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A Brief History of Lake City:
The Mining Era, 1874-1904
Mining: The Mining Districts
Six mining districts were established in northern Hinsdale County - Cimarron, Galena, Lake, Sherman, Carson, and Park districts. A seventh district was formed in 1891 in southeastern Hinsdale County - the prolific Creede Mining District, which became part of Mineral County created in 1893 from portions of Hinsdale, Saguache, and Rio Grande counties.
The Cimarron District in the extreme northwestern corner of Hinsdale County contained no significant mines and produced little ore.
The Galena District, the most productive district, stretched 16 miles west from Lake City to the Ouray and San Juan county lines. Most of the mines were located along Henson Creek and its tributaries. The largest operation was the Ute-Ulay Mine four miles southwest of Lake City. It was purchased in 1878 by the Crooke brothers who built a concentration works adjacent to the mine.*
The Ute-Ulay Mine was the largest operation in the county. In 1895, the mine produced $600,000 in ore and the mine and its adjacent mill employed 200 men.** The alpine basin ten miles southwest of Lake City contained various mines, several ore mills, and the settlement of Capitol City.
Ore processing plants were built by the Lee Mining and Smelting Company in 1875 and Capitol City Milling Company in 1876. These operations were of short duration. The rich Frank Hough Mine, opened on Engineer Mountain around 1880, briefly stimulating interest and activity in the Galena District. The adjacent Palmetto Group operated in 1880 and 1881. Other workings in this district included the Yellow Medicine, Ocean Wave, Golden Wonder, Hidden Treasure, Lillie, Big Casino, Dolly Varden, Vermont Group, and Vulcan Group.*** Mining activity continued in the Galena District through the twentieth century, although productivity declined substantially after 1904.
The Lake District, three miles wide and nine miles long, stretched from south of Lake City past Lake San Cristobal. The first strike of importance was the Hotchkiss Mine located by Enos Hotchkiss in summer 1874, however its subsequent production was minor. It re-opened as the Golden Fleece Mine in the late 1880s. A Denver syndicate bought the Golden Fleece in 1891 and a large strike around 1895 created interest in the mine and the Lake Mining District.**** The Black Crook was another major producer, shipping $200,000 in 1895.^ Lesser operations included the Belle of the East, Belle of the West, Lakeview, and Garlock mines. The Lake Shore mining camp had as many as 75 residents.
The Sherman District midway between Lake San Cristobal and Silverton boomed briefly in 1877, after which mining activity dropped off. Mines in this district included the Black Wonder, George Washington, Minnie Lee, Come Up, Sterling, Smile of Fortune, Irish World, Adelaide, Monster, Vermont, and Excelsior. In 1895, the West End Mining and Milling Company erected the first ore processing plant. In 1902, the Tabasco Company built a mill and aerial tram that ran only for a short period. In 1925, the Black Wonder Mine and Mill were again briefly active.^^ (Figures are not available for mining and milling activity at the Sherman District.)
The Carson District was active in the mid 1870s. The most prominent were St. Jacobs, Maid of Carson, Blizzard, Bonanza, King, West Lost Trail Group, Raven, Silver Spray, Tobinson Group, and Jess. C. F. Meek operated the Bachelor and George III mines from 1897 to 1902.^^^ (Figures are not available for mining and milling activity at the Carson District.)
The Park District located at Burrows Park near the Hinsdale-San Juan county line flourished briefly in the mid 1870s. Located here were the camps of Tellurium and Argentum, which each had a post office by 1876 and a total of 30 mines employing around 200 miners. A mill was built by the Gunnison Mines company in the 1870s. Around 1900, mining resumed and the camp of White Cross grew with a store, saloon, hotel, boarding house, and two stables. Around 300 men received mail at the White Cross post office. Principal mines were LaBelle, Bon Homme, Champion, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Great Ohio, Japanese, Isolde, and Premier.^^^^ (Figures are not available for mining and milling activity at the Park/White Cross District.)
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* Morse, Z Milo and Faye Biesler, editors. A Brief History of Mining in Hinsdale County. Gunnison, Colorado: B&B Printing, 2000, 29.
** "Lake City and Hinsdale County, Colorado - Resources and Mineral Wealth, Past, Present and Future," Leadville: L. A. Vinton & Co., 1895, 7.
*** Ibid, 7-9.
**** Vertical file, Grant Houston collection.
^ Ibid, 15-16.
^^ Morse and Biesler, 37; Clarence and Carolyn Wright , Tiny Hinsdale of The Silvery San Juan. Lake City: Big Mountain Press, 1964, 47.
^^^ Wright and Wright, 45
^^^^ Wright and Wright, 45.
Boot & Co. store and pack animals. Detail of a stereoview by Lake City photographer T.E. Barnhouse. From the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views, New York Public Library. Click image for larger pop-up view.
Burro Train with Ore from the Gold Mines, Colorado, U.S.A. Detail of a stereoview by photographer Benjamin Lloyd Singley for the Keystone View Company. From the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views, New York Public Library. Click image for larger pop-up view.
General Store and Black Wonder Mill in Sherman, Colorado. Photo by Harry H. Buckwalter. Click image for larger pop-up view.