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THE 1870's in Chaffee County Colorado


Silver was discovered at Chalk Creek on Mount Princeton in 1872.
The Hortense Mine opened along with mines at St. Elmo and Alpine.



In 1873, following a trip to Washington, D.C., Chief Ouray and
other Ute Indian leaders signed the Brunot Agreement, which
ceded the heart of the San Juan Mountain mining area to the U.S.
Government. Vast areas to the west of the Arkansas Valley were
now open to mining and settlement.



In 1874, Joseph and Annabel McPherson Hutchinson built their
homestead ranch house just to the east of Poncha Springs. That
same year gold was discovered on Cottonwood Creek and
Harvard City sprang up. It was also the year the Lake County
wars began in a water dispute between Elijah Gibbs and George
Harrington.Gibbs was arrested after Harrington was shot dead
trying to putout a fire that had been started in Harrington's barn.
Gibbs was acquitted of murder, but the feud festered. Gibbs
and his friends were terrorized by the vigilante Committee of
Safety that operated out of Cleora, Nachtrieb's store and at Granite.



In 1875, Judge Elias Dyer, the son of Father Dyer, ordered the
vigilantes arrested, but the judge was killed in his court room the
day after the warrants were issued.



Colorado, the Centennial State, was admitted to the union in 1876 as
the nation celebrated its 100th anniversary. It was the year the
silver boom started with reports that the common black sand found
below California Gulch contained carbonate of lead with associated
silver assaying at $400 worth of silver per ton.



In place of the played-out gold fields of Oro City, the new City of
Leadville was established in 1877.



By 1878, Horace Tabor was Leadville's mayor and Lake County
Treasurer. His fortune would soon rocket to new heights.On April 4,
1878, after striking rich silver ore, George Fryer staked his claim to what
became known as Fryer's Hill in California Gulch. Horace Tabor acquired
the nearby Little Pittsburg mine, then the Chrysolite and Matchless mines.
Soon he was reaping a fabulous fortune in silver. Tabor along with David
Moffat, Jerome B. Chaffee and others became the new Silver Kings. Leadville
grew rapidly into a city with fortunes to be made in almost anything remotely
connected with mining. David May, who founded the May Company
Department store, for instance, was among the first of the Jewish faith to
settle in Leadville.



In 1878, Nicholas Creede located the Monarch Mine near present-day
Monarch Pass. Chaffee City sprang up, but the name was changed later
to Monarch City. The principle minerals coming from the Monarch mining
district were silver with some gold, lead and zinc. An aerial tramway
collected ore from the richest of the mines-the Madonna. Poncha
Springs grew to prominence with construction of a new hotel named for
its owner H. A. Jackson.

With the boom in mining, came increased traffic on the wagon road that
ran down the valley. William Bales, who operated a stage stop near
present-day Salida, foresaw the coming of the railroad, named his
settlement Cleora after his daughter and opened the Cleora Post
Office. A post office also opened at Hortense.



On February 8, 1879 the Colorado legislature divided Lake
County into a northern portion with the county seat at Leadville and a
southern portion seated at Granite. The northern portion retained the
name Lake County and a few days later the southern portion was named
Chaffee County after Jerome B. Chaffee, one of Colorado's first two
U.S. Senators. Chaffee had prospered as a business partner with Horace
Tabor and David H. Moffat in Leadville and had branched into other
activities including banking and politics in Denver. He became a
prominent Republican in the campaign for statehood.



Later that year, Chaffee County voters chose Buena Vista-a more
central location--as their county seat, but officials in Granite
refused to turn over the county records, a situation that caused a
show down the following summer.

New York financier Jay Gould acquired a controlling interest in the
Denver & Rio Grande Railway and supplied the capital to beat the Santa
Fe Railroad in reaching Leadville as soon as possible.

The Meeker Massacre at the White River Agency in western Colorado
resulted in the deaths of Indian agent Nathan Meeker and 10 others.
Outrage throughout the state was expressed in the popular cry: "The
Utes must go!"



Maysville post office operated during this period. It was a
rail terminus for silver ore coming down from Monarch.
Old Newspaper Articles from Chaffee County
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© 2004-2014 Monty Holmes