The Legacy of Metal Mining in the Nederland Region

Part 3b: The first Lode Gold discovery, Continued

 

Brian Alers, CPG, Tommyknocker Geo-History Adventures Ltd.  John H. Gregory, like W. Green Russell, was an experienced gold miner who had learned how to prospect for gold in Georgia in 1827. Gregory was a skinny Scotsman with fiery red hair, beard, and temperament. He had lost close to everything during the stock market crash known as the Panic of 1857 and was forced to leave his wife and kids for the Frazer River goldfields of British Colombia in August of 1858. Gregory got as far as Leavenworth, Kansas where he was offered a job driving a government mule team to Fort Laramie in Wyoming. During the late summer, the Fort was alive with rumors of the gold discoveries at Auraria, along the South Platte River. As a result, most of the soldiers had left to search for gold.
Gregory set out in January of 1859, during the dry early days of winter to pan every stream gully that drained the Front Range south of Fort Laramie. He prospected for the next three months with little luck until finally, exhausted, he arrived at Auraria in early May.

 
The two weeks he had spent in Auraria and its exorbitantly priced supplies had cost John H. Gregory all the gold dust he had managed to find over the last three months. By himself and penniless, he set out into the uncharted wilderness of the mountains. He followed placer gold showings up the Vasquez Fork (Clear Creek) of the South Platte River, west of present day Golden, until he arrived in a steep gully that was crossed by an outcrop of what appeared to be the same rusty, disintegrated residue of gold-bearing quartz veins that he had seen in Georgia.

 

However, before he could examine the outcropping ledge or lead any further, clouds loomed over the site and a spring snowstorm quickly moved in.

 
Gregory was forced to seek shelter on the lee side of a large boulder under a couple of pine trees to avoid the spring snow storm that was looming above the ravine. With experienced and skillful craftsmanship, he used his gold pan to brush off the snow, dig out a relatively flat spot and fashion a crude shelter out of pine boughs to hunker-down and sit out the storm under his bear skin robe.

 
After two days, Gregory emerged from his burrow to waist deep snow. The thick snow of spring had covered all the local landmarks, and obscured the topography making it impossible to further examine the lead, stake a mining claim, or know exactly where he was. It was cold and he had eaten the last of his deer meat during the storm, so he had no choice but to leave his discovery and fight his way through the snow, rocks and fallen timber back to town for supplies. Along the way, he was too tired and weak to even shoot a rabbit for food. After a few days, he finally arrived at a two or three cabin settlement at the base of the mountains that was called Arapahoe (near present day Golden). Gregory was exhausted, and he had no money, so he drifted into the local saloon hoping someone would buy him a drink.