Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gold Hill, CO

Gold Hill, CO was founded in 1859 and has the distinction of being the first permanent mining town in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

The Gold Run, the first lode discovery of gold in the Colorado Rockies, was found on January 15th, 1859. By the end of the year the town boasted a quartz stamp mill (the first such piece of equipment in the area), and had four productive veins being worked, the Scott, the Horsfal, the Alamakee, and the Cold Spring.

 A mining boomtown quickly sprung up and Gold Hill boasted nearly 1,500 full-time residents when the mines were at their peak. The discovery of gold in the area pre-dated the creation of the state of Colorado by roughly three years. The miners found themselves in what was essentially ungoverned land. At the time, the United States government claimed that everything above the 40th parallel (now Baseline Road in Boulder) was a part of the Nebraska Territory, and everything south of that line was a part of the Kansas Territory. Because the town was so far from the territorial government the community created what was known as "Gold Hill Laws" in March of 1859. Calling their jurisdiction Mountain District Number 1, Nebraska Territory, the miners of Gold Hill have the distinction of establishing the first regional government for a mountain mining district in the Colorado Rockies. Within Mountain District Number 1 free men were allowed to vote and the government created property laws, issued mining claim certificates, and elected city officials.
Justice in Mountain District Number 1 was rough and tumble, with corporal punishment, banishment, and capital punishment constituting the bulk of the penalties that were available to offenders.

Gold Hill was subject to the cycle of boom and bust that was typical of mining towns. Like Caribou, CO, Gold Hill saw its population rise and fall with the success of its mines. The initial gold rush that settled the area had petered out by 1861 and the town had shrunk as miners and prospectors left the area to try their luck elsewhere. However, the discovery of tellurium in 1872 led to a second boom. The nearby town of Sunshine, CO also benefited form this discovery and the mining district saw people flooding back in to work newly profitable mining claims.

The town was unique at the time because, despite its relatively isolated location, it boasted several newspapers and hotels, including the Mines Hotel, immortalized by Denver-based poet Eugene Field who wrote a poem about the hotel while he was staying in the area on assignment. Gold Hill was also the site of a one-room school that, despite all the ups and downs of the mining town and several major forest fires, has continued operations from 1873 until the present, making it the longest continually serving school district in the state.

Getting There By Bike...
Are you ready to climb? Gold Hill is located in the foothills above Boulder and it takes some fairly serious climbing to get there. There are two easy ways to get to Gold Hill from Boulder. The first follows Lefthand Canyon Road via Lick Skillet Road, which has the distinction of being the steepest county road in the United States. One mile long with no switchbacks, it averages 14%, with the final quarter mile averaging 18%. Slightly easier, though still a tough climb, is Sunshine Canyon Road. Both of these roads are well known favorites for area cyclists looking for a tough climb and you'll likely encounter a number of cyclists grinding their way up the mountain.

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