Thursday, August 08, 2013

Learning About Ancestors' Lives

Since Mueller State Park is so close to where my mother and grandparents lived (John and Kylie's great grandmother and great-great grandparents), we wanted them to learn a little about that part of their history. My grandfather and uncle had both been miners in Victor and Cripple Creek, so we took them on a tour of the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine.

We went down 1,000 feet into the mountain in a metal cage. That was after we all donned helmets and Kylie put on one of the mine's canvas jackets. (She said it was very warm. That was good because she was wearing short shorts.)

Our guide Chico, who obviously has worked in the mines, led us through the tunnels on level 10 and explained the evolution of drills and other details of underground mining for gold. As we walked through the tunnels, we went in single file, staying between the rails that ore carts used to travel on.

All of us were really interested in the tour and the life of the miners. The Molly Kathleen was in operation from 1891 to 1961. (Four years after the mine closed, in 1965, John and I toured the mine on our honeymoon. The tour today is much, much better than that early one.) I am glad I don't have to work 10- to 12-hour shifts undergound in the wet and cold, hefting heavy drills and hammers and shovels and surrounded by the loud noise of drills and blasting.

The job that looked the worst was to climb up this long ladder and spend the day sitting on a board that bridged an opening, all the while drilling and digging overhead. The miner stayed up there his entire shift. And no miner dared complain. There was always someone waiting to take his job if he expressed any dissatisfaction. Double click on the photos to get a better view.

When we were back above ground, we had some lunch at the diner on the mine grounds. The food was surprisingly good. John I and Kylie had burgers, John II had grilled cheese and I had fish and chips. Everything was tasty.

John II had to smell these flowers outside the gift shop.

Both Kylie and John thought about getting miners' helmets with lights.

Next we took a ride on the Cripple Creek and Victor Railroad. When mining was at its peak, numerous trains a day came and went between the towns of the mining district, carrying passengers and shipping gold ore to mills, both in the district and in Colorado Springs and other places. This tourist train is all that is left of all the infrastructure.

The train's engineer also worked as the fireman, shoveling coal into the fire box, and as our tour guide, narrating our trip.

After the train ride, we showed Kylie and John where their great grandmother attended high school and took them to see where their great-great grandfather is buried, in the Elk's plot in Victor's Sunnyside Cemtery.

Monday evening was the only dry night of their visit, so dessert had to be smores over the campfire, didn't it? We had such a good time sitting around the fire and talking to Kylie and John. They are really growing up and becoming wonderfully interesting people to be with.


  1. What an interesting mine tour, and a good way for the kids to appreciate their heritage.

  2. I just can't imagine working underground. How brave your grandfather and uncle were! They risked their lives to support their families. And people complain about the least little thing now days.