, which stimulated interest in the city. Many people began buying old residences for summer and weekend retreats, which brought a small economic revival to the area.

At the beginning of World War II, the government prohibited commercial mining of gold, in order to direct labor into the war effort. This act sent gold mining into a tailspin from which it has never recovered. After the war, some mines occasionally reopened, sputtered for a while, and reminded everyone of Central's former grandeur. Then, like old soldiers, they would fade away. There are still vast quantities of gold ore beneath the surface of Central City and the surrounding area. However, it is not economically feasible, in most cases, to produce it.


By the mid 1980s, many citizens recognized that other attractions were diverting tourists from Central City. Major ski resorts began enticing tourists to their areas during the summer and fall. Economic downturns and especially the energy bust of the early 1980’s contributed to the decline in tourism. Central City recognized that they did not have the tax base to adequately maintain its infrastructure and new sources of revenue had to be found.



Continued Next Page


The Boodle Mill in Central City, Colorado

The Boodle Mill in Central City, Colorado, Kathy Weiser, September, 2009. This image available for prints & downloads HERE.


Central City, Colorado Ruins

Central City, Colorado Ruins, Kathy Weiser, September, 2009. This image available for prints & downloads HERE.


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