Government in the wilderness

The Legacy of Metal Mining around Nederland

Brian Alers, CPG, Tommyknocker Geo-History Adventures Ltd.  John H. Gregory is credited with the first lode gold discovery in the Snowy Range on May 6, 1859, with eight greenhorns from Indiana. Gregory scouted out both sides of the gully and determined that the gold “ledge” or vein, extended from the southwest to the northeast while the others cut down some aspen trees to fashion stakes. Starting in the creek, they paced out the first lode mining claims staked in the territory.

Following the vein to the southwest, from the creek, Wilkes DeFrees staked claim No. 4, Gregory staked his original discovery claim No, 5 and his extra discoverer allotment claim was staked as No. 6.

The ground was still frozen, so for the next three days the men built sluice boxes and improved their crude sleeping quarters. That evening, who should come struggling up the timber filled gully, but Dr. Casto, Colonel Bates, a mule, a cart, and the five others from Iowa they had met at the Saloon in Arapahoe (Golden).

That night, the fifteen men called a Miners Meeting and Dr. Casto wrote down; “The Laws and Regulations of The Miners of Gregory Diggings District.” The document adopted Gregory’s original mining claim boundaries and clarified the rules of the newly formed Mining District, “For the settlement of differences and for the purpose of preventing disputes.” As was typical in the California gold fields, Gregory decided that each man should own part of the vein, so it was determined that a claim of fifty feet wide and one hundred feet along the ledge, or vein, was a fair allotment, with an extra claim allowed to the discoverer.


Each miner was entitled to one mountain (lode) claim and one gulch (placer) claim, except by purchase or discovery, and the miner was required to work their claims within ten days from discovery so as to avoid non-resident speculators. As it turned out, these small mining claims caused more disputes than they settled when the veins had to be mined by expensive underground mining methods.

Colonel Bates offered to pay Gregory $200 a day to find another lead and once the ground thawed out he discovered the Bates Vein on May 16th, about 750 feet up the gully followed by the Gregory Second Vein further up the gully. J. Hunter and W. T. Kendall soon discovered the Hunter Vein (the southwestern extension of the Bates Vein), and by May 20th, Dr. Casto had discovered the Casto Vein on Casto Hill. On May 24th Gregory and W. N. Byers discovered the Mammoth Vein. On May 25th Wilkes Defrees and Henry (Harry) Gunnell discovered the Gunnell Vein.

By the first of June, over four hundred men had poured into the gulch when William Green Russell and another one hundred and seventy followers arrived.


All the most productive veins in the district had already been discovered, but, W.G. Russell was an experienced miner and he soon found rich placer deposits in Russell Gulch, about a mile south of the Gregory Diggings.

During the summer over 30,000 people streamed into Mountain City at the Gregory discovery site and what would later become Central City and Black Hawk.