Summit County, Colorado: 
Mining History
Mining Camps

"The mining camp is more than just a symbol of a gaudy, reckless era, more than a spot where tourists can gawk at restored or refurbished tinsel remains and then pass on, believing they have seen it all. The camp reflects the frontier struggle of man to build something lasting in a strange and frequently hostile environment. It becomes the story of the men and women who lived and died there, who called it home."

Smith, Duane A. Rocky Mountain Mining Camps; The Urban Frontier.  University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. 1967 p.9.


The following summaries of Mining Camps in Summit County are transcriptions from
Dave Southworth's Colorado Mining Camps, pp175 -191; "Northwest Region".
Wild Horse Publishing, United States of America, 1997.

Text available through the Summit County Library System.

Location: 10 miles south of Frisco on State Highway 9
lthough there were a number of exploratory expeditions through the valley along Blue River during the 1840s and 1850s there was no permanent settlement until 1859.  In August of that year, a group of southerners from Georgia and Alabama led by ex-General George E. Spencer descended into the area and bagen to pan the stream. History records that Ruben J. Spalding worked his first pan for gold that was valued at thirteen cents. His second pan was worth twice that. Another prospector in the group, William H. Iliff, washed out $7,000 worth of gold from a 40 square foot area across the stream. Convinced that they had just touched the surface, the group constructed a log fort for protection from the Indians, and the settlement that would become Breckenridge was started.
Spencer was instrumental in naming the new town after a fellow southerner, John C. Breckinridge, the current (Vice-President) of the United States during the administration of James Buchanan (President). This helped hasten the establishment of a post office, which occured January 18, 1860.
During the ensuing year Buchanan softened his sentiments toward the southern cause for slavery and lost favor with the north. In the Presidential Election of 1860 the new Republican Party candidate, Abraham Lincoln, won election over three other candidates - Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, Southern Democrat John C. Brickinridge, and John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party. Chagrin over the town's name had set in.
The southern sympathizers who founded the settlement were soon a small minority as tents and log cabins blossomed up and down Main Street. As the population swelled, eastern "Yankees", a large contingency in the community, subtly changed the town's name to avoid further embarrassment. The first "i" was replaced by an "e" and the name Breckenridge was born.
Stores, hotels and saloons sprang up. Breckenridge became the center of commerce as supply wagons rolled in and out of town. Population in the district was estimated at 9,000.
As nearby Parkville began to decline, the residents of Breckenridge wanted the county seat moved to their city. One night in 1862 a mysterious raid was made on Parkville and the county records all turned up missing. After the indignation resulting from this unjust act had subsided, the records were miraculously found and situated in the new county seat of Breckenridge.
As the easy gold from the placer mines declined, so did the population. Many of the young men left to join the Civil War, others left to prospect in more lucrative places. By 1866 the population of Breckenridge had dwindled to less than 500.
The early 1880s saw a revitalization in the community. With the discovery of gold in fissures and veins the mountainsides and gulches surrounding Breckenridge became sprinkled with new mines. Prosperity was further added by a brief silver boom and abetted by securing a Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad depot site in 1882. Log cabins were replaced by false-fronted stores and substantial homes many of which were trimmed with wood-lace or were of attractive Victorian architecture. By 1885 the population had risen to 2,000 within the town.
The first schoolhouse was constructed on Main Street in 1871. Almost from the outset this structure was insufficient. In 1882 a new two-story, four room school was built which served the community for over twenty-five years.
Almost every mining town during this era had its share of brothels, and Breckenridge was no exception. When you consider that for along time the men in the community exceeded the women in population by a ratio of 30:1, the parlor houses and their "lewd" women offered a much needed otulet for the miners. When the men talked of "going over the blue," they were referring to the area west of the Blue River where most of the brothers were lcoated.
By one account there were eighteen saloons in 1880. They all did quite well as there were still an estimated 8,000 people in the district.
The earliest boardinghouses were of a fairly temporary nature. In 1863 Judge Marshall Silverthorne built the first hotel. Many followed. The Grand Central was the largest, the Hotel Arlington possibly the most elaborate, but the Denver Hotel gained the most notoriety because it was robbed in 1898 by the infamous Pug Ryan and his gange. After a chase and a gun battle, Pug Ryan escaped.
One of the colorful characters of Breckenridge was Captain Samuel Adams. He had an absurd idea that he could set sail from Breckenridge down the Blue River and evenutally locate a new water passage to the Pacific Ocean. The expedition departed in June 1869. After destroying four boats and two rafts the crew hiked back to Breckenridge. Adams was branded - "a preposterous, twelve-gauge, hundred-proof, kiln-dried, officially notarized fool."
Disaster, or potential disaster, often prompts action. In 1880 a forest fire singed the edge of town.  A few buildings were damaged and everybody experienced quite a scare. A fire house was immediately constructed. In 1896 a more devasting fire occured which burned both sides of Main Street between Adams and Washington. This time a water works was immediately constructed.
The winter of early 1899 brought unusually heavy snow. No train was able to reach Breckenridge for 79 days. As supplies in the stores ran low the town's people had to resort to a heavy diet of beef. When the train finally arrived in April everyone turned out to greet it in wild celebration. In addition to much needed supplies the six engines pulling two coaches delivered fifty bags of overdue mail.
Despite the gold dredging boom that created enourmous rock piles in the vicinity, the population of Breckenridge steadily declined and was listed in 1900 as 976. After the dredges shut down in World War II it looked very much like a ghost town.
Today, Breckenridge again glitters with the prosperity it once had - now as a world class ski resort.

Location: 10 miles east of Breckenridge, via Tiger Road and the South Fork
For a few short years, Parkville was quite a city.  After gold was discovered in Georgia Gulch in 1859, the rush was on. Estimates claim that as many as 10,000 persons lived in Parkville during the early '60s. Parkville became a mining center, supply town, the county seat, and hub of social activities in the vicinity.
Stage lines arrived into the community from Breckenridge to the west, and over Georgia Pass from the southeast. There was a county courthouse, post office, several hotels and restaurants, saloons, stores of various specialties, and a newspaper. The playhouse attracted the theatrical company of Jack Langrishe, of Central City fame, and other performers. One of the earliest Masonic Lodges was built here.
There was even a mint. J.J. Conway and Company stamped gold pieces in denominations of $2.50, $5.00, and $10.00. Samples of their coins can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C.
In 1862 all of the county records mysteriously disappeared during a moonlight raid on the courthouse. Later, after all the commotion had subsided, the records strangely appeared at the new county courthouse in Breckenridge. By this time, the short life of Parkville had already peaked and was in decline. Not attempt was made to retrieve the records.
THe post office closed in 1866. Hydraulic mining during the '80s aided the destruction of Parkville. A few mining ruins, foundations and the cemetery are all that remain.

Delaware Flats
Location: 14 miles north of Breckenridge on Tiger Road
The camp at Delaware Flats was established in 1860 adjacent to the Swan River and east of its junction with the Blue River. It has home for many of the area's earliest prospectors who panned the rivers for gold. Placer mining occurred all around Breckenridge, and the Delaware Flats area was no exception.
Following the turn of the century the camp disappeared. The dredges of Ben Revett and others moved in to cut wide paths through the valley totally revamping its terrain.
Today, developers are doing a magnificent job of reclaiming the land. New homes are cropping up throughout the area. Located nearby is the remains of one lonely dredge to remind us of the unique method of filtering used throughout the vicinity.

Location: 4 miles east of Breckenridge in French Gulch
Wire gold was discovered during the early 1860s by Harry Farncomb. He purchased several acres of land in the area which he worked for a while in relative obscurity. One day he carried a sack of nearly pure gold to a bank in Denver. Because he had not staked his claim in adherence with conventional mining practice, a group from Denver attempted to "take" his property. The action precipitated what is known as the "Ten Years War." What began as an expensive legal battle, ended in a gun battle. After seven hours of fighting, three men were dead and many others wounded. Nothing was settled. A third party eventually purchased the land. The Denver bank went broke - Farncomb became rich - and people moved into the gulch to get wealthy and live happily ever after.
The town that blossomed below the "Wire Patch"
was originally named Paige City. Soon thereafter it was changed to Lincoln City but was more commonly referred to as Lincoln. By the late '70s Lincoln had a population of 300 and was growing. Some say there were 1,500 inhabitants in Lincoln in the '80s; others say that number included neighboring camps such as Wapiti and the whole gulch.
The first school in Summit County was built at Lincoln in 1862. Also that year, Father Dyer established the Blue River Methodist Mission. There were several business establishments - including two hotels. The Lincoln City Smelting Works processed the area's ore. A sawmill was also located at Lincoln.
Nearby, Colorado's largest solid gold nugget was extraced from French Gulch in 1887 by Tom Groves and Harry Lytton. The nugget which weighs 8 1/2 troy pounds was dubbed "Tom's Baby." It is on display at the Museum of Natural History in Denver.
In later years, Lincoln was home ot workers on the dredging operations in French Gulch and employees at the Wellington Mine. Lincoln still has a few houses - and a few inhabitants. The homes look very different today, however, as they have acquired shingles, additions, and other appurtenances.

Location: Near Breckenridge via Tiger Road and Gold Run Gulch
North of Gibson Hill, near the south end of Gold Run Gulch, stand the remains of Preston. This was the town's location, regardless of what some earlier publications may have said.
Much rich mining was done in the vicinity of Breckenridge, and when some strikes were made on Gibson Hill in 1875, the camp at Preston was established. Other than the mining properties and a sawmill, the only business establishments were a general merchandise store and a saloon. Because of its close proximity, Preston was reliant on Breckenridge as a supply center.
The richest discovery near Preston was the Jumbo Mine, which was located in 1884. Shortly thereafter, the Jumbo Mill was constructed. Originally, the Jumbo was operated by Felix Leavick (for whom the town of Leavick, in Horeshoe Gulch, was named).
Although some mining continued into the 1930s, and intermittently thereafter, the town of Preston was all but deserted by 1900.
For those who are unfamiliar with the area, the turn off to Gold Run Gulch is somewhat disguised by the golf course. From Breckenridge, take State Highway 9 north 3 1/2 miles to Tiger Road. Turn east, then take the first dirt road south (which is immediately adjacent to the east end of the golf course). Follow this road south through Gold Run Gulch, past the huge skeletal remains of the Jessie Mill, and on to Preston. The remains of several cabins (one of which may have a mattress inside), mark the location of Preston. Several mining ruins are nearby.

Location: 9 miles northeast of Breckenridge via Tiger Road on the Swan River
The Tiger Lode was located in 1864 by Corydon Swan Smith, D.W. Willy, and George Reed. The Hamilton, St. Cloud, and other discoveries followed. The Ball Mill was constructed, as was the town of Tiger, to house the employees of the mining properties.
The Royal Tiger Mines Corporation was organized and it consolidated most of the mines in the area. For the most part, Tiger became a company town. Employees were well provided for by the company. The community had a general store, water works, electricity, steam heat, and a doctor.
In 1918, when production was at its peak, Tiger was hit by a flu epidemic which caused many fatalities.
Ore had to be shipped out by sled much of the year, but, although it was slow, it was steady and it continued until the Royal Tiger stopped production in 1939. A few years later, dredges plowed up and down the Swan River. The town was burned to the ground in 1973.

Saints John
Location: 9 miles southeast of Keystone; 13 miles southeast of Dillon
Saints John lies nestled in a picturesque mountain valley high above the town of Montezuma. The site was first named Coleyville after John Coley who located the first ore here in 1863. Freemasons renamed it Saints John four years later presumably for their patron saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.
Strikes were sometimes made in unusual ways, and the one made near Saints John by Bob Epsey was no exception. Suffering from a hangover one day, Bob decided to sleep it off. He laid down to take a nap beneath a shade tree. Upon awakening, he was still woozy and needed to grab onto a rock to steady himself. The rock broke off and there it was - solid ore.
Before long, Saints John became a one company mining town. The Boston Silver Mining Association gave way to the Boston Silver Company in 1875 and operated for three years until the Boston Mining Company took over.
The collapsed remains of a long building can be seen in the center of Saints John. It was a two and a half story boarding house which also housed the company offices. Important visitors were entertained at the superintendent's house which was lavish and decorated with massive European furnishings.
Bostonian morality dictated that Saints John should not have a saloon - and it didn't. This didn't stop the miners, however, who regularly traveled down the mountain to visit the saloons, brothels, and poker dens in Montezuma.
Bostonian culture dictated that Saints John should have a library - so it did, with three hundred and fifty volumes.
John Coley built the first silver smelting furnace in Colorado. Its ruins can be seen on the hill high above the old boarding house location.
Poor access, hard winters, and less silver caused the decline of Saints John. The post office was closed in February of 1881.

Location: 8 miles southeast of Keystone; 12 miles southeast of Dillon
D.C. Collier and H.M. Teller made important strikes which led to the founding in 1865 of the silver-rich mining camp of Montezuma. The town was named after the famous Aztec chief. Montezuma was important to the many mines in the vicinity, such as the Silver King, the Tiger, and the Queen of the West. Difficult access led to slow growth in the area. The completion of the Argentine and Webster passes accelerated progress somewhat. By 1880 there were 800 residents. The community had a schoolhouse, post office, three hotels, a bank, a smelter, a saw mill, a weekly newspaper, and several brothels and saloons.
The one room schoolhouse, which still sits prominently on a slope just east of Montezuma's Main Street, operated from 1884 to 1958. It was not Montezuma's first schoolhouse, however. In 1876, midway between Montezuma and Saints John, a small school was built which was called the Halfway Schoolhouse. It quickly outgrew its usefulness, and a second school was built in Montezuma in 1880. Pupils from Saints John had to travel down the mountain each day to attend school in Montezuma. This schoolhouse also proved inadequate, and the larger schoolhouse was constructed.
Montezuma and the surrounding camps were very close socially. They joined each other for community dances, sports, and celebrations.
Father Dyer, the "snowshoe itinerant," prospected when he wasn't preaching. On one of his many trips to the silver camp, Father Dyer located a mine on Collier Mountain.
The devaluation of silver in 1893 was a shock to Montezuma, as it was to most of the silver camps. Many people left, but some stayed hoping for better days. Montezuma never totally became a ghost town and still has a few residents today.

Location: 12 miles east of Keystone; 16 miles east of Dillon.
Across the western frontier, there were men who had come west to escape a past they wished to conceal. Most mining camps had some. Stephen Decatur Bross, once a professor in Poughkeepsie, New York, "disappeared" in the late 1840s, leaving his wife and two children behind. Silver was discovered along Peru Creek, and a town was laid out in 1868 by Stephen Decatur (the Bross was gone). The town, which was named Decatur after its founder, later became Rathbone and finally Argentine. Prior to statehood, Decatur served the Territorial Legislature. His brother also had a propensity for politics and was elected Governor of Illinois.
When word reached Governor Bross that a man who called himself Stephen Decatur bore a strong physical resemblance to him, Bross was sure he had found his long lost brother. The governor traveled to Colorado and identified his missing brother. Decatur publicly denied any relationship. Regardless of the coincidence, the trush in the matter is still speculative.
The community phased in and out over the years. Federal postal regulations required that a post office once closed must open under a new name if reestablished - hence the name changes.
The post production - of several good producers - came from the Pennyslvania Mine discovered in 1879 by J.M. Hall. The mine's yield exceeded three million dollars.
Just north of town near the Peruvian Mine lay several cabins. The area was referred to as Peru. Peru was the site of a clever swindle. George A. "Gassy" Thompson and his workers were hired by some absentee mine owners to dig a 100 foot tunnel into a mountainside. Instead of digging into the mountain, Gassy began building snowsheds which "tunneled" out from the mountain. When the snowsheds measured one hundred feet, and were covered by heavy snow banked agains the mountain, Gassy announced that his work was completed. After inspecting the project, the owners complimented Gassy on his work and paid him in full. By the time the snow melted, Gassy and his men were long gone.
Argentine never was a very large town. In addition to the post office, there were several stores, and a hotel - the Sautell. Children from Argentine attended a "community" school wich was located midway between Argentine and Chihuahua, its neighbor.
Somewhere near the schoolhouse west of town lived a miserly old couple, the Mitchells. They worked a small claim but also had odd jobs to help put bread on the table. They hired and boarded a miner to help them work their claim. When payday rolled around, the Mitchells announced that his wages were equal to the boarding bill he was presented. The miner didn't stay another day.
Most everyone left after the silver panic of 1893. But the town rebounded some until 1898 when a massive avalanche flattened most of the buildings. The few residents that were left hung on for a while. The post office closed in 1907, and Argentine was abandoned.

Location: Near Montezuma. On the Argentine Road nearly 3 miles east of the Montezuma Road.
The life of Chihuahua was short lived. It was incorporated in 1880 and destroyed by a forest fire in 1889. During the interim, it boomed. There were two hotels - the Chihuahua and the Snively, a sawmill, a reduction works, several stores, and a small schoolhouse east of town which it shared with its neighbor Decatur (later to become Argentine).
Chihuahua had no doctor or preacher. The residents boasted that none were needed, so the story goes, because there wasn't any sickness or sin.
A story is told about two Chihuahua prospectors (the good guys) who were waylaid by several rogues (the bad guys). The prospectors were robbed and killed. Residents quickly heard of the tragedy, formed a posse, and went after the killers. Three of the rogues were caught and hanged on the spot. All five bodies were carried back to town. Somewhere near Chihuahua there are two gravesites - one for the good guys and one for the bad guys. The preacher who wasn't needed in this "sinless" town, wasn't there to give last rites.

Location: 5 miles southeast of Dillon via U.S. Highway 6.
Keystone had not mines but was of immense importance to the mining industry in the mountains above it. The Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad (later the Colorado & Southern) which left Como and climbed Boreas Pass eventually terminated at Keystone. Wagon roads from both Loveland Pass and Aregentine Pass connected with the railroad terminus. Ore was shipped from many mining camps such as Montezuma, Saints John, and Aregentine down to Keystone to be carried by the railroad to smelters on the eastern slope.
The rails were remoed in 1937. Today Keystone is a popular ski resort. Some of the buildings from the "old town" are located on the property of the Keystone Science School. Of special interest are the cabins with exceptionally low eave heights.

Location: 1 mile south of Frisco.
General N.B. Buford (Superintendent of the Federal Union Mine at Colona Bar, near Idaho Springs) staked a claim above Rainbow Lake in 1866, and other claims followed. Nothing much happened, however, until 1872 when a group of Pennsylvania investors contstructed a reduction plant at a cost of $75,000. The settlement and the Masontown Mining and Milling Company were both named for their hometown in the east. Transportation from the site was difficult, and the mill was never very successful.
Masontown preceded its neighbor, Frisco, by several years. By the time Frisco began to grow, Masontown had declined.
Throughout its history the settlement was beset by avalanches. A slide in 1912 destroyed the mill, and anotherr in 1926 wiped out most of what remained.
The site which is remote and well-hidden, experienced a revival during prohibition. Bootleggers constructed whiskey-producing stills which may have been more profitable than the minerals extracted during earlier years.

Location: 10 miles north of Breckenridge on State Highway 9.
Frisco, today, is an attractive blend of much new and some old. The community and the Frisco Historical Society have done a fine job of preserving many old buildings while the town blossoms around them from the influx of tourists.
The town, which was originally a Ute Indian camp, was founded by Henry Recen in 1873. It is said that Henry Learned named the town when he tacked a sign above his cabin door which said "Frisco City," and the name stuck. Frisco was a mining town, although the immediate area was not heavily mined. When the railroads arrived the town seemed to step forward as a transportation center. Both the Denver & Rio Grande and the Denver, South Park & Pacific chugged into Frisco, which by 1884 had a population of about 250. Main Street had two hotels, many stores, several saloons, and was the center of activity.
Frisco never became a ghost town - but it tried. Population fluctuated with mining. After a couple of ups and downs there were only 18 residents by 1930.
Once a saloon in the 1890s, Frisco's original one-room schoolhouse stands on Main Street as a highlight of the Frisco Historic Park - an interesting complex of ninteenth-century buildings.

Above structures on display at the Frisco Historic Park . Middle photo is a wood water pipe.

Conger Camp
Location: 3 miles south of Breckenridge via State Highway 9
Far below Dyersville, at the foot of Indiana Gulch is the site where Conger Camp once existed. The camp (sometimes called Conger's Camp or Conger) was named for Colonel Sam P. Conger (see Caribou) who located the rich Dianthe Mine. There were other good strikes which included teh Case, Highline, Newark City and the Franklin. The predominant yield was silver and copper.
A sawmill was constructed, as were several business establishments and about thirty or forty houses. The settlement was served by the Spottswood and McClellan Stage Line.
Conger Camp lasted about three years. Its short life is atributed to several factors. There were plenty of prospectors but the supply of miners was low. Outside investment could not be enticed and working capital was low. There were high expectations and low realizations - the mines just didn't develop as anticipated. A little lumber activity continued after 1882, but Conger Camp had virtually died.

Location: 11 miles southeast of Breckenridge at the summit on Boreas Pass Road.
At the summit of Boreas Pass, stands the location of Boreas. One a stop for weary travelers pushing their wagons from Como to Breckenridge, or vice versa, Boreas took on added importance with the completion of the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad narrow gauge track across this route in 1884. A depot, section house, engine house, and other buildings were contructed. Adjacent to the depot a 600 foot long snow shed was built. It was later extended to a length of 957 feet.
Stories of trains marooned in snow banks were commonplace. During the record setting winter of 1899, Boreas was isolated for ninety days. As supplies began to run out, two men set out for Como on snowshoes. Their frozen bodies were found the next day. On another occasion, a man on snow shoes left for Como to fetch medical supplies for his sick wife. When the snow melted the following summer, his body was found.
Even in fair weather there were sometimes problems. A runaway train with thirteen cars of ore derailed and crashed in 1901.  A brakeman was killed.  In another instance the Phineas T. Barnum Circus train just couldn't make it to the top of the grade. As a result of someody's brilliance, the elephants were unloaded to push the train to the summit. The circus went on.
The post office which was established in 1896 was discontinued in 1905. Only the walls of the two-story section house and a partially roofed shed remain standing atop the pass.

[Transcriber's note: Since this work was published, the section house and shed, along with one other building,
have been refurbished and are now open to the public.]

Location: 11 miles southeast of Breckenridge via Boreas Pass Road
The Warrior's Mark Mine was discovered in the early 1880s by the snow-shoe itinerant, Father John L. Dyer (also see Buckskin Joe). Dyer built a cabin - then a couple of others. He hired a few workers to help him with his mine.
Neither the camp, which is a stone's throw from the summit of Boreas Pass, or the mines ever amounted to much. A fellow named Thompson, previously a boarder in Dyer's home in Breckenridge, staked the Thompson Claim nearby. It also was a poor producer.
Throughout his life, it seems as though as though Father Dyer was always "broke." To save on the cost of testing, he made a Breckenridge assayer a partner in his mining property.
Dyer moved his wife to the camp in 1881, but neither stayed very long. The retired preacher was nearly seventy and din't have the energy he once had. The high-mountain weather was tough on the couple and they moved back down to Breckenridge. For his interest in the Warrior's Mark, Dyer ended up with about $2,000.  
The Dyer cabin, and a few other ruins, can be seen at the camp which is located at the top of Indiana Gulch.

Location: 15 miles south of Frisco on State Highway 91
In the late 1870s miners swarmed over the mountains looking for the same rich carbonate ores that created the boom in nearby Leadville. Some crossed Fremont Pass to the north and discovered deposits of silver. A tent colony emerged and was named Caronateville. As it did in most all mining settlements, every new discovery brought in more prospectors. Nearby, Robinson's Camp was founded.
Two prospectors, Charles Jones and Jack Sheddon were grubstaked by a Leadville merchant, George B. Robinson.  Jones and Sheddon had located several fine claims. It is estimated that two thousand people flocked into the immediate area. Robinson's Camp and Carbonateville fused to become the town of Robinson, named after its principal benefactor.
George Robinson, realizing the potential of the bonanza that was occuring, moved quickly to buy out his partners. Backed by some New York financing, the Robinson Consolidated Mining Company was created. Robinson became immensely rich and extremely popular. In November of 1880, he was elected to the office of Lieutenant Governor of Colorado. Within a month he died tragically. A dispute had amanated between Robinson and Captain J.W. Jacque regarding the ownership of the Smuggler Mine. Expecting violence, Robinson posted armed guards at the site. On the night of November 27, 1880 Robinson went to the mine to check on the guards. Thinking he was an intruder, one of the guards shot Robinson. He died two days later. According to the guard, he had called out to Robinson to identify himself but received no answer.
The town of Robinson, although it couldn't compete in size with rival boom-town Kokomo just a mile and a half to the north, did in fact become the principal business center for the county. Before his death, George Robinson financed the construction of a hotel, bank and smelter. Another hotel followed, as did a Catholic Church. The first train arrived on New Year's Day 1881 amidst a glorious celebration. Later that same year a school was established.
Within a year progress had ended and decline had set in. The once rich mines were becoming exhausted. A fire in 1882 destroyed many of the town's buildings. The repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act took its toll also. A few families stayed, but most left. The prosperity was over.
Robinson is now buried forever at the bottom of a tailing pond of the Climax Molybdenum Company. A marker along State Route 91 identifies the location.

[Transcriber's Note: There was also a cemtery in Robinson. Most of the graves were moved to Leadville, Colorado.]

Location: 14 miles south of Frisco on State Highway 91
Beside the highway on State Route 91, north of Fremont Pass, stands a monument which reads: "In this valley the towns of Robinson, Kokomo and Recen existed. Kokomo was the site fo the highest Masonic Lodge in the U.S.A. - Elevation 10,618 feet." This memorial and the tailing ponds of the Climax Molybdenum Company beyond are all that denote the location of a once active mining town.
Although there was some placer mining in the early 1860s, it wasn't until the boom in Leadville in the late 1870s that the Ten-Mile Mining District became industrious. Some very rich strikes were made, and each brought more people into the area. Kokomo, named for the city in Inidana from which many early reesidents came, blossomed into the largest town in the district.
The Kokomo post office was established on May 5, 1879. Less than a month later, the town was incorporated and became, at the time, the highest incorporated town in Colorado. Later the same year, the first issue of Summit County's first newspaper came off the press. The Times was distributed to Kokomo residents on September 27, 1879.
Adjacent to Kokomo was the town of Recen which was incorporated in 1880. It was named for three brothers, Andrew, Henry and Daniel Recen who were important in the town's development. The railroad arrived at Recen in 1881 and Kokomo in 1882. The two communities gradually grew together and jointly were called Kokomo.
Much of the town was destroyed by fire in October of 1881 and the population gradually decreased after that.  The panic which spewed through mining communities in 1893 affected Kokomo as well.
After robbing the Denver Hotel in Breckenridge during the summer of 1898, the notorious Pug Ryan and his gang fled to a cabin near Kokomo.  They were tracked down. In the bloody gunfight that followed, two lawmen and two members of Ryan's gang were killed. Ryan escaped, however. He was captured in Seattle four years later, escaped, was recaptured and died in prison in 1931.
A group of school children found part of the loot ten years after the robbery. While on a picnic they discovered it stashed in a hollow log near the cabin that was used as a hideout.
Kokomo never entirely became a ghost town until the remaining buildings were destroyed by the Climax operations in 1971.

Location: 14 miles northeast of Breckenridge, via Tiger Road and the North Fork (4WD)
Daniel Patrick discovered the Rochester lode in 1880.  The Rochester King and the Rochester Queen were established. In 1881, the Rexford Mining Corporation was organized to operate the properties. It was capitalized for $100,000.
Southwest of the Rochester, Rexford was built as a company town. The community had several business establishments which included a hotel, boarding house, saloon, general merchandise store, and even a gin mill. The mail carrier delivered from Montezuma to Rexford twice a week via the trail that skirted Glacier Mountain.
Rexford had a short life. The mining properties, which yielded about $5,000 per month during the early years, gradually declined.
The last structure, a false-fronted hotel, collapsed a few years ago. Amidst the picturesque meadow which is the site of Rexford are several foundations, partial walls, and piles of rubble.

Location: 14 miles east of Breckenridge via Tiger Roadand the Middle Fork.
Swandyke is located at a high elevation just west of the Continental Divide. It was a late-bloomer, which prospered in the 1890s. The gold camp was actually divided into two sections which are aboout a mile apart.  The section located closer to the headwaters of the Middle Swan River is sometimes called Upper Swandyke. Stagecoach service connected Swandyke with Breckenridge, and across the Continental Divide with Jefferson.  
The population of Swandyke peaked at about 500 during the mid '90s. A post office was finally established in 1898 (and discontinued in 1910, long after everyond had gone). The Summit House Hotel was the center of activity. There was also a boarding-house, general merchandise store and a few saloons.
Some of the mines in the Swandyke area were the Potter, Gibbs, Three Kings, Tyler, and Uncle Sam. There was a mill to handle the ores from the various mines. Most of the properties were operated by the Swandyke Gold Mining Company. The high altitude, remote location, and heavy snows made it expensive to ship ores out for further reduction.
Judging from the dates of old newspapers found in one of the cabins years later, 1901 was the last year Swandyke was inhabited. Buildings still stand at both locations. Several other foundations can be seen. At Upper Swandyke, below the head waters of the Middle Swan, lies the remains of a water wheel.
Those traveling to Swandyke (from Breckenridge) via the middle fork may be interested in the site of Middle Swan. When you reach the fork where the road to the right crosses the creek, check out the "cushioned" meadow just beyond which was the location of the old saw mill. The left fork continues on to Swandyke.

*Indicates that the town is still populated today.

Some of these narratives refer to the silver crash of 1893.
You can read more about this event in Colorado's history here.

Mining Glossary    Mining History


Copyright Trails to the Past 2011
Trails to the Past - Summit Co., Colorado: In keeping with our policy of providing free information on the internet, data may be used by non-commercial researchers, as long as this message remains on all copied material. These electronic pages may not be reproduced in any format for profit, nor for presentation in any form by any other organization or individual. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material for purposes other than as stated above, must obtain express written permission from the author, or the submitter and from the listed Summit County Coordinator.

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