• Ward, Colorado, Indian Peaks, Boulder County. Colorado

Early History of Ward, Colorado


Ward Mine Dumps on the Columbia Vein

Gold Discovered - Ward Mining District - Columbia City  

        In 1859 Gold was discovered near Gold Hill, twelve miles northeast of Boulder.   Prospectors soon followed Left Hand Creek up the canyon to find the source of the gold found in the placers mines below Gold Hill.  The area settled by the first prospectors was called Ward's Camp.


Ward's Camp - Columbia City - Ward Mining District

An early carte de viste attributed to Central City photographer Albert S. McKinney shows the Niwot Mill and completed frame buildings in the area known as Columbia City, taken between 1866 - 1874.

Columbia City (Ward, Colorado)

Columbia City, Ward Mining District, Colorado, c. 1866-1874, Albert McKinney


Free gold - first gold rush

As early prospectors began to find their way from Gold Hill up Left Hand Canyon, the men followed the creek and panned for gold. Initially miners built sluices on small claims in Left Hand and Indiana Creek. Calvin Ward's first placer staked in 1860 was called the Ward Placer; his second gold claim was called the Miser's Dream. The mining camp that grew up took his name. 

Cyrus Deardorf staked the discovery claim on the famous Columbia Vein in 1861.  The Columbia vein proved to be massive, running over 1000 ft through what is now the center of the Town of Ward. As word of these discoveries spread, prospectors and miners flocked to the area. Exploratory holes were blasted with dynamite, tunnels were dug and ore brought out. A saw mill was built for log cabins, mines, and boarding houses. At first oxen or double teams of horses were used to serve the needs of the camp. It was called Ward's Camp or simply Wards.  Soon after the local miners called the area on Niwot Hill with the earliest producing gold mines of the Columbia vein, Columbia City. 

On September 12, 1861, the miners incorporated the Ward Mining District, enacted laws and became a self-governing body. The Ward Mining District was established in one year before the Colorado Territory was carved out of the Kansas and Nebraska Territories. A Post Office, named Ward District, was established on January 13, 1863.  The Ward School District No. 12 was established in 1863.  It was re-organized into the Boulder Valley School District in 1961. 

The Ward District stretched down Left Hand Canyon to Spring Gulch, up California Gulch, up to what is now called the Brainerd Lake Area, down Spring Gulch, Chipmunk Gulch, the area of what is now the Roosevelt National Forest up to the Continental Divide, and to the hill above Peaceful Valley, and down the Overland Road to the St. Vrain Creek.  The Ward District encompasses almost 200 square miles.

When the "free gold" of the placers and shallow tunnels played out, deeper mine holes were blasted and stamp mills were needed to crush the gold ores.

C.H. Merrill paid fifty dollars for claim No. 10 on the Columbia vein.  Two years later he sold it for fifteen dollars to W.A. Davidson and Samuel R. Breath. They brought in a six-stamp mill to the base of Indiana Gulch below Ward and called it the Columbia Mill.  They took $50,000 from the mine they called the Ni-wot located high above Ward near the top of the Columbia vein.  

Samuel Breath's Columbia Mill, later called the Hullings Mill

Needing more funds to develop the Niwot Mine and to build a larger mill to handle the ore, Davidson went back East and organized a mining company with investor capital of $500,000.  The newly formed Niwot Mining Company bought machinery for a huge 50-stamp mill, and five hundred oxen and wagons to carry the machinery across the plains. It took three months to get the machinery for the Niwot Mill to Ward where it was erected high on Niwot Hill in Columbia City.

William Davidson (later Davidson Mesa named for him)

Davidson, Breath, and James Pomeroy improved the road originally built by T.J. Graham and partners of the Boulder City, Gold Hill, and Left Hand Creek Wagon Road Company  up Left Hand Canyon from the plains below as far as Aiken's Gulch (now Lickskillet Road) where Graham had built a mill on Left Hand Canyon to serve the mines of Gold Hill.  Davidson, Breath, and Pomeroy extended the original road farther up Left Hand Canyon to the mines in Ward, so machinery for the Niwot Mill could be brought in; they later extended the old Indian Trail to Nederland and beyond to gain access to mills in Central City.

Water that was needed to operate hoists for the Niwot Mine and the stamps for the Niwot Mill was brought down by a pipe constructed for almost a mile from springs below Brainerd Lake to the Niwot. The first mill built at the Ni-wot burned down shortly after it began operating and so a second mill was immediately built around the huge iron stamps that had not been harmed. A miner's boarding house, cabstores, and a log hotel operated by A.A. Brookfield soon followed.  These formed the nucleus of Columbia City.

Longs Peak Mill, c 1872

James Pomeroy, a prospector and trained metallurgist who had operated a sawmill in Bear Canyon staked claims on the Columbia vein in the center of present-day Ward and later  joined Oliver Aimes and eastern investors to organize the Long's Peak Mining Company. Pomeroy built the Long's Peak Mill near the center of present-day Ward. The Long's Peak Mining Company bought up claims near the center of the town of Ward including the Boston Claim and developed mines on several claims.

With the opening of the Ni-wot mine and Mill, the Long's Peak Mill, the building of roads and mills to treat gold ores, Ward began to boom.  By 1865, six hundred people were living in or near Columbia City. (Wolle, 517).  By 1867 people were living in “good class frame houses” and the town had five steam quartz mills and one small water-powered mill (Burlington Gazeteer).

Niwot Mine and Mill

By the late 1860's, the mills were no longer able to efficiently process the refractory ores found at lower levels in the mines.  Weather at such a high altitude was always a problem. In December 1871, snow was so deep that mines and mills were shut down. Drifts were so high it was impossible to get out to get the wood necessary to run the furnaces or to get the ore to the mills. It was reported that people stayed close to camp and passed time playing cards or listening to the town band.

In the early 1870's Davidson and Breath sold the Niwot Mine and most mines and mills in The Ward District shut down.  The gold ore was there, but there was no way to process these more complex ores. Ward almost became a ghost town.

Mid-1870's - second boom - gold veins

As early as 1876 Ward was having its second mining boom and was the subject of many newspaper articles attesting to its riches ...

Old Mine Building Outside of Ward

New techniques for smelting refractory ore had been developed; new mills were built/old mills retrofitted and mining again became profitable. Once again, Ward boomed. "One of the deepest mines in the county is that of the Ward Mining Company on the Columbia Lode. . . sunk to a depth of 500 feet, the vein of which is eight feet, of which two and a half feet is solid mineral, smelting ore. Those who saw the Ni-wot (mine) when it first opened ten years ago will remember its eight foot vein ... and that its deposit yielded two hundred thousand in gold"(Boulder County News, May 26 1876).

Colonel Wesley Brainerd

In the early 1880's Colonel Wesley Brainerd, a civil engineer and veteran of the Union Army (bridge building brigade) began staking claims in Left Hand Canyon below Ward eventually under the name of the Chicago Mining and Milling Company.  James Crimmins, who emigrated from Ireland to South American and then to Chicago also came to Colorado with his wife and four children, staked a Homestead Claim at the top of Sawmill Hill Road and began growing hay and mining.  Crimmins moved his family to a log cabin located on the Boston Millsite in Ward  so the children could easily walk to the Ward School.


Ward School opened in 1863

1900 - third gold boom in Ward

In 1888 the Utica Mine hit high grade ore and a mill was built to handle the ore. The Utica produced over a million dollars in gold. Forests were cut down to fuel the many early mills that were built in the area.  Many new mills were built for newly discovered mines in the outlying areas.

The Modoc Mill

About 1890 The Modoc Mill was built above Ward on the banks of Duck Lake to handle ore from the mines in that vicinity. The Modoc Mill outside of Ward is the only mill still existing in the Ward District and has been named to the National Register of Historic Places and is described as follows:

Adjacent to Duck Lake, 4 miles north of Ward
National Register 12/27/1978, 5BL.359

"The circa 1890 Modoc Mill is a good example of industrial architecture associated with Boulder County's mining history. This concentration mill of wood and metal reaches four stories in height. The uppermost story of hewn logs received the ore. Here gravity bins held the ore until it was fed into a crusher and the stamping apparatus below. The 18 foot high stamping apparatus, manufactured by Griffe and Wedge of Zanesville, Ohio, consists of 30 stamps each weighing 950 pounds that are arranged in three banks of ten. Both the mill and nearby mine closed for the last time in 1920.

Today the Modoc Mill is a private residence.

By the late 1890's population estimates ranged from 1000 to 5000 people in the Ward District. Ward had 35 operating mines, a newspaper, The Ward Miner and Gazette, several hotels and saloons and a thriving business district.   The Town of Ward was incorporated in 1896 and all land within the Town not claimed and "proven" was subdivided into small lots and sold for a very small amount, usually to the people who were already living in cabins on the lots.

Ward incorporates in 1896 - streets named for gold mines

By the 1900s over 50 mines operated in the Ward District. The major mines near Ward itself were the Adit, B & M, Baxter (Boston, Columbia, Madeline, Niwot, SullivanNo. 5, Utica), Dew Drop, Modoc, Nelson, and the White Raven. Today many of Ward's streets bear those names.

Early Ward gossip

  • In 1891 the Ward town clown, Dennis Sullivan, held an elaborate funeral for a local cat. It was a beautiful funeral, complete with a satin-lined casket, band, and oration, but the cat's owner was furious. She vowed revenge, and a few years later she got it. When her husband was elected to the city council, he succeeded in passing a bill that forbade saloons to be operated on city street corners. Sullivan had the only street-corner saloon in town!

  • In 1900 townspeople became upset because the paper was not printed. The following week, the paper was printed with the explanation that its editor, Mr. Burgress had been relieved of his job. The paper reported that Burgress had left Ward last Friday in an intoxicated condition and had been seen in Denver in the company of a lewd woman. Reportedly, he also cashed checks on a non-existent account. It was said his downfall was women and drink.

At the Dew Drop Mine, June 1895

Roads and railroads to Ward

In 1864 the old trail between Niwot (Ward) and Blackhawk had been improved. The Niwot - Blackhawk Wagon Trail later evolved into the Peak-to-Peak Highway. In 1871, when the mills in Ward were no longer able to process the refractory gold ore, trains of burros carrying heavy sacks of gold ore made their way from the gold mines of Ward, through Brown's Crossing near what is now Nederland, to the smelting mills at Black Hawk. Men and supplies also traveled on foot, horseback, or wagon from Ward to Gold Hill, Sunset, and Boulder.

Moving a boiler for the mines

Freighters and stagecoaches carried men and supplies in wagons and coaches pulled by four and six teams of horses. Most of Ward's supplies came by wagon from Boulder through Sunset and Gold Hill.

In 1881 talk began of railroads running to the mining camps. The Greeley, Salt Lake, and Pacific Line began work on a narrow gauge train up Boulder Canyon, then north to Penn Gulch (Sunset). It was to continue on to Nederland, Caribou, then over the Divide to Salt Lake City.

Ward wagons meeting the train from Boulder at Sunset

The narrow gauge tracks were laid as far as Sunset. Ward supplies came by train to Sunset, then overland by wagon. In 1894 the great Boulder Canyon flood destroyed the tracks and railroad bridges, and the railroad stopped operating. Ward again had to rely on wagons to and from Boulder for transportation.

In 1894 an improved road was begun from Boulder the rest of the way up Left Hand Canyon to Ward. This new road avoided the long route by horse and wagon from Boulder up Four Mile Canyon through Sunset and Gold Hill to Ward which included the steep Sawmill Hill.

Duncan Family at the Dew Drop Mine

Inside a stamp mill

Ward, Colorado -- on top of the Boston Mine -- Long's Peak Mill bottom left

The Union Congregational Church was established in 1894 with hopes that by presenting itself as a respectable town, a railroad would be built to Ward.

In 1897 a new railroad was begun from Boulder to Ward that was to double the output of gold from Ward and make Boulder a milling center for gold ore. It was to have 150 freight cars, heavy duty freight engines, and specially built tourist coaches. The train would bring coal critical for mine and mill operation from the Marshall coal fields to Ward and return to Boulder with ore to mill. Gold fever struck again!

The Pennsylvania Mining and Milling Company began work on a big mill to handle Ward gold ore in Sunset, the Ward Struggler Gold Mining Company was incorporated, and rumor had it that Horace Tabor of Leadville Silver Mining fame had interests in a Ward gold mine.

The Big 5

The Big Five Mining Company, a combination of the Dew Drop Mine and Mill, the Adit Mine and Mill, and the Niwot was formed in Ward with the expectation of great riches. A smelter was built at the base of Saw Mill Hill. Ward was considered the principle camp in the district with an inexhaustable supply of gold.

Lode Smelter at Saw Mill Hill

Utica Mine

H.A.W. Tabor tried to make a comeback in Ward after he lost his Leadville fortune. He borrowed $15,000 from W.S. Stratton of Cripple Creek and started working the Eclipse Mine. He and Baby Doe couldn't make the mine pay, and they moved to Denver in January of 1898 when he was appointed postmaster.

A flume of wood and iron pipe was constructed and water brought five miles over the hills to mines and mill in lower Ward and in Left Hand Canyon.  Eventually the Town of Ward purchased water rights from the Big 5 for domestic and fire use. 

Fire destroyed the main shaft of the Utica mine in 1898 forcing a shutdown and the loss of  $10,000 in monthly profit..  By 1898 it had a million dollars to its credit.

The earliest stamp mills were designed to crush oxidized ore.  When that high grade ore ran out, new methods were required to extract gold from lower grade ores.  Ward is credited with constructing the first successful chlorination mill and with designing the first bumping table (Wolle, 518).  When Ward got its railroad, the Colorado and Northwestern, the mines shipped one-hundred tons of ore daily.


Switzerland Trail ushers in new era in Ward

Parting of the Ways showing Eldora and Ward trains

The Denver and Rio Grande (later called the Colorado and Northwestern or C & N) built narrow gauge tracks from Boulder up Four Mile Canyon to Sunset, then on to Gold Hill and Ward, supplying the various mining camps in between. The train stopped at Puzzler, Camp Francis, and Brainerd above Camp Talcott outside of Ward. The train traveled 4,000' in elevation and 26 miles in distance and finally reached Ward in June of 1998. 

In June 1998 Colorado Governor Adam and 350 prominent citizens from Denver and Boulder rode the train to Ward and joined townspeople in a celebration of the train completion that included a band, speeches and a banquet. That day was a momentous occasion for Ward, Boulder County and the State of Colorado.  Because of its majestic scenery, the train was soon called The Switzerland Trail of America and attracted tourists from Boulder, Denver, and throughout the globe.


Winter -- reality sets in

In the following January of 1899, huge snowdrifts blown by raging winds from the Continental Divide clogged the tracks just outside of Ward. The train snowplow and engines could not break through. Snow drifted to 30 feet in what old timers called the worst winter in memory. Supplies had to be brought in by sled. No ore moved out. Finally in April the train broke through.

Engine bucking snow outside of Ward

Summer tourism thrives in Ward

The following summer train excursions continued, bringing more travelers and chartered trips to Ward to see magnificent scenery of the Switzerland Trail of America. Hotels and cabins at the outlying lakes blossomed. Travelers were picked up at the Ward Depot and taken by wagon or buggy to Brainard, Red Rocks, and Stapp's Lake.

The excursion trains came and local hotels thrived. Tourists to Estes Park rode the train from Boulder to Ward, then transferred to a wagon or buggy, and later to the new fangled "Stanley Steamers" to complete the trip to Estes Park.

McClancy Hotel

In 1887 the McClancy family who operated a boardinghouse near the Smuggler Mine in Jamestown, moved to Ward and opened the McClancy Hotel which later burned in the Ward fire.

C & N Hotel, Ward, Colorado

C & N Hotel, Ward, Colorado

An early proprietress of The C & N Hotel, built before 1904 was Jennie McKenzie  who came to Ward with her husband John, a miner, in 1894. The McKenzies had five children (one died of typhoid in 1915) and John McKenzie died in 1910. After that Jennie worked at the C&N Hotel and later moved to Boulder where she worked as the second matron of the Boulder Day Nursery.   After her marriage to Martin Drennon, she was known as Jennie Drennon.  She worked at the Boulder Day Nursery from approximately 1926 until her death in 1932.  The C & N Hotel was later operated by Mrs. M.F.Thompson.  The C & N Hotel was razed in the 1950s.

Hotel Columbia, Ward, Colorado

The Columbia Hotel, built after the Ward fire, was first operated by Mrs. M.S. Buck.  The Columbia Hotel was owned by Albert and Emma Fairhurst. In 1919 Emma Fairhurst was written up in the Hotel Monthly for the Columbia's unique fireplace, built with ore specimens that were given to her by the various mines in the Ward area.  The Columbia Hotel is now a private residence.

Ward Catholic Church opened in 1897

Ward is a boom town by end of century

Before the turn of the century, Ward was a "boom town" with the C & N Hotel, The McClancey Hotel, the Hotel Millard, boarding houses, restaurants, a bakery, a jeweler, a millinery,  a newspaper, liveries, undertaker and several saloons. Two churches, the Ward Congregational Church and St. Anne's Catholic Church were built. Dances, balls, and speaking events were held at the McClelland Opera House, also known as the "rink".

 Ward, J.B. Sturtevent

Street scene of Ward prior to the fire of 1900.  Stone building at the right was built by Danny Sullivan who operated a saloon on the first floor and rented offices on the upper floor.  The Utica Hotel is the white frame building on the right.  Note the town water pump in the left foreground.


Fourth of July early Ward

Ward had a team for miner's drilling contests and a baseball team. Boulder newspapers kept track of Ward's events and reported mining business, Ward social events, crimes, and deaths.

Illness and death in early Ward

Dr. Jacob Campbell began his practice in Ward in 1887.  Two years later he married and brought his bride from Longmont to Ward, a full day trip by wagon.  He contracted with many of the mining companies to provide medical care for injured miners, cared for those injured in sawmill accidents and delivered the babies born in the area.  Occasionally he performed emergency surgeries (appendectomies), however, he sent serious cases by wagon to the hospital in Boulder.  

One winter several miners were injured by the explosion of dynamite they were thawing.  Early day dynamite tended to freeze, and so it had to be thawed before it could be used.  The slightest jar to the dynamite could set off an explosion and miners often lost hands, arms or legs, or were simply blown to bits (interview with Mrs. Campbell by Forest Crossen reported in Mining Camp Doctor).

Dr. Campbell (center) in downtown Ward

There were also reports of eyes lost, cyanide poisoning, deaths from falls into mining shafts, as well as the deaths of many children, age one day, one week, and one year. On-going flu, diphtheria, and scarlet fever epidemics affected the mining towns. Emma Fairhurst, Hazel Schmoll's aunt, lost three babies.

The Columbia (Ward) # 14 Lodge of the Accepted and Free Masons organized early in Ward in 1867. After declaring the need of a cemetery the Lodge purchased land in Boulder, where graves could be dug in the winter. Burials began in 1870 in what is now the old pioneer Columbia City Cemetery located west of Ninth Street between Pleasant and College Avenue in Boulder. Many Ward pioneers are buried in the Columbia Cemetery.

Ward Congregational Church


The Fire of 1900

On January 23, 1900, two years after the train arrived, Ward suffered a devastating fire that destroyed most of the buildings in the center of town. On January 24, 1900 The Ward Miner reported:

        “When the sun rose Thursday morning the burned district looked like a miniature sea dotted with miniature icebergs,  the water poured upon the debris having                 frozen and formed into beautiful encrustations…    Not a store, hotel, saloon, restaurant nor a business house of any sort escaped the flames…                                                If the life of the town depended wholly upon the profits that are taken over counter and bar, its destruction would be complete and the little basin in which its business houses once stood might be abandoned for the home of the chipmunk and coyote…”

Ward before the fire

Downtown Ward, after the fire

Special trains were sent from Boulder with food for Ward people. Two days later, a special train excursion from Boulder came so gawkers could view the damage. Locals were able to save the school (now the Town Hall and Library) and the churches, but most of the businesses were gone. It was said that many people lived temporarily in the "mine holes". Some of the town was rebuilt, but Ward never fully recovered.

Ward Library, school, and merchants after the fire

In September 1900, a circulating library was established with thirty-two subscribers obtained by Mr. A.W. Vandeman. Books were placed in the store of E.W. Ewing, who was selected librarian. A library was also established at Camp Francis and plans were made to visit Salina, Gold Hill, Sunset, and Jamestown to establish "library clubs."

On September 14, 1900, The Ward Miner reported that Miss M.E. Wheatley, the popular primary teacher in the Ward school, had arrived and occupied her place in the school room, and that she is "stopping" with Mr. and Mr. Lew Thomas. The older grades were taught by Professor H.O. Robbins, one of the few teachers in the Boulder area who was a college graduate. The Ward School had 64 students divided into nine grades, and several students were expected to graduate that year.

That week, a series of well-attended lectures was given at the church by a Mrs. L.W. Owens who also organized an Anti-Cigarette League of 35 boys and girls.

The druggists, Huber & Markle reported carrying all the first class remedies and toilet articles on the market and were "open day and night to everybody". Thompson's New Store advertised it was temporarily located on Niwot Street near the foot of the Depot stairway, and offered groceries, hardware, mining supplies and "gents" furnishings at right prices.

Also on September 14, 1900, a fire was reported in the rear part of the Berryman residence up on "Capital Hill" near the depot. A bucket brigade was formed and the train crew brought the engine No. 1 and tender opposite the burning house and passed water to the bucket line. The fire was completely extinguished.

In 1901 William Mead, Mining Engineer in Ward, advertised services for surface and underground surveys with maps, and the Ward Drug Store, Chas G. Gregg, Prop., offered medicines, toilet articles, stationery, cigars, paints, oil, glass, and wallpaper in The Ward Miner.

After dinner at the (new) McClancy Hotel, J.B. Sturdevant

The following summer, 1901, two daily excursions trains ran between Boulder and Ward. The McClancy Hotel was rebuilt. The B&M Mine steadily produced ore and the Big 5 had a strike at the old Niwot mine.  Miners formed a Lodge of the Knights of Pythias and the Ward Oddfellows Lodge to provide security for injured, funerals for members who died, and small donations to widows and children of members.  A large Oddfellows Lodge was built which also served as a social center for the town.  A Masonic Lodge was re-established.

Mine carts and drums


The next winter Ward was snowed in again and the train could not get through. The railroad sent a snowplow and two engines to break through the snowdrifts. In April an avalanche created by repeated attempts to "ram through" the snow swept two engines, the No. 30 and No. 31, almost 400' over the side of the cliff, killing four crew members.

Train wreck outside of Ward, Colorado

Locals still call the steep grade below the old train bed at Left Hand Canyon and California Gulch, the "Turn of Events". Motorists and bicyclists frequently experience the dramatic change of weather that occurs when rounding the turn.

Mines in Trouble

By 1902 the high cost of moving and smelting low grade gold ore, and the difficulty of mining in the winter affected the Ward mines. In 1904 the Big Five Company went into receivership. Summers, however, were still busy with trainloads of tourists riding the train.

Summer wildflower excursionists

Another Train Accident

By 1906 most of the big mines had shut down. Winters were very hard. Once again, while trying to buck through snow just outside of Ward on Grassy Top, the engine got off the track and fell 400' feet down the hill, killing the engineer.

Competition from Automobiles

Snowy Range (Indian Peaks) from Ward-Estes Road

In 1912 a new highway between Ward and Estes Park was built for early automobiles, the Stanley Steamers. Train service continued sporadically in the winter; summer train tourism thrived.


University of Chicago class excursion, 1919

In 1914 the White Raven Mining Company in Ward petitioned the Colorado Railroad Commission to force the railroad to keep operating to Ward during the winter.  The Commiision ruled that owing to the great snowfall, it would be impossible to keep the line open.  Summer excursions continued and travelers rode the train to Ward on wildflower excursions, to vacation at local cabins and lodges, or to transfer to automobiles to Estes Park and the new Stanley Hotel.

The Ward Improvement Association was formed to stock fish in Brainard and other lakes in the area. People from Boulder built summer cabins and rode the train up. The railroad continued operating to Ward during the summer.  

In September of 1917, famed modern artist Georgia O'Keeffe who was teaching in Canyon, Texas and  who had her first one-person exhibit in New York, rode the train to Ward on a summer vacation and stayed in a cabin belonging to Amelia Schmoll in Ward. She spent considerable time "tramping" about the Ward area and at Stapp's Lakes, painted watercolors of the divide at Long Lake, made sketches in Ward, and painted the Ward Church bell.

Emma Fairhurst built her famous fireplace at the Columbia Hotel. It was built using ore specimens that she collected from the various mines in Ward. Her hotel and fireplace were the subject of an article in The Hotel Monthly, June 1919.

Emma Fairhurst in her Columbia Hotel

Train Service to Ward Ends

In 1917 train service was reduced to weekly. A road for automobiles had been built up Boulder Canyon to the mines in Eldora, Nederland, and Caribou.

The Ward mines had not lived up to expectations, little ore was being shipped out on the train, and it was cheaper to transport supplies by truck than by train. After a 1919 July flood washed out track and damaged bridges, the railroad stopped operating entirely.

Rails from Boulder to Ward and the line to Eldora were ripped up, and by 1920 the railroad was gone, its tracks sold to Japan and Wyoming.

R.D. Ward, Station Master stayed in Ward

R.D. Ward was the station master in Ward. Often in winter when the train did not get through, Mr. Ward's son Phil and his brothers would make the four-hour one-way trip by horseback to Sunset to pick up the mail and return the same day. The Ward family also cut wood to sell to townspeople. When the train stopped running, the former railroad agent bought the Ward Depot and opened a general store. He also operated a stage line to and from Sunset for 10 years. Later, his son Phil Ward worked for the county and eventually became superintendent of roads. The Ward Depot was later moved to the opposite side of the tracks (now a road) and continued to sporadically operate as a store and cafe until the 1980s.

The Ward Train Depot in the 1950's

Ward, Colorado - almost a ghost town

With the train gone and most mines and mills closed, Ward almost became a ghost town. Throughout the 1920's the people of Ward and Boulder fought to keep the Indian Peaks from becoming part of Rocky Mountain National Park. Stapps Lake Lodge and Lodge of the Pines outside of Ward continued to benefit from tourism to Estes Park.

After the crash in 1929 and the insueing depression, Ward's population rose.  Many who had lost their jobs or farms, migrated to the Ward area in hopes of recovering traces of gold in the huge mine dumps.  Construction of the Peak-to-Peak Highway at the end of the depression in the late 1930's also brought people back to Ward, but during the 40's and 50's, Ward was primarily a summer town.

Ward revitalized in '60's and '70's

The character of Ward changed significantly after the 1960s when young adults like Dave and Eddie Warren, who had spent summers in Ward as children, moved back permanently, and when Ward was resettled by hippies who brought with them an alternative culture.

A new mayor and town council were elected, the town charter was rewritten as a home-rule, direct democracy, and the town voted to remove the electric street lights that lighted the town so "you can see the stars at night".

Just as the arrival of the white men prospecting for gold changed the lives and culture of the Native Americans of the Boulder Valley who hunted in the summers in the Ward area, the young people of the sixties again revitalized and changed Ward.


Unless otherwise indicated all black and white photographs courtesy of Denver Public Library, Western History Collection, (Ward, Colorado; Mines; Switzerland Trail) and/or Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder Historical Society Collection(PublicDomain-old-50 and /or PD-pre-1923/PD-USGov)

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