The mine that has given the Cripple Creek district the greatest prominence throughout the civilized world and given the camp an international reputation is Stratton's Independence.
Wherever civilization exists the news of the great gold fields of the Cripple Creek district has gone, and the news of the finds were heralded largely through the sale of the famous Independence mine to the Stratton's Independence, Limited, an English corporation.
In fact, Cripple Creek was not attracting International attention until the sale of the Independence was made. The purchase price was so enormous, $10,000,000.00 that the camp could no longer be ignored.
The Independence mine was located Fourth of July day, 1891, by W.S. Stratton. It was while he was trudging over Battle mountain that he noticed a stream in the gulch below. His animal was thirsty and he started down that he might give it water.
Passing down the hillside his eye caught sight of the large blowout on the Independence and the outcropping on the Washington. Both claims were located. Work was first started on the Washington claim, he believing that the outcrop gave better promise of mineral than the blowout. In fact, he gave a bond and lease on the Independence, which, however, was not taken up.
Ore was encountered in the Independence in 1892. The first shipment was made to the Gold and Globe mill, situated on Cripple Creek, a few miles below the town of Cripple Creek. The returns were around $22.00 to the ton. Realizing that he had a shipping proposition, Stratton purchased teams and started to do his own hauling.
The windlass was soon superseded by a steam hoist, but Stratton did not fully appreciate what he had until he appointed T. F. Van Waggoner to take charge of the property. That gentleman, a mining engineer of the old school, shipped to the smelters and in his own name, as managers of that time did.
The idea of the manager shipping the ore in his own name did not appeal to Stratton and a disagreement resulted.
The smelter gave returns of better than $80.00 to the ton, quite a difference from what the ore was bringing over the plates at the Gold and Globe mill. With the first smelters returns people began to appreciate that the Independence had the earmarks of a great producer.
The first rich ore was encountered at the depth of eighty feet. The work of sinking the shaft proceeded steadily. Level after level was opened and the ore blocked out. It was in 1895 that the rich ore reserves between the fifth and fourth levels were opened. So rich, indeed, was the ore that it was called the "jewelry shop."
The ore occurred at the junction with the flat vein and the main Independence vein. At places it has broken better than sixty feet wide and was proven for a considerable distance.
No attempt was made by the owner to make an enormous production of ore, his idea being to develop and block out. When the shaft had attained the depth of 900 feet and it was known that the mine contained ore reserves of fabulous richness, Verner Z. Reed, of Colorado Springs, secured an option on the property.
He visited London and interested the Venture Corporation. T. A. Rickard was employed to examine the mine and report on the ore in sight. The report showed that there was over 16,000,000.00 worth of gold bearing ore in sight.
Satisfied that the property had an exceedingly bright future the deal was closed whereby the enormous sum of $10,000,000.00 was paid for the mine.
From the time Stratton first commenced to keep account of his profits up to the time the Venture Corporation took charge of the mine, May 1, 1899, his profits amounted to the sum of $2,402,000.00.
The Venture Corporation took charge the first of May, 1899. Instead of working a force of about fifty men, as Stratton had been doing, the management increased the force and in a short time over 400 men were on the pay roll.
The first year the British company paid close to $2,000,000.00 in dividends to the shareholders.
John Hays Hammond, the well known American mining engineer, was solicited to accept the position of consulting engineer, when it became known that the mine was not looking so well.
Mr. Hammond, who has a worldwide reputation, came here and spent considerable time making a personal examination of the property. While the report was not the brightest that was to be expected it was considered correct, being given by an experienced and honest mining engineer.
From the depth of 900 feet the shaft was sunk to the depth of a trifle more than 1,400 feet. Prospecting was started in every direction. The southern area had never been developed and Mr. Hammond caused extensive work to be done south of the shaft.
In the early part of 1901 the main Independence vein, which had been on a decided incline toward the territory of the Portland company, commenced to straighten, and in sinking a winze from the eighth level down it appeared only two degrees off the vertical, with depth.
In the development at depth nothing has been overlooked and never was a big mine more comprehensively and systematically developed. Mr. Hammond advised a discontinuance of dividends and also that the English board of directors take the treasury reserve and purchase additional territory in the district.
In so advising them Mr. Hammond demonstrated his faith in the future of the Cripple Creek district. Mr. Hammond is too bright an engineer to permit his people to pay any fancy prices for additional property, but if the right thing can be secured at the right price the Englishmen will continue to mine here indefinitely.
The glorious record of the Independence has gone throughout the civilized world and wherever language is spoken the mine and its wonderful record has been spoken of. Few mines have been given the prominence it has and few mines have had the record to justify such a worldwide prominence.
Last fall the celebrated mine manager, Mr. Thomas Cornish, became the manager of the Independence mine. It was a colossal problem that faced Mr. Cornish but he met it and the physical condition of the property today proves his inestimable value as a resourceful and practical mine manager.
At present the daily output of the mine is 260 tons of ore. About 450 men are employed on the property and all of the levels are being worked, including the 1150-foot level up.
Some big new pumps are being placed on the 1,400-foot level to advance development in the lower levels. These pumps have a capacity of 1,000 gallons with a 1,000 lift.
It is a matter of easy forecast to say that Stratton's Independence, Limited, under the management of the indefatigable and tireless Mr. Cornish will be worked and developed to its greatest capacity.