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A Brief History of Lake City:
The Mining Era, 1874-1904

The San Juan Excitement

Due to its occupation by the Utes, the San Juan region developed a decade and a half after the Pikes Peak gold rush of 1858 - 1859 had populated the Front Range and central mountains.  The Brunot Agreement approved by Congress on April 29, 1874 ended Ute occupation of the San Juans and opened up the region to prospecting, mining, and settlement.

Construction of roads began at once.  Enos T. Hotchkiss discovered a rich gold deposit while surveying the Saguache & San Juan Toll Road in summer 1874.  The Hotchkiss Mine brought immediate attention to the upper Lake Fork and accelerated settlement of Lake City.

The rush into the San Juans was fueled by a number of guidebooks that sparked national interest and enticed thousands of prospectors, miners, merchants, and investors into the remote region.  The publications described potential mineral riches, transportation routes, accommodations, and prospect supplies needed.

As during the 1858 - 59 Pikes Peak or Bust phenomena, the 1875 San Juan excitement also coincided with a major national economic depression with out of work men joining the rush to the San Juans.  Exhibits of San Juan ore at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia further excited national interested in the remote region.

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 Town of Lake City, PO Box 544, Lake City, CO  81235.  970-944-2333.  
Guidebooks fueled national interest in the San Juans.  This image of Lake City in 1880 is from Crofutt's Gripsack Guide.  Click on image to see a larger pop-up version.
Enos Throop Hotchkiss (1832-1900) was one of the founders of Lake City.  Photo courtesy Town of Lake City.  Click on image to view a larger pop-up version.