Friday, August 18, 2017

This is Colorado

You ever go to an antique store, like the ones in Florence Colorado and find a gold mine of history's past, for a mere 9 dollars and 65 cents?

This is Colorado

Until a century ago, no American with good sense had any use at all for any part of Colorado. He had been warned.

In 1806, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike came, saw and reported that the place was a genuine no man's land which would keep people back East where they belonged.

In 1820, Major Stephan H. Long talked about "The Great American Desert," a catchy phrase that hangs over the Pikes Peak region still like a bit of juicy gossip that won't die.

In 1838, Daniel Webster gloomed over this hopeless compound "of cactus and prairie dogs, wild beasts and savages."

To emigrants of the '40s the Colorado Rockies were a dark and fearsome barrier which forced them north or south around it on their way to Oregon and California. Even the trappers avoided large parts of it and named the trading post in Brown's Hole "Fort Misery."

And then, in 1858, William Green Russell discovered placer gold in paying quantities on Little Dry Creek near the future site of Denver. The word spread. Early in 1859 George A. Jackson and John H. Gregory struck gold in the Idaho Springs-Central City district. Jackson's find, like Russell's, was nugget and dust gold, and it was legal tender. Gregory's gold turned out to be mainly lode gold, hundreds of miles of it in thin layers underground, held in place by solid rock.

Found Gold! Those words were truply thrilling in mid-Nineteenth Century America because they brought visions of how poor men could get filthy rich without half trying. Before the California rush in 1849, prospecting was a kind of esoteric hobby similar to raising tropical fish. Even when gold was found it was apt to be in some foreign land where the whole business was snarled up in red tape. The fellow who found it usually had to hand it over to some dictator, church or king or maybe the king's mistress.

By contrast, the vast American West was a fabulous free-for-all and so was all its gold. Finders were keepers. Since there were tens of thousands of finders in California and because they found $300 million worth of gold, it is not surprising that the world gold supply, accumulated over the previous 50 centuries, was more than doubled between 1849 and that momentous year in 1859 when Jackson and Gregory started the world's second great gold rush- to Colorado.

News of their luck on Clear Creek spread rapidly. By midsummer of 1859, that dark and fearsome mountain barrier was praised from Maine to Texas as the new land of opportunity. Legally, its status was questionable. Assorted Indians- bands of Arapahos and Cheyennes- had been assured by assorted officials that they owned it. The legislature of Kansas Territory claimed it, and slapped the label "Arapahoe County" on whatever it was out there that took up so much space. The Fifty-Niners ignored Indian claims, Kansan claims and said it all belonged to them as the "Territory of Jefferson."

Congress had to settle the matter. In 1861, it created the Territory of Colorado. President Lincoln shipped out a governor, a brace of judges, a marshal and a surveyor general to run things more or less and to tell the Indians kindly to go somewhere else.

No comments:

Post a Comment