Tuesday, April 23, 2019


post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

View of one of many Colorado Mountain Ranges
photo property of the author
Yes, I've been in the research stacks again. This time for a recently released novel, "The Outlaw's Letter". In the course of my research, as I indicated in the last post, I found there was in fact a Virginia City, Colorado.

First a little background. One of the first places I spent any amount of time in when I first arrived in Colorado, was the Taylor Park area. It was while exploring this area north of Gunnison, Colorado, that I developed a love of ghost towns and searching them out. It was there I first visited Pie Plant, Tin Cup and the area surrounding Taylor Park reservoir. I devoured Robert L Brown's books on Colorado's ghost towns, some of the early guide books available in the 1970s. Some of the other towns in that area, according to the signs I remember seeing, were Abbeyville, Hillerton, Forest Hill.  

Image result for historic images of Tin Cup Colorado
From Western Mining History
So why change the name from Virginia City? Well there were two additional Virginia Cities in the country, so the Colorado one changed its name to Tin Cup. Now some stories say the postal service asked them to change the name. Others say it was those who were loyal to Jim Taylor, who first found gold in the area, wanted the name changed to honor Jim. 

I can hear you ask, why Tin Cup to honor Taylor? Well, it seems when Taylor bent to rinse his tin cup, he saw flakes of gold in the water. The story gets a bit murky here, as it was another twenty years before mining actually started in the area. There are other stories that say Taylor carried the gold back in his tin cup in that year of 1859, and that placer mining took place until 1879 when a lode deposit was found.

Stacks Image 19
Tin Cup today, from http://www.tincupco.com/
The other interesting fact about Virginia City/Tin Cup, was that it was very isolated. Access was via the following passes: Tin Cup pass, a very treacherous route from the east. Hancock Pass, from the south. Cumberland Pass from Pitkin. Today there is a highway on the way to Crested Butte from Gunnison that has a cut off for Taylor Park and Tin Cup. You can also travel in the summer via Cottonwood Pass from Buena Vista.

So why did I include Virginia City, as it was known during the time frame of the novel, in my story? Well, it was known as the 'wickedest town in Gunnison County'. It had four cemeteries, one on each knoll outside the city. There is a story that a newcomer woke up one morning with eight bullet holes in his tent. Another story that justice could be bought by setting up the most drinks at Frenchy's bar. The town bragged it went through eight marshals in its early days, with only one finishing out his term. Below is the story as relayed by Sandra Dallas in her book, "Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps":

      The first, known as old man Willis, was told: "See nothing. Hear nothing. Do nothing, and the first arrest you make will be your last." Willis followed orders only to discover that his employers also intended to do nothing. When he went unpaid, he quit. His successor, Tom LaHay, was a bully, a former border ruffian who arrested men to show off his fearlessness, then let them go once they reached jail. Town fathers, afraid LaHay would be lynched by irate townsmen, let him go to. LaHay himself disposed of the third lawman by gunning him down in a shootout.
     The fourth Sheriff arrested so many men the court had to work overtime to hold their trials. He was shot by a gambler he supposedly had disarmed, and was replaced by Jack Ward, a tough, who quit to become a preacher. The fifth marshal, Sam Micky, was committed to an insane asylum where he spent his time pacing the floor, believing he was back on the Tin Cup beat. The seventh marshal was shot, and the eighth managed to last out his term.

I hope you enjoyed some of the gems I found while researching this remote area of Colorado. There are so many other stories of Tin Cup and surrounding area, but I'll leave those for possible future posts. 

For further information and research you may want to check out the following:
Robert L. Brown's - "Ghost Towns of the Colorado Rockies", "Colorado's Ghost Towns: Past and Present", "Jeep Trails to Colorado Ghost Towns"

1884 Business Gazette for Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona

Gunnison, Colorado's Bonanza Co


Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
Angela Raines Books: Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here


  1. Doris, this is so interesting. I love all your posts--all so well-researched and your passion for research shows through! I don't always comment, but I almost always do read and ALWAYS ENJOY. Four cemeteries...good grief! LOL Love this!

    1. Thank you Cheryl. I sometimes wonder if folks think all I do is research? Well I guess I do spend a lot of time at it. SMILE I just love sharing in case it triggers an idea for a story for other folk.

      My adopted state has so much, and there have been people who wrote and shared stories from early in its history. The State Historical Society of Colorado was formed in 1879 and is still around as History Colorado. That is a lot of history made available to get me started. LOL. Doris

  2. Replies
    1. You are welcome. It is a passion of mine to find fun pieces of history and share them. Doris

  3. As always, your post has so much info in it that I tuck back to use someday. It is a goal of mine to visit some of the ghost towns in the West, but whether I'll make it or not ii the question. Time is not my friend at this point of my life. Thanks again for another great post.

    1. Agnes, I am glad my posts are possibly useful for you. I truly love sharing these stories and hope that other authors can use some of what I find.

      I hope someday you can visit some of these places, but if not, I hope you can live somewhat through the eyes of us who have. I appreciate your kind words and support. Doris

  4. Keep them coming, Doris. I love your articles about Colorado. I lived there for fourteen years before moving to Montana, so I always get a little home sick when I read your posts. You are correct when you say that there is a LOT of history there to research.

    1. Michael, I'm glad you are enjoying the articles, but sorry I make you homesick. Montana has some wonderful history also, but I confess, Colorado has my atttention. And of course, digging the stories up makes me happy and keeps me out of trouble. Doris

  5. Very interesting, Doris. Eight marshals in rapid succession! Wow, that was a wild place!

    1. Keith, it really was, according to most of the stories I come across. The fact that is was so isolated makes it a place I wanted to know more about. I keep digging. Now it's a quiet place where folks go to stay for the summer and fish in Taylor resevoir. Oh how times to change. Doris

  6. I've actually been to Tin Cup, years ago. I often tell people that, because of the altitude and because it's one of the more unusual places I've been. A nifty little place.

    1. It is a great place to visit,Jack. Love it now and enjoy its history. It is an unusual place, that's for sure. Doris