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San Juan Legacy: Life in the Mining Camps
As early as the eighteenth century, Spanish explorers left place-names, lost mines, and legends scattered throughout Colorado's San Juan Mountains. In 1869 and the early 1870s the legends lured hopeful prospectors to the area, ushering in its greatest mining era and transforming it into one of the country's most celebrated mining districts. Faced with a boom-bust economy, unpredictable weather, and the risk of violent death, mining camps and towns nevertheless struggled to institute local governments that would address issues such as sanitation, the maintenance of schools, and the enforcement of law and order.76% (12)
As the economic boom headed toward its inevitable decline, towns like Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, Creede, Lake City, and Rico found themselves seeking visitors and tourists who wanted to experience the historical West and its accompanying folklore and legend. The pioneers and mining communities were supplanted in that rugged and unforgiving terrain. In this history of the San Juan mining region, Duane Smith's text and John Ninnemann's photographs offer a glimpse into the lives of towns that sprang up in remote canyons and mountain plateaus in southwestern Colorado and the settlers who attempted to recreate the eastern communities they had left behind.
Lost Dutchman Gold Mine
During the 1840's, the Peralta family of northern Mexico supposedly developed a rich gold mine in the Superstitions Mountains. According to legend, an Apache ambush ended the family's last expedition, and the gold remained in the area. In the 1870's, Jacob Waltz ("the Dutchman") was said to have located the mine with the aid of a Peralta family descendant. Waltz and his partner, Jacob Weiser, worked in the mine and allegedly hid one or more caches of gold in the Superstitions. After Waltz's death in 1891, several people attempted to seek out the Lost Dutchman's Mine, all without luck. Later searchers have sometimes met with foul play or even death, contributing to the superstition and legend of these mountains.LP - Raise on Abundancia Vein
This photo is looking up a raise on the Abundancia Vein in La Preciosa mine. The ladders were installed in 1981, yet because the mine is so dry they are still serviceable. Would anyone like to climb up there?
Colorado's San Juan Mountains are home to some of the most historic, and notorious, gold and silver mining towns in the West: Ouray, Silverton, Telluride, and Creede. For five centuries, the San Juans were the summer home to the Ute Indians. They were explored and claimed by Spaniards 250 years ago, and it has only been 150 years since they were entered and permanently settled by European Americans.Related topics:
Probably above all else, the San Juan Mountains' legacy will be tied to the mining camps and towns that littered their terrain. The 1859 Pikes Peak gold rush brought the prospectors, followed by entrepreneurs of all stripes who opened saloons, hotels, and general stores. Still others came to practice their chosen professions: lawyers, newspaper editors, gamblers, and the occasional gunman. Two decades later, the rich silver veins in the San Juans were adding to the mining frenzy.
John Ninnemann's photographs illustrate the text and include the natural, and sometimes harsh, beauty of the area, narrow-gauge railroads, and mountain trails. Duane Smith, recognized historian of Colorado's mining areas, provides the history of the San Juan Mountains, the mining camps, boomtowns, and ghost towns.
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