Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gold Rush

The Pikes Peak Gold Rush began in 1859 with news of the discovery of gold along Clear Creek in the mountains west of what is now Denver. In 1890 and 1891, major gold strikes were made in the Cripple Creek-Victor area on the southwest side of Pikes Peak. By 1907, my family participated in this gold fever. That is the first year my grandfather, George E. Polhill, is listed as a miner in the area. By that time, the gold production was declining, but the family lived there until the early to mid 1940s. My mother, Dorothy Polhill Robinson, graduated from Victor High School as valedictorian in 1932.

What has that got to do with my life now, or this blog? We are spending our summer at Mueller State Park, 16 miles from Victor. Sunday afternoon, we attended Gold Rush Days in Victor. This weekend event was better attended than the first special event we attended in Cripple Creek on June 15. There were only two chuck wagons that participated in the Chuck Wagon Cook-off that weekend.

The main streets were lined with booths offering many different items for sale. There was live and recorded music, a parade, bicycle races and a chili supper.

Children were trying their hand at panning for gold.

We knew the Elks Club would be open during the event. My grandfather was a member of the Elks and is buried in their plot in the local cemetery. We knew his name is listed on the wall in the lodge meeting room and wanted to see it.

Although it's no longer being used as a school, the high school my mother graduated from is still standing. Imagine climbing these stairs to get to class.

We checked out the old Isis theater, which is now a vintage clothing shop. I think I went to a movie there once when I was very young and I know my mom would have watched movies there.

The Victor Lowell Thomas Museum contains lots of information about early gold mining in the area. This picture shows how the miners got down into the mine to work. I would have found another way to earn a living.

This is how the ore cars were put into the mine shafts.

A couple of weeks ago, we were able to see the inside of the building where my grandmother, Lydia Doolin Polhill, lived when I was very young. The building now houses the offices of the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining Company (CC&V). It had once been an office building, before being converted to apartments. A window like this was in one of the two rooms in her apartment. The space had originally been used as a doctor's office. And the bathroom was down the hall!

There is a great, wide staircase leading up from street level.

Miners no longer go underground to find gold in this area. Instead, the CC&V has a massive open pit mine above the city. We drove up to the overlook to see what goes on there. It is an impressive operation.

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