Part 4: Gold Hill
Brian Alers, Nederland. Gold Hill Colorado was the site of some of the first placer and lode gold discoveries made in the wilderness of the Snowy Range during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. The Gold Hill Mining District is the largest gold mining district in Boulder County, producing something like 200,000 ounces of gold. The Gold Hill Mining District, proper, includes the smaller mining camps of; Sunshine, Salina, Wall Street, Rowena, and Crisman (Tellurium). The Gold Hill Mining District is considered the center of the Boulder County Telluride Belt, that includes the; Sugarloaf, Magnolia, Jamestown and Ballarat Mining Districts.
Captain Thomas Atkens, his son James, and a band of prospectors were the first to discover placer gold in the gravels of Gold Run Creek, southeast of what would later become Gold Hill during the dead of the winter, in January of 1859. By March 7th, the miners had established the first provisional governing body in the wilderness, which they named Mountain District #1, Nebraska Territory. At this time, all lands north of the 40th parallel (Baseline Road) were part of the Nebraska Territory, and all lands south of the 40th parallel were deemed part of the Kansas Territory.
As soon as the snow melted in May 1859, J. D. Scott discovered a decomposed gold bearing quartz vein on the west side of Gold Run Creek. This was the first lode gold discovery made in the Nebraska Territory and was made about a week after John H. Gregory’s first lode gold discovery in the Kansas Territory, next to what would become Central City.
Later that summer, in June of 1859 David Horsfal, William Blore, and Matthew L. McCaslin had prospected all the way to the top of Gold Run Creek with little success. David Horsfal became so discouraged that he literally gave-up and walked to the top of a nearby hill to have some lunch and take a nap. When he threw his pick down on the ground in disgust, it broke of a piece of rock. Much to his surprise, the rock was encrusted with gold. He had discovered the Horsfal Vein on the hill northeast of the present-day Gold Hill, and it would became one of the most productive mines in the district. Many of the most productive gold veins in the district were discovered during this period.
Gold Hill was founded in October of 1859 with 15 houses, a hotel, graveyard and about 1,500 people mostly living in tents just below Horsfal Hill, adjacent to the Horsfal Mine. The original townsite was destroyed by fire on May 24 of 1860, so the town was re-built at its present site because the old site was said to be “too cold and windy”.
The early placer gold deposits in Gold Run Creek proved to be wildly rich and over the next year or so, between three and five thousand prospectors flocked to the region. During the summer of 1860 more than a dozen stamp mills and a number of arrastras were in operation in the region. By the fall of 1860, as the easily-accessible pockets and pay streaks were worked out, only two or three mills remained.
In September of 1860, the Corning Tunnel was begun from Left Hand Creek under Horsfal Hill. The amount of creek and gulch mining became steadily less and soon the decomposed quartz vein material of the leading lodes were exhausted. Most of the original claim holders abandoned their mining claims, or traded them for supplies in grubstake agreements. The Horsfal Mine managed to operate until the stamp mill was completely worn out, in 1863.
Gold Run Creek produced something like $100,000 (4,838 ounces of gold) during this first year of mostly placer mining.
By 1870, the post office had closed and only 6 people were living in Gold Hill.
In May of 1872, Geologist J. Alden Smith identified an unusual tin-grey colored mineral at the Red Cloud mine northeast of Gold Hill that would return enormously high gold values by fire-assay, but produce little gold when processed using a typical stamp-mill. It turned out the mineral was the hitherto unknown and the extremely rare gold-silver telluride mineral Petzite (AuAg3Te2). By 1873, Sylvanite (AuAgTe4), Calaverite (AuTe2), and Hessite (Ag2Te) were also identified at the adjacent Cold Spring mine and the Boulder County Telluride Boom was on. At the time, these minerals were only known to exist in the Transylvania region of Romania. Tellurium is an element, that when it is reduced, easily forms compounds (minerals) with gold and silver, and these compounds are known as telluride minerals.
From 1873 to 1875, many rich telluride mines were located, including the Ingram, Klondike, Interocean, Cash, Logan, Poorman, Wood Mountain and Grand Republic. The Slide mine on the south side of Left Hand Creek, soon reaches a depth of 1,080 feet. The Corning Tunnel is extended to 2500 feet long and the Prussion Tunnel (300 foot lower) reaches a length of 1800 feet below Horsfel Hill, intersecting the Slide, Klondike, Twinn and Horsfal veins.
The Boulder County Telluride veins are extremely high grade (often well over 100 ounces of gold per ton) and visible gold was not uncommon at the Logan, Slide, Red Cloud, Cash and Cold Spring mines. Unfortunately, the actual paying portion of the telluride vein is most often only a few inches thick and it was said that the ore required as many men to “hand dress” or sort out the actual vein material as it did to mine the ore underground. So, eventually, by 1880 most of the mines were forced to close.
Many hotels were built during the Boulder County Telluride Boom, when the town grew to over 50 dwellings. In 1873, Charles Wentworth built the “Grand Mountain Hotel” (later called the Wentworth House). While washing dishes at the hotel in 1873, Eugene Fields wrote the poem “Casey’s Table D’Hote.” Gold Hill and the Wentworth House survived the devastating fire of 1894.
The hotel was purchased by Edwin and Annie Goudge in 1900 and it became known as the Gold Hill Inn. They operated it until about 1910. In 1920, they sold the building to the “Holiday House Association” headed by Mrs. Jean Sherwood of Chicago and she renamed it the Bluebird Lodge.
Jean Sherwood had fallen in love with Colorado in 1904 while lecturing at Boulder’s Chatauqua Park. So, in 1911, she founded the “Holiday House Association” as a non-profit outdoors club for young female factory and office workers from Chicago. The first club was based out of a cottage near Chatauqua Park. The club became very popular during the roaring 20’s and the women of the Holiday House Association became known as “Bluebirds”.
The Bluebird lodge was so successful that in 1926 a dining hall was built next-door to the Lodge by Tim Walter.
The dining hall was built from prime logs gathered at the Arapahoe Watershed west of Gold Hill. The Bluebirds enjoyed horseback riding, hiking and relaxing in Gold Hill well into the 1950’s.
The Bluebird lodge and the adjacent dining hall was purchased by Frank and Barbara Finn on April 20, 1962. They remodeled the kitchen, put in a bar and opened a fantabulous gourmet restaurant called The Gold Hill Inn in the old dining hall. The restaurant has been operated by the Finn Family ever since.
Twinkle was one of Gold Hill’s most colorful and beloved residents. Twinkle, was the Finn Family burro. This grey-brown burro wandered freely through town and starred in a television commercial. She loved leftover pancakes, could drink a bottle of soda and enjoyed stopping traffic in the center of town until she received a treat. Unfortunately, Twinkle passed away at the ripe old age of 25 in 1984.