Growth of a Mining Town
The Discovery of Gold
In early January of 1859, George Andrew Jackson, a native of Glasgow, Missouri, left his winter camp at the site of present-day Golden, Colorado to go on a hunting trip. While camped out on a sandbar where Chicago Creek flows into Clear Creek, Jackson decided to pan some of the thawed gravel around his campfire. Using his drinking cup, he washed out gold nuggets. He headed back to Golden with the news of his discovery. In April 1859, he returned to Chicago Creek with a team of men and supplies. Word spread quickly about his discovery of gold and prospectors rushed to the area to seek their fortunes. Small camps of tents and shacks sprang up through the narrow valley of what is now Idaho Springs.
Love and music
Once George A. Jackson made his initial discovery of gold on January 7, 1859, he was joined later that spring by a team of men to continue the search. James A. Payne was part of this original Jackson party. Married to Hulda Payne, the couple gave birth to the first baby boy, Wesley, born in the Idaho Springs settlement in 1863. James also brought music to Idaho Springs, playing his violin at the mining camps to entertain the miners.
Banking and Business
Henry Plummer came to Idaho Springs during the Colorado gold rush of 1859 and served as the town’s first banker as well as one of the first City Council members. In the early 1880s, Plummer purchased and developed commercial properties along Miner Street such as his own business, Henry Plummer & Co., Flour, Hay, Grain & Coal. 1899.
First Mayor of Idaho Springs
Robert B. “Elder” Griswold came with Plummer to Clear Creek County where he traded his possessions for a placer mining claim on Chicago Creek. He controlled three placer bars (a “bar” is a water-borne deposit of worn rock, sand and gravel), the Illinois,the Idaho and Payne’s, which he combined to form the Idahoe Mining District (The spelling of Idahoe was later changed to Idaho). In June 1873, the Idaho Town Company was organized with fourteen members and by August 1873, Griswold was able to pay for the town of Idaho Springs, approximately 105 acres, for the price of $1.25/acre. He became Idaho Springs’ first mayor.
A Presidential Visit
President U.S. Grant posed for a photograph in front of the Beebe House Hotel on his tour of the West in 1873. Today, the Elks Lodge #607 is at this location.
Library Built by a Prize Fighter
The Carnegie Library was built in 1904 by Sidney Varney and Silas Knowles, two local brick masons. Land was donated by Mrs. Emma Plummer and she requested that Andrew Carnegie donate $10,000 and the plans for the building. Today, the Idaho Springs Public Library is one of a dwindling number of Carnegie Libraries that still function as a library. It is worth noting that Sidney Varney, a heavyweight prize fighter, once boxed against Jack Dempsey who was also from Colorado.
Clarence Marchington, the son of pioneer Sam Marchington, married Emma White in 1901. Honeymooning in St. Louis, the couple enrolled in the Guerin College of Photography. They returned to Idaho Springs in 1902 and opened a photography store at 1613 Miner Street. The Marchington Collection is now preserved and protected by the Historical Society of Idaho Springs. This image is part of the collection.
Events that Changed an Industry
The Argo Tunnel, a drainage and transportation tunnel, serviced over two dozen mines and operated from 1893 until 1943 when it tragically flooded. Four people lost their lives. It extended from Idaho Springs to Central City. During World War II all non-essential mining was banned in support of the war effort.