Independence Day enlivens Rollinsville

John Scarffe

Rollinsville celebrated its annual Independence Day on Sunday, July 15, as it has since 1885. The event included the1862 speech by Gov. William Gilpin, a parade, pony and wagon rides and a band and refreshments at the Stage Stop. It kicked off in front of the Wild West Mercantile Co.
Enacted by Rollinsville resident and Gilpin County Commissioner Forrest Whitman, Gov. Gilpin, the first governor of the Colorado Territory, said Rollinsville has celebrated its independence from John Quincy Adams Rollins every summer since 1885. Rollins owned the entire town prior to around that historic year when he began to loosen his grip. The first Independence Day was covered by the San Francisco Chronicle.
J. Q. A. Rollins had held the town in tight reign, and since he owned everything, he could make the rules, so he allowed liquor by the drink. He had a minority partner, Fred Gooch, in his Rollins Gold & Silver Mining Company. That company owned much of the town and the surrounding hills. It’s interesting that Gooch supervised the building of the Stage Stop building and actually ran the business there after 1868.
In his speech, Gov. Gilpin said Rollinsville had the right angel of intensity and was at 40 degrees latitude where important events took place such as the invention of democracy and the steam engine. Soon we will see rails coming right through our mountain town. They will be transporting potatoes down to Denver and beyond.
Rollinsville had one threat, Gilpin said. Folks in Texas had formed a militia and they were headed to Colorado to take over the state. He asked all men in town to join him with their guns as the first Colorado Volunteers. He asked all those in attendance to join him in a three-gun salute. Hip Hip Horray! Hip Hip Horray! Hip Hip Horray!
The parade followed Gov. Gilpin’s speech, starting at the Mercantile and working its way down the main street, then turning around and coming back down the street. It included draft horses pulling a black and white wagon full of children. Cars included an Austin Healy, a Model T and a Buick. Rick Newman and Gail Watson campaigned for Gilpin County Commissioner. Geno also drove through with his petting zoo, and residents with their dogs and children on bicycle joined in.
As the rain began, the Stage Stop became the place to be for refreshments and music.