Tuesday, November 21, 2023

A Brief Story of Cripple Creek

Post (C) Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines


Deserted Building between Cripple Creek & Victor, CO 2018
(Photo property of  Doris McCraw)
I am resharing some history of Cripple Creek, a mining town in the Colorado Rockies, prior to the rest of the DeLaVergne story. Of course, you can't share Cripple Creek's history without including the whole mining district, which sits in an extinct volcano caldera. So here we go.

It was during a time of volcanic eruptions some thirty-five million years ago, that lava flowed through what became the Cripple Creek Mining District. However, for some unknown reason, the flow did not bring gold to the surface. Richard M. Pearl, PhD, a geology professor at Colorado College, believed that when convulsions in the earth’s crust caused cracks in the underground granite to appear the gold salts were deposited into the cracks and seams of that granite. Those ores that were created by the various eruptions of volcanic activity in the region were almost exclusively gold ores. There was some small amount of silver associated with the gold, but usually in negligible quantities.

Between 1842 and 1844 Capt. John C. Fremont explored the region and his travels around Pikes Peak took him into the Cripple Creek area. During the Hayden survey of the 1870s, there were some gold specimens found by H.T. Wood, a member of that survey. In 1874, Wood returned to the Cripple Creek district with other prospectors set about trying to find the source of the gold he'd initially found. Wood organized the district under the name of Mt. Pisgah. The hope was they could find the source of the gold 'float'. Despite their efforts, no one was successful in finding the source.

In 1871 the Welty family moved into the region. Welty and his sons built a cabin and corral near the stream that flows through the Cripple Creek area. They were followed by the Womack family who purchased the Welty squatter rights for $500 and claimed a second homestead two miles south of the Cripple Creek stream with Robert (Bob) building a cabin at the bottom of a ravine the Hayden Survey had named Poverty Gulch.

High Mountain Ranching
 (photo property of Doris McCraw)
Other families moved into the region but by the mid 1880's most of the settlers had left and/or returned to places they had on the plains east of Colorado Springs, which had become active in the cattle and sheep industry. The homesteads were purchased by the Pikes Peak Land and Cattle Company, a partnership composed of three local residents and Phillip Elsworth, an eastern glove manufacturer. When Elsworth visited the area in 1885 he felt his partners had misrepresented the company's holdings. He forced them to quit claim their shares and he put the land up for sale. It was purchased by the Denver real estate firm of Horace W. Bennett & Julius A. Myers for $5,000 down and $20,000 if and when it could be paid.

That same year, 1885, Myers & Bennett created the Houseman Cattle and Land Company and renamed the area the Broken Box Ranch. George Carr was hired as foreman and within two years a profitable ranching operation was in place. Bob Womack, however, remained on the piece of the Womack homestead in Poverty Gulch.

Of all the towns affected by the Cripple Creek volcano perhaps the most impacted were Cripple Creek and Victor. However at the height of the mining boom, around 1900, there were approximately 10 additional towns. Cripple Creek became the financial center and Victor the mining area.

The land that Bennett and Myers platted out, from their Broken Box Ranch site, after gold was found again, was originally planned to sell for $25 and $50 for corner lots. By 1891 when the boom hit, those $25 lots were selling for $250. Buildings were put up very quickly, using wood, with wood pulp or newsprint for insulation. Some of the poorer buildings had rugs or tent canvas for insulation. This set the stage for the devastation that was to come. As Dr. Lester Williams said in his book Cripple Creek Conflagrations “Neither time nor money had been wasted on a mere town, or living accommodations, there wasn't much emphasis on safety from fire, and the end result was that Cripple Creek was ripe to burn...”

And burn it did. By April of 1896 when the first fire hit, the area was so crowded that to get a room meant you had to hustle to find a place to stay. The streets were crowded with all manner of people from all walks of life. The hotels were unable to accommodate the influx, so travelers were having to resort to lodging houses, which were being built at an average of a dozen or so a week. The first fire started on April 25, 1896, and by nightfall, approximately fifteen acres had burned. On April 29, 1896, the second fire broke out and burned all but a small portion of the western part of the town. The damage from both fires was approximately $2,000,000 in 1896 dollars.

Despite the setback of the fires caused, Cripple Creek was rebuilt, this time with brick. The 'new and improved' Cripple Creek remained the commercial center of the district. Of the rebuilding, the city now had buildings that were valued at “three-quarters of a million,” and were considered to be a “glorious monument to the energy and enterprise” of the residents. The city was proud of the fact that it was a 'law-abiding' camp. The camp had schools, churches plus the 'tenderloin' district. If one saw 'six-shooters' it was more as a precaution as opposed to necessity.

After 1900 Cripple Creek began a slow decline and by 1960 the population had dropped considerably. 

Today Cripple Creek has seen a small boon with the coming of limited-stakes gambling. Traveling into the area, one will see the casinos but there is also the history of the region and the remembrance of “The World's Greatest Gold Camp”.

A brief note on Victor, Colorado the second important town in the district.

View from Victor, CO.
(photo property of Doris McCraw)
According to one publication “The town [of Victor] is beautifully located, and in the summer of 1893, when the natural scenery was yet undisturbed and the sweet perfumery of wildflowers was the only outgoing freight, one would have seemed much at fault in judgment had he predicted that $5,000,000 in gold would have been transported thence in 1895.”

Victor from the beginning has been known as the ‘city of mines’. In fact, it had a gold mine right in the middle of town. The Woods brothers, who founded the town, were in the process of building a “first-class hotel” when gold was found as they were digging the foundation. Instead of a hotel, the Gold Coin mine came into existence. As a mine in the middle of town, the building was built of brick and even had a stained glass window at the entrance. As much as possible the mine looked as if it belonged in the city.

Remnants of the Gold Coin Mine entrance
(Photo property of Doris McCraw)
Most of the major producing mines were located near Victor and during the town’s heyday of activity Victor Avenue was one of the best-known streets in the world. By 1896 just three years after being founded the city was the second largest in the region and had light, water, telegraph, and telephone service the same as Cripple Creek.

Due to the vicinity of the mines, a large portion of the population of Victor and nearby towns was composed of miners. The nearby town of Goldfield was considered the 'family' town, but Victor was a mining and milling center. In the early days men were known to pay one dollar to sleep on a pool table and stand in line to eat. The growth was explosive. By 1896, three years after its founding, Victor’s population had grown to approximately 8,000 people. Like Cripple Creek, the growth had been so fast the structures were mostly of wood. In 1899 Victor was hit with its own destructive fire. The devastation covered twelve blocks of the business district, composed of some 200 buildings including the original Gold Coin Mine building. It was estimated that 3,000 were left homeless. The fire burned for approximately three and a half hours. The total estimated cost of the fire in 1899 funds was $2,000,000. After the fire, in fact, beginning the very next day, Victor set about to rebuild. The debris was cleared and tents and makeshift temporary buildings were erected. Saloons and restaurants were almost immediately back in business. By noon the post office was up and running

Victor had become so well known that after the fire the “Colorado Road” arranged an excursion train to view the 'effect of the great fire' for $4.50. The trip would begin in Denver and travel to Cripple Creek and Victor on August 26 and return on August 27.

So there you have it, a very brief history of Cripple Creek and Victor. Also of note, there is still an active gold mine in the region, although it is an open pit mine.
Battle Mountain Mines, Victor, CO (USGS photo)
I shall leave you with the following quotes about mining and prospectors:

“Geologically Cripple Creek is a freak. It is erratic, eccentric, and full of whims and caprices. That is, it is so to the man of science and the miner of experience.”

“...geology, so far as the location of ore deposits was concerned, was an unknown quantity. The prospector was the sole mine seeker...He was the lone wolf of mining for he usually went on his own. He wanted no prying eyes to behold the long elusive pot of gold at the end of his rainbow...”


Geochronology of the central Colorado Volcanic field, Wm. C. McIntosh, Charles E Chapin, New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources, Bulletin 160, 2004
Gazette Telegraph May 20, 1973
Cripple Creek and Colorado Springs...Illustrated, Henry L Warren & Robert Stride, authors and publishers, 1896 
Cripple Creek Mining District, Robert Guilford Taylor, Filter Press, Palmer Lake, CO 1973 
Cripple Creek, A Quick History, Leland Feitz, Little London Press, Colo.Spgs. CO 1967 Cripple Creek Conflagrations, Lester L. Williams MD, Filter Press, Palmer Lake, Co 1994 
Cripple Creek Guide, April 25, 1896 
History of Cripple Creek, America's Most Famous Gold Camp, The Quarterly Sentinel Vol I, Denver, Co, Feb 1896, WC Calhoun, Publisher 
A Quick History of Victor, Leland Feitz, 1969 Little London Press, Colo.Spgs, CO
The Denver Evening Post, August 25, 1899 
The Daily Mining Record, February 23, 1894

Until Next Time Stay Safe & Stay Well


Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Fall Dump Cake

Time: 2 hours 5 minutes Yield: 12 servings

Ah, fall is in the air... can't you smell it? Yes, we do mean smell and you'll understand why here in a minute! Load up your slow cooker with this Fall Dump Cake for the easiest, sweetest, autumn-flared scents to circulate your surroundings for hours. Not only does it smell like all your fall fantasies, but the way the syrupy apple filling blends so nicely with the crumbly, cinnamon-coated cake will have you dancing around like a leaf on a windy day. Your senses will totally fall for Fall Dump Cake! 'Tis the season!


2 (20-ounce) cans apple pie filling 1 (15.25-ounce) package yellow cake mix 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon whipped topping, to taste, for topping


Step 1 In a slow cooker, add the apple pie filling.

Step 2 Evenly sprinkle the cake mix over the filling, then dot it all over with the butter cubes.

Step 3 Sprinkle the cinnamon over the apple mixture.

Step 4 Cover the slow cooker and cook on high heat until the filling is bubbly and the top is golden-brown, about 2 hours.

Step 5 Serve the dump cake with the whipped topping.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Thanksgiving in the Old West

 Everyone has heard of the First Thanksgiving, the three-day feast at Plymouth in 1621. But how did the American harvest festival end up the national holiday we all know and love? Of course, harvest celebrations are nothing new, but in the New World, pioneers were eager to create a holiday of their own. George Washington attempted to set up a Thanksgiving holiday, but the day didn’t gain much momentum until 1846, when Sarah Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, began a letter-writing campaign to establish the last Thursday in November as National Thanksgiving Day. It took 17 years, but eventually her pleas fell on the ears of President Abraham Lincoln, who issued a proclamation on October 3, 1863, designating Thanksgiving Day.

So, how would your characters have celebrated the holiday? Why, with a feast, of course. Menu items from restaurants to home tables would have included many of the traditional favorites we still enjoy today, such as turkey, cranberry sauce, and mince, apple, or pumpkin pies. Hotels in Kansas City, Missouri outdid themselves in 1888. Their menu included Blue Point oysters, little neck clams, calf’s brains, buffalo tongue, red snapper, black bass, salmon, capon, turkey duck, ribs of beef, veal, quail stuffed with truffles, elk, squirrel, opossum, shrimp, pompano, asparagus, artichokes, puddings, pies, ice cream, macaroons, and Roquefort and Edam cheeses.


The New England Economical Housekeeper, and Family Receipt Book of 1845, by Mrs. E.A. Howland, urged readers to serve the following Thanksgiving Dinner: Roast Turkey, stuffed; A Pair of Chickens, stuffed, and boiled, with cabbage and a piece of lean pork; A Chicken Pie; Potatoes; turnip sauce, squash; onions; gravy and gravy sauce; apple and cranberry sauce; oyster sauce brown and white bread; Plum and Plain Pudding, with Sweet sauce; Mince, Pumpkin and Apple Pies; Cheese.


The Golden Lamb in Ohio, served a Thanksgiving menu that included several oyster dishes (including plain oysters), such as consomm√© oysters as well as turkey stuffed with oysters. Other dishes were whitefish, roast beef, chicken croquettes, wild duck, broiled quail, celery and lettuce (plain or with mayonnaise), plum pudding, mince pie, pineapple with “De Brie cheese” and Charlotte Russe (a dessert of sweet cream and sponge cake popular during the Victorian and Edwardian periods).


And in Buckeye Cookery, Estelle Woods Wilcox suggested that the perfect Thanksgiving dinner included oyster soup; boiled fresh cod with egg sauce; roast turkey, cranberry sauce; roast goose, bread sauce or currant jelly; stuffed ham, apple sauce or jelly; pork and beans; mashed potatoes and boiled onions, salsify, macaroni and cheese; brown bread and superior biscuit; lobste4r salad; pressed beef, cold corned beef, tongue; celery, cream slaw; watermelon, peach, pear, or apple sweet-pickles; mangoes, cucumbers, chow-chow, and tomato catsup; stewed peaches or prunes; doughnuts and ginger cakes; mince, pumpkin, and peach pies; plum and boiled Indian puddings; apple, cocoa-nut or almond tarts; vanilla ice-cream;; old-fashioned loaf cake, pound cake, black cake, white perfection cake, ribbon cake, almond layer cake; citron, peach, plum, or cherry preserves; apples, oranges, figs, grapes, raisins, and nuts; tea and coffee.

So your characters would have eaten well on the holiday, even if their meal wasn't exactly what we'd serve today. Much of their Thanksgiving feast would have included whatever they could catch or raise, which may or may not include turkey. But you can certainly have your characters celebrating with a feast.

J.E.S. Hays



Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Classic Country Ballads of Lost Love – Give My Love to Rose #westernfictioneers #countryballads #classiccountrymusic

I grew up in the late 50s and 60s listening to the country music of that era. I stuck with country music through the 70s. I made it into the 80s but, by the late 80s, country music as I knew and loved was headed in a direction that, with a few exceptions, I wasn’t interested going. So I didn’t. (Get off my lawn.)

 The old west gunfighter and trail ballads, drinking songs, and revenge songs had an influence on me that was, and still is, every bit as strong as the impact Louis L’Amour’s books left with me. My lifelong interest, perhaps fascination bordering on obsession, with everything old west—truth, legends, and myths alike—have roots in those old cowboy and country songs.

 I’m inviting you to read along with me this year as I post one or two nostalgic-for-me country ballads on the first Wednesday of each month. I will share a snippet of trivia about each song along with a YouTube video.

 Each month, I will include a link back to the previous month’s article as reference to those songs. The common thread that runs among the songs I’ve chosen for this musical memory lane excursion is tragic lost love.

January – Marty Robbins – El Paso and Feleena
February – Faron Young – TheYellow Bandana
March – Willie Nelson and Ray Charles – 
Seven Spanish Angels
April – Marty Robbins – San Angelo
May – Billy Walker – Cross the Brazos at Waco
June – Billy Walker – Matamoros
July – Marty Robbins – Running Gun
August – Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger
September – Marty Robbins – They’re Hanging Me Tonight
October – Lefty Frizzell – Long Black Veil

Give My Love to Rose is the song for November. It was written by Johnny Cash. He recorded and released it in 1957. It was the “B” side of his single Home of the Blues. In 2002, Cash re-recorded Give My Love to Rose, which garnered him his fourth Grammy Award.

According to Cash, he came up with the basic idea for the song after having had a conversation with an inmate at San Quentin State Prison. The prisoner had asked Cash to give a message to his wife. From there, Cash wrote the story of a released convict traveling home to reunite with his wife and son. The former prisoner is either terminally ill or somehow injured, and he collapses along the railroad tracks. The song’s narrator finds him, listens to the dying man’s last requests, and presumably conveys that message to his family.

Until we meet again,

Kaye Spencer
Lasterday Stories
writing through history one romance upon a time