In journeying towards the West, after many hours, perhaps days, of the same monotonous prairie, stretching away to the horizon on all sides, the weary traveler is refreshened by his first glimpse of the mountains. Standing out in strong relief, in that forbidding wall of black, with its eternal snow-capped summit piercing the skies, a Titanic sentinel among the Titans, is Pike's Peak.
The name is reminiscent of another time, and as the tourist of to-day is whirled across the continent, enjoying all of the comforts of his home, he can hardly appreciate the hardships, the privations of those early Argonauts, whose slogan was "Pike's Peak or Bust" in the days of '59. Words cannot adequately portray the vicissitudes and dangers of the time. The journey was made in what was commonly termed a prairie schooner. The dangers of such a trip were manifold, but the greatest source of anxiety arose from the hostile tribes of Indians. Along the line of the great transcontinental railroads, the bones of thousands lie bleaching, countless graves dot the prairie, graves of men and women who left their Eastern homes, who turned their backs on all that they held dear in life, and braved the terrors of an unknown country for gold. The sun always sank in a blaze of gold, rose with the promise of a golden future, and many died in the contemplation of that illusion. The saddest of those argonauts were the survivors whose hopes were so cruelly blasted on the arrival at their journey's end. True, a few traces of gold were discovered around the foot-hills of Pike's Peak, but of too minute a character to permit of profitable development.
Twenty years later, in '79, the Mt. Pisgah excitement swept over the West, and a rush was made for the new El Dorado. This was a fake, pure and simple, and the authors narrowly escaped well-deserved lynching. But the bitterness and irony of Fate is evinced in both of these rushes. Almost in the shadow of Pike's Peak, the riches of Golconda awaited the prospector's pick; while the fortune-hunters who rushed to Mt. Pisgah walked over the Portland, Independence, Isabella and hundreds of other rich mineral deposits.
Cripple Creek owes its existence to the indomitable will and perseverance of a few early prospectors, who, notwithstanding the adverse opinion of experts, stuck doggedly to their claims. Gold was first discovered in 1889, but it was not until 1890-91 that its true worth was appreciated. The camp owes its prosperity to the financial panic of '93, which brought thousands of unemployed to the District, owing to the fall in silver. About this time the fame of the camp began to attract the attention of the experts, who, after a thorough and exhaustive examination, were almost a unit in their disapproval of the District. Gold could not occur in this formation, they argued; pockets might be opened up, but as for continuous ore bodies, it was ridiculous. Never in the history of mining was the truth of the old axiom more sharply verified: "Gold is where you find it."
We are frequently asked why such an odd name was selected for such a wonderful District. Many stories have been told regarding the selection of the name of Cripple Creek, and that advanced by the Hon. T. M. Patterson at Houston last year was as original as any, and better than some for the occasion, which was to the effect that the spot had become endeared to many a weary, hungry traveler across the continent, by an old wounded Confederate soldier who had his little lonely cabin located on what is now the site of Cripple Creek. He was never known to fail to administer to the sick or weary or divide his scanty store of food with the hungry, and in loving recollection of the old crippled soldier, the name of Cripple Creek was given to the spot. But to whom really belongs the credit for the peculiar christening of the District is lost in the vortex of the more important events that followed.
From an unknown, obscure and doubtful mining camp —from a ranch where cattle browsed quietly, day by day; where the cow-boys lived and dreamed of fortunes to come, all unconscious of the untold millions beneath their feet, there has sprung, as if in a night, a mining district whose richness and extent has astonished the world. From a few canvas and board shacks, a city has sprung that compares favorably with any in the world for its population.
It is a city of brick and stone, of fine homes, of modern schools, of churches of all denominations, of up-to-date hotels, of progressive and broad-minded and liberal citizens.
The Easterner heretofore has associated the name of mining camp with a rough mushroom town, with rougher men, who preferred a killing to a dinner. There is a feeling akin to disappointment when the visitor finds such a model city, after the mental picture he had drawn en route. The only people who carry guns are those of the tenderfoot variety, who consider shooting-irons the fundamental part of a mountaineer's make-up.
Cripple Creek, the county seat and metropolis of the District, can be reached in a Pullman. Three roads now have their terminus in Cripple Creek, and two more are projected. The hills are literally bound with steel tracks, which makes it possible to reach every mine in the District at a nominal cost. Electric and steam cars reach every point of importance. Feats of railroad engineering have been performed here that have been heretofore deemed impracticable.
The scenery viewed from any of the local trips is grand beyond description. The cars round a spur of a hill, now through a gorge, again through some deep cut, and ever and ever rising higher, below and upon all sides the hills dotted with mines, while far to the West we see the snowcapped range of the Sangre de Cristo sharply defined against the azure sky. Frequently the intervening valley is covered with a soft, billowy mass of white clouds, looking for all the world like a sea of troubled foam, whose limits are defined by the snowy range far to the West.
The producing area of the District comprises approximately thirty square miles, supporting an estimated population of about 50,000. There are ten towns in the District, of which Cripple Creek ranks first. Victor is second in point of importance and population, and is situated at the extreme southern limits of the District, on Battle Mountain. Some of the largest mines in the District are situated in the town proper of Victor.
The famous Gold Coin was discovered while excavating a foundation for a hotel. What is true of the Gold Coin is true of the District, and a few words in reference to this great mine might prove of interest. In '95, the Woods Bros, secured a bond and lease on a portion of the Gold Coin claim for the sum of $50,000. They offered the stock to the public at 5 cents per share, and found few takers. At an early stage in the development of the property, rich ore was encountered and Gold Coin started on an upward career, which did not terminate until the price reached the sum of $6.50 per share. The mine is a steady dividend-payer. The character of the Coin ore is a granite quartz, between granite walls. The mine has attained a depth of over one thousand feet, and the average value of the ore has increased.
Stratton's Independence is known everywhere. It has proved to be a phenomenal mine in a phenomenal camp. Some time ago it was generally reported as played out. The real fact of the situation was that the mine was "gouged" in order to pay enormous monthly dividends, without a proportionate amount of development work. Recent developments are gratifying to a high degree.
The past has proven that there are no played-out mines in the Cripple Creek District. Barren zones may be encountered, but it is only a question of development when the ore bodies are recovered.
A word in reference to the great Portland. This property has paid more than its capitalization ($3,000,000) in dividends. At the deepest workings, the ore stopes vary from six to forty feet in width. The formation of the District is granite, with overlying andisite and breccia, intersected with porphyry and phonolite dykes. The capping of breccia varies in depth from 500 to 1,200 feet, and in the early days it was frequently predicted by the pessimists that when the veins went through the breccia they would not enter the granite. Deep mining in the Portland, Isabella, Gold Coin and Independence has proven the fallacy of these predictions.
Ninety per cent of the prospects and mines in the Cripple Creek District are owned and controlled by incorporated companies, the capital stock of which varies from $500,000 to $2,000,000.
The price of shares varies from $5 per thousand shares to $10 per share. The variation in price is a reflection of the actual value of ground owned by the company, its proximity to producing mines, and the actual physical condition of the property owned by the company. There are periods of general depression when stocks reach a point far below the actual value of the ground owned by the company. At other times values reach a higher point than actual conditions warrant. Both of these extremes are beyond the control of the individual and must run their course. On any occasion, Cripple Creek shares, of companies owning inside patented property, with good title, are good investments.
Stratton, early in the camp's history, made the assertion that any patented claim within the mineral belt was worth $25,000. He has hacked that statement recently by purchasing over $4,000,000 worth of unproducing inside territory at an average value of over $40,000 per claim. With development, it appears as if a mine can be opened up anywhere. Along this line of reasoning, there are many shares on the market to-day, backed by a capital stock of a million and a quarter dollars, owning one, two and three claims, with an actual value of $75,000, and selling for one cent per share, or a total of $12,500. This, in the vernacular of the gambler, is what might be termed "a cinch."
The Cripple Creek Mining Exchange is the second largest institution of its kind in the world. All listed shares must pass the thorough investigation of the examining committee. Under the able and energetic management of Mr. T. P. Airheart, the exchange has become a financial factor in the prosperity of the District.
The question is frequently asked: What is the life of a mining camp? In answering this we refer you to Leadville, which, after thirty years of unprecedented prosperity, is greater to-day than ever in its history before. The undeveloped ore of the Cripple Creek District cannot be developed in fifty years.
To the business man, unfamiliar with mining, he has always associated with it an element of chance. He will not consider the thousands of failures that pass uncommented up in the mercantile world, failures made after years of experience in a particular line, but will condemn mining, because he has known of people who did not make a success of it. While it is to be regretted, nevertheless it is true, conservative business men, who would not think of investing a dollar in any other business enterprise without a thorough investigation, will blindly spend thousands in mining without even a superficial knowledge of what they are doing.
We say to you, and statistics will bear us out, that intelligent, practical and conservative investments in mining have proven more productive, more profitable in the great Cripple Creek District since its inception than any similar amount of capital ever invested in any mercantile enterprises.
Cripple Creek is a city of homes. All the advantages of educational institutions are present, while within two hours' ride is Manitou and Colorado Springs, the former a sparkling diamond, surrounded by gigantic mountain peaks; the latter an emerald, set in an environment of surpassing grandeur, where the plains, calm and peaceful, meet the Rockies, so suggestive of Nature's wrathful moods.
Denver, the queen city of the Trans-Mississippi country, is but a few hours' ride. In the selection of Cripple Creek as a home, or for a visit during the summer, the tourist does so without the sacrifice of a single comfort that may be enjoyed elsewhere. It is a place of inspiration, both spiritual and commercial. Here, high above the clouds, encompassed on all sides by the mighty works of the Creator, the frowning battlements, the snow-clad peaks, the glorious sunsets, all have a tendency to awaken a feeling of awe and veneration in the most callous breast. Unconsciously the spectator is drawn closer to that infinite power, feels his own insignificance before the handiwork of such a Master.
The mountain air, the scenery, the push and progressiveness of the citizens, the mines, the whispering of millions, enthuse and buoy up the discouraged, who again place their shoulders to the wheel, with the firm resolve to regain both health and fortune sacrificed in the East.
In conclusion, will simply say that no pen picture, however skilled, can convey an adequate impression of the wonders of the Cripple Creek District. Come and see for yourself, and if it is not more than represented, then, in the words of the Hon. J. Maurice Finn, "we'll give you a mine."