The Idaho Springs Batholith
Moon setting over the Apex Trail, the original route of the Apex and Gregory Wagon Road, one of three toll roads leading to the gold fields of the Gregory diggings in Central City.
The Apex and Gregory Wagon Road
By Jack Barkstrom
Sutter's Mill and the California Gold rush
The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill on the American River, just above the Sacramento River, in California, quickly infected the workers trying to complete a flour mill and sawmill with gold fever. The date was January 24, 1848. James Marshall, the discoverer of the gold, allowed, even encouraged his workers, to search for gold in their off-hours. The workers, many of them Mormon carpenters and craftsmen, known as the "Saints," did manage to complete the sawmill on March 11th, but the increasing amount of gold found in the vicinity forced the mill to shut down. No one was willing to work for wages. The flour mill remained unfinished.
For John Sutter, an immigrant from Switzerland, the discoveries came too early. California would not become a state until October 1850. While he realized the potential value of the gold, he had no legal authority to claim it; there was no claims office where an official claim could be filed. He obtained the signatures of local Indian tribes to a "treaty" leasing land in the area to Sutter and James Marshall, for three years. Richard B. Mason, military governor of California rejected the claim. The United States did not recognize the right of Indians to sell or lease their lands.
Although news of the discoveries was reported in the Californian on March 15, 1848, it was not until the fall and winter of 1848 that word spread beyond California's borders. The first outsiders to arrive were from Oregon and the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands, in August and September. Thousands of villagers from the Mexican state of Sonora walked north to arrive before year-end. Surprisingly, the gold placer deposits, comprised of grains and nuggets which had worked themselves free of veins and settled in and along stream beds, showed few signs of depletion despite the increasing activity of gold seekers. From the Coloma Valley, the location of Sutter's Mill, prospectors had traveled in all directions. They found additional deposits some 230 miles to the south, on the Tuolumne River, as well as to the north, on the Feather and Yuba rivers.
The first arrivals, who came in 1848, were followed and often displaced, by the better-remembered Forty-Niners, seemingly encouraged by President James K. Polk. In his State of the Union message delivered to Congress on December 5, 1848, he spoke of the discoveries "more extensive and valuable then was anticipated" in California. Not only were the accounts of the abundance of gold "of such extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief," they had been corroborated by the reports of government officials who had visited the mineral district and personally observed their effect. President Polk was not relying solely on what was written in the official reports. When Richard Mason sent his report in August, he included an exhibit containing 230 ounces of raw gold nuggets and gold dust. The War Department put it on display.
Among those heading to the California gold fields were miners from Lumpkin County, in northern Georgia. They had gained experience working the gold fields and mines in the area. In 1828, gold had been discovered on a ridge between the Chestatee and Etowah rivers, on lands belonging to the Cherokee Nation. The influx of people would give rise to the towns of Auraria and Dahlonega. Dahlonega would eventually become the county seat, as well as the location of a branch of the United States Mint, in 1838.
The Georgia land was just part of the lands claimed by the Cherokee, whose homelands extended from South Carolina and western North Carolina, through eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia, and into northeastern Alabama. Long under siege by the state of Georgia, the Cherokee found themselves overwhelmed by the thousands of prospectors who flooded into the area after the gold discovery. In an attempt to both control the unruly miners and to bring additional Cherokee lands under their control, the Georgia legislature forbade all mining, but also decreed that Cherokee land could be purchased by the winners of a lottery among Georgia citizens. Unoccupied lands were given away to citizens in public lotteries; winners could take possession of the land, or sell a winning ticket if they chose to. Perhaps as an acknowledgement of Indian claims, the land containing the gold was named Cherokee County. In 1832, the gold-rich area of Cherokee county around Dahlonega was designated as a new county, Lumpkin, for the Georgia governor, Wilson Lumpkin, elected in 1829.
Lewis Ralston, who was white, but married to Elizabeth Kells, the granddaughter of the Cherokee Chief Benge, managed to keep his farm in spite of the lottery. However, a gold mine he was working became part of lot number 873, drawn by a Henry Slaughter. When Ralston ignored the claim and worked the mine anyway, he was fined $6,000 when Slaughter took him to court.
The Trail of Tears
The courtroom loss seemed to parallel the losses suffered by the Cherokee, who were not just battling the state of Georgia, but the U.S. government as well. On May 24, 1830, the same day it passed the U.S. House of Representatives, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law. It authorized the removal of Indian tribes from their lands in the eastern states. If they agreed to move they would be given lands west of the Mississippi. Seeing little hope of preventing the implementation of the removal policy, in December 1835 the Cherokee leadership signed the Treaty of New Echota, formally giving up their lands.
The Removal Act impacted more than just the Cherokee. The Choctaws in Mississippi, agreed to the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek in September 1830, which gave them about 15 million acres west of the Mississippi (in southern Oklahoma). About nine thousand had emigrated by the summer of 1833. Several thousand may have died from cholera during the summers of 1832 and 1833. The Chickasaws, resident in Alabama and northeastern Mississippi, waited until 1837 and 1838 to move, but most of the six thousand members of the tribe had relocated by the end of 1838.
The population of the Creek nation in 1833 was around 22,000. When they agreed, on March 24, 1832, to cede all their lands east of the Mississippi, they were giving up 5,200,000 million acres of land in Alabama. Although still fairly large, it was just a portion of what they had once considered their homelands. They had suffered a major loss of lands in the First Creek War. Following a devastating attack on Fort Mims (Mississippi), in which some four hundred white settlers had been massacred by the British-allied Creek "Red Sticks," then-commander of the Tennessee militia, Andrew Jackson, retaliated by invading Creek territory in Alabama in 1814. He defeated the Creek force at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River in Alabama. The Creeks signed the Treaty of Fort Jackson in August 1814, ceding most of their land in Georgia and Alabama. Despite the 1832 agreement and continuing encroachment, the Creeks had remained on their lands until 1836. Tension, following a May 1836 attack on a stage carrying the U.S. Mail, allegedly by a band of some fifty or sixty Indians, led to a series of killings by the Creeks around Columbus and Tuskegee. These led to the brief Second Creek War, which was over by July, followed by military action to enforce the Removal Act.
A group of 3,000, those involved in the unrest and those captured in the vicinity, were moved west under military guard. About 700 died of accidents or disease before they arrived at Fort Gibson. A total of 18,000 had been removed by the end of 1837. As many as ten thousand may have died between 1832 and 1838, according to some estimates.
The Seminoles, in Florida, would resist removal until 1842. By that time the original 5,000 to 6,000 members had been reduced to 500, but the U.S. Army had suffered 1,500 deaths, either from disease or combat. The army had been able to capture and remove about 4,000, inflicting perhaps 1,000 to 1,500 casualties, but it had taken six years to end the Second Seminole War, which began in December 1835. Unable to force a new treaty on those who continued to resist or to negotiate a truce, the United States simply declared the war over in 1842.
The Cherokee were allowed to remain in Georgia for two years, under the terms of the New Echota Treaty, but could be forcibly removed once that time was up. Some, as far back as 1794, had recognized the inevitability of defeat and moved. A group of a thousand relocated to Arkansas in 1810-11, followed by a second larger group of two thousand in 1819. If the Arkansas settlement allowed the western Cherokees to temporarily escape the problems back in Georgia, they nevertheless came under pressure to leave Arkansas. In 1828 they signed a treaty giving up their Arkansas lands and agreed to move into Indian Territory, the northeastern part of what would become Oklahoma.
In the spring of 1834 another group of about nine hundred voluntarily left. Fifty died from cholera and the party lost a total of eighty-one before arriving at their destination. A second group, about six hundred members of the Treaty Party, (those who agreed to the terms of the New Echota Treaty), fared better, voluntarily leaving in early 1837. A third group, numbering 466 people left on March 3rd and arrived safely with no fatalities. A smaller group of 365, which left in October 1837, lost fifteen.
Some two thousand in all had left voluntarily before the Treaty's grace period expired. In May 1838, the federal government assumed a more active role. General Winfield Scott assumed command of a 7,000-man mixed force of federal soldiers, militia, and volunteers, which began the construction of thirty-one forts. The Cherokees were given a May 23rd deadline to begin vacating their lands. When they failed to comply, soldiers began rounding them up and confining them in the newly-constructed forts. Scott wasted little time preparing to move them west. A detachment of 800 was loaded onto boats at Ross's Landing (Chattanooga) on June 6th. A second group of 875 left there on June 13th. A third detachment was moved on June 17th.
Due to a lack of water and supplies, Scott postponed further removals until September. The remaining Cherokees, numbering about 13,000, won an additional concession; Secretary of War Joel Poinsett agreed to allow them to conduct the removals themselves, under the supervision of their principal chief, John Ross. The first of the departures began in late September 1838, when a group of 1,000 left. The last group left in November. By the time they arrived at their destination, in the spring of 1839, an estimated 4,000 had died on what became known as the "Trail of Tears," succumbing to measles, whooping cough, dysentery, or exhaustion.
The external pressures which had forced the Cherokee to move from their homeland continued to play out in an internal political struggle. The tribe roughly divided into three groups, the Old Settlers, those who had left before 1835 and the Treaty of New Echota; numbering about 3,000, the Treaty Party, those who left after the signing of the Treaty and before the forced removals of 1838-39, numbering about 2,000, and the National Party or New Settlers, representing the 14,000 settlers who had come in the forced removals. Fearing that the newcomers, by shear number, would assume power, the Treaty Party allied itself with the Old Settlers when they met at the Takatoka Camp Ground in June 1839. Whether the National Party felt threatened by the political maneuverings of the Treaty Party or acted out of a tribal or personal sense of betrayal, they decided to kill those who had signed the treaty. (They may have been reluctant to attack members of the Old Settlers, which included Sequoyah, who had created a written form of the Cherokee language. Sequoyah's son however, would later fall victim to the fighting.) John Ridge was stabbed to death on June 22nd. Major Ridge was shot and killed while traveling through Arkansas. Elias Boudinot, lured from his home by a small party asking for medicine, was killed with a tomahawk blow to the head.
During 1842 and 1843, members of the Treaty Party retaliated by killing those they believed responsible for the deaths of their leaders. Only in 1846, when President Polk and Congress threatened to intervene, did the parties agree to a settlement. The Treaty of 1846 provided a general amnesty, per capita payments to the Old Settlers, and a one hundred thousand dollar payment to the Treaty Party, together with compensation of $5,000 each to the families of the three men killed in 1839.
Ralston Creek - Colorado's First Gold
Despite the tension between the various political factions within the Cherokee Nation, those who stayed behind in Georgia maintained contact with friends or family who had moved into Indian Territory lands. Other Georgians, both Indian and non-Indian, had migrated on their own to the West. Jenny Wimmer and her husband were among that group, looking for work at a time when James Marshall was hiring people to construct the flour and saw mills for John Sutter. Jenny became the crew's cook. James Marshall believed the yellow flecks he saw in the mill's tailrace were gold, but he ran several simple tests to confirm that fact. He borrowed Jenny's cook pot, added vinegar and boiled the gold in it. She informed her friends back in Georgia of the find in a letter home in 1848.
The fact that gold had been discovered may not have been enough to prompt Lumpkin County miners to immediately leave for California, but the news reports confirming the size of the find may have tipped the scales. Many soon joined the other Forty-Niners. For Lewis Ralston, no doubt still bitter over the loss of his mine, gold still held an attraction. Yet he did not join the first wave of miners. Perhaps wanting to see if the gold find would play itself out, he waited until 1850 before deciding to move.
From Georgia he planned to travel through Indian Territory, where he hoped some of his wife's relatives among the re-settled Cherokee Nation would join him. The assembly point was to be the Grand Saline (great salt spring) (now Salina, Oklahoma). The party of 150 people, in a train of twenty wagons, made a brief stop at Stillwell, then, on April 22nd, started west along the Santa Fe Trail. They reached Cimarron Crossing, west of what is now Dodge City, Kansas around May 30th. They followed the Arkansas River past Bent's Fort and on to Fort Pueblo, which was reached on June 14th. By June 20th they were just north of present-day Denver, where they were forced to build a raft to cross a swollen Platte River. They followed the banks of Clear Creek (Vasquez Creek) six miles west, where a small stream emptied into Clear Creek. They decided to make camp there. Sometime the next day, June 22nd, Lewis Ralston panned the small stream and found gold. In honor of the finder, the stream was given the name Ralston's Creek. Three of the party left the next day, deciding that the find was probably not commercially viable. The rest concluded the same thing after another day of panning and broke camp on June 24th. They caught up with the other three on June 26th and by early July had reached the Oregon Trail (now in Wyoming) and turned west. Cholera took a heavy toll on the party, but the survivors reached the gold fields of California in September. Few, if any of the group, had any better luck finding gold in California than they had at Ralston's Creek, and Lewis Ralston eventually returned to Georgia.
The exact location of Lewis Ralston's 1850 gold find on Ralston Creek is unknown. The general location of the June 22nd camp is believed to have been just west of Sheridan Boulevard, south of 56th Avenue and Ralston Road, (now part of Gold Strike Park) in Arvada.
Placer Camp and Auraria
Between 1850 and 1857, few gold seekers were willing to venture onto the Plains or as far as the Rocky Mountains, home to increasingly hostile tribes of Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Lakota, Comanche, Kiowa and Plains Apache. In 1857, Colonel Edwin V. Sumner, with companies of the U.S. First Cavalry, joined forces with Major John Sedgwick to confront a force of Cheyenne on the Solomon River (in northern Kansas). Although the number killed on both sides was relatively small, the Cheyenne fled south. Among settlers and would-be prospectors, there was the impression that it was safe to explore the region.
John Beck had been a member of Lewis Ralston's 1850 party and claimed to have panned about $5 worth of gold dust at the site. On his return from California, he maintained contact with relatives in Georgia, but remained in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). In 1857, William Green (Greenbury) Russell, a half-Cherokee from Dahlonega County, Georgia, with experience gained in the mines there, decided to head for the Rockies. He planned to join forces with Beck for a new expedition to Ralston Creek.
On June 3, 1858, the party he was leading met Beck's group on the Arkansas River. Numbering about seventy, the size increased to over a hundred, when a party of Missourians joined them. As they moved north along Cherry Creek they discovered a small placer deposit, (east of present-day Castle Rock and south of Franktown, close to Castlewood Canyon State Park) which became Russellville Gulch. They reached Ralston Creek on June 25th. Gold was found again, but at twenty-five cents a day, hardly close to the amounts Beck had promised. An attempt was made to explore west along Clear Creek, but the steep canyon walls they encountered (west of Golden) dissuaded them from continuing further. (They may have been just short of present-day Central City.)
They returned to the Ralston Creek campsite, then to the Platte. Discouragement combined with fear, brought on by the hair-raising stories of angry Ute attacks, took its toll. The party began to break up, one group leaving on July 2nd, another, including John Beck, on July 4th, and a third on July 6th, when their supply wagon capsized as they were attempting to cross the Platte. The group was down to thirteen, Green Russell and twelve of the Georgians who had come with him.
The thirteen men, starting from the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte (now Confluence Park in Denver), decided to explore west along the Platte, in the direction of the mountains. They managed to travel about eight miles on July 6th before making camp. When they panned the banks of the river near the campsite, they found gold, which would yield about $10 a day per man. After a few days of panning they located another, richer deposit, providing $12 to $18 per day. At a third site, near Dry Creek or Little Dry Creek (in Littleton) they found a larger deposit of gold-bearing gravel. Deciding that this was worth an extended stay, they gave it the name Placer Camp.
The miners worked the deposits around Placer Camp through the summer, but as cooler weather arrived and the water level dropped in many of the streams, an annual occurrence, prospectors began to leave for winter quarters. Others, who were interested in making money, but not overly interested in gold, began to look around for a commercially viable site. Where the Platte and Cherry Creek joined, the departure point of the Green Russell party, two competing settlements were established. On the west side of Cherry Creek the Georgians formally set up the town of Auraria on November 1st, named after the gold-mining town back in Georgia. On the east side of Cherry Creek, a party of failed gold seekers from Lawrence, Kansas had staked out a town site they called St. Charles. Unfortunately, they left just two men to guard their property when they returned to Kansas for the winter. William H. Larimer, a newly arrived promoter, quickly persuaded the two to join his company and took control of the largely abandoned St. Charles. Possession was enough to ensure control when the Lawrence party came back. On November 22, 1858, Larimer's company formally created Denver City, named for James William Denver, the recently-resigned Territorial Governor of Kansas Territory. Green Russell returned to Georgia late in the year, but left Auraria guarded by his brother Levi and a substantial number of Georgia gold seekers. When the Georgians returned to their home state as the Civil War erupted, Denver's leaders saw an opportunity to eliminate a rival and add more land to their city. Auraria became part of Denver in 1860.
Discoveries on Clear Creek
In the last days of December 1858, a Missouri fur trader and cousin of Kit Carson, named George A. Jackson, left Auraria heading straight west, along with Jim Saunders and Tom Golden. They followed Clear Creek (Vasquez Fork) into the narrow canyon beyond Golden, (the same canyon which had stopped Green Russell's party), eventually be known more commonly as "Toughcuss." Jackson was left alone with his dogs when Saunders and Golden went after an elk herd. Exploring the north fork, he became discouraged by the deep drifts, the icy water, the frozen streambed, and most of all, by the lack of gold. He decided to try the south fork, and found some temporary relief from the cold in a hot mineral springs. His spirits rose again after he killed a mountain sheep, a replacement for the deer meat stolen earlier by a mountain lion. On January 5, 1859, on a sandbar, he found gold.
Jackson worked the sandbar for several days, accumulating about $10 worth of gold, comprised of a single nugget and a small vial of dust. He left few visible signs of his discovery - he filled the hole he'd dug with charcoal, and a lodge-pole pine west of the sandbar was topped, its distance from the hole marked off as being sixty-seven steps on his map. The only other landmark was a small stream which entered Clear Creek above the sandbar. He then walked down Clear Creek to wait out the winter. Short of money when he was ready to return, he found a party of twenty-two men from Chicago who had enough money and supplies to outfit an expedition (and defend) any claim. Leaving in mid-April, they arrived at the sandbar on May 1st. In six days the sandbar produced $1,900 worth of gold. The site would become Idaho Springs, while the small stream would be named Chicago Creek, for the members of the party.
Severe weather conditions, and the Idaho Springs discovery, had cut short George Jackson's exploration of the north fork of Clear Creek. Further exploration would be left to another Georgian, John H. Gregory, He had left Georgia in August of 1858, not as a result of the gold found in Colorado on the South Platte, but in response to reports of a gold discovery at Barkerville, in New Caledonia (now British Columbia), on the Fraser River in Canada. The news had begun circulating in California in March 1858, prompting an exodus of some 24,000 would-be miners from California alone. By November and December however, most were back in California or on their way back. Apart from a restrictive government policy which required a mining license and limited supplies to 400 pounds, the Fraser River had overflowed its banks and covered potentially gold-rich sandbars and side channels. With temperatures dropping in September and October, it still showed no signs of receding. By November it had become clear that mining would have to wait until the following spring. Three thousand decided to stay.
John Gregory covered some of the costs of his Fraser River trip by driving a government team from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Laramie. He arrived there before winter set in, and found work around the army post to keep him busy over the next several months. He may have learned of Green Russell's discoveries before he arrived at the fort, but stories circulating in Laramie during the winter may have provided more detail - about the extent of the placers and the level of activity on the Platte. When he left Laramie in February 1859, he headed, not for the Fraser River - he had given up on the idea of prospecting in the north country - but south. His aim was not the already-located gold placers on the Platte. As an experienced miner, a non-Indian who had found gold in 1828 in Georgia, and located another rich strike in California in 1849, he knew that the problem was not so much in finding gold, but in staking and holding a claim against an army of prospectors only too willing to claim gold already discovered by others. Better to search areas which had yet to attract competitors, than to work sites which had been picked clean. As he moved south along the Front Range, he wanted to check as many of the streams coming out of the Rockies between Laramie and Colorado Springs as he could.
What seemed like a good plan in the relative warmth of Fort Laramie may have looked unrealistic as Gregory ran into snow drifts and freezing conditions trying to follow the mountain streams to their source in February and March. A more efficient search method might be the opinions, even secrets, other miners were willing to disclose coming back from trips into the mountains. One place gold seekers would have gathered was Arapahoe Bar (near McIntyre Road and 44th street in Golden) on the east end of the Table Tops and some two miles east of where Clear Creek emerges from the canyon (Highway 93). According to one account Gregory talked to George Jackson after Jackson had made his discovery on the south fork and Jackson had invited him to join him. Gregory agreed. Whether he asked Gregory to accompany him is unknown. He may have planned to search other areas before joining Jackson, but Jackson did give him directions to the site. He may or may not have revealed the fact that he had already discovered gold. He had gone to great lengths to conceal any evidence of his activity at the campsite.
Gregory, at some point, headed up Clear Creek. Instead of taking the south fork toward Jackson's diggings, he took the north fork. He may have misunderstood Jackson's directions, or he may have found something in the gravel of the north branch which looked more promising. He traveled further up the branch, until he was about fourteen miles above Golden. Finding some indication of gold on one of the stream banks, he moved up a gulch for a closer look. The snow-covered ground did not make his task easier. Nevertheless, he dug out samples as he climbed the ravine, until he reached an area where the color tapered off. Believing he had stumbled on a fairly large field, he probably moved around the side of the hill to gauge its size. What he had found was largely "burnt" quartz interspersed with small but visible veins of gold, similar, he later said, to quartz found at the Georgia mines he had worked in. Someone later called it "The Richest Square Mile on Earth."
A snowstorm interrupted his work. When it was over he decided to head back down the canyon for supplies. If the storm had come close to finishing him off, it did provide one benefit. It covered up any evidence that he had been poking around the hill looking for something. He had already done enough exploration to convince himself of what he had found. While at Arapahoe Bar in April, he met David K. Wall, a miner from California, Wilkes Defrees, of South Bend, Indiana, and William Ziegler, of Missouri. who were willing to advance supplies and join him in working the discovery. Leaving on May 1st, they reached the site on May 6th, 1859. John Gregory climbed a little way up the hill in the area he had climbed before, filled his pan with dirt, and found gold when he panned it in the cold waters of the stream. Claims were quickly filed on what became known as the Gregory Lode, part of Gregory Gulch and what became known as the Gregory Diggings.
John Gregory could not stake out claims for the entire hillside or area and other miners soon arrived. Just a month later, on June 8th, over 2,000 miners attended a mass meeting held at the Gregory Diggings. The log cabins the miners constructed on the hill became known as Mountain City. Mountain City disappeared in March 1864, when the City of Black Hawk was officially incorporated. Many of the newly arrived residents came from Rock Island, Illinois and Black Hawk had been the Chief of the Sac and Fox tribes in the Black Hawk War of 1832. The name had first appeared at the Gregory Diggings when the firm of Lee, Judd & Lee, known as the Black Hawk Company, ordered quartz milling equipment manufactured by the Black Hawk Quartz Mill Company of Rock Island, Illinois. The equipment arrived on May 5, 1860 and the site of the new mill became known as Black Hawk Point. The Black Hawk Point post office followed, when it was established on December 6, 1862.
Central City, just above Black Hawk, may have taken its name from its relative location on the hill, between Mountain City (Black Hawk), at the bottom of the hill, and Nevada City or Nevadaville, above it. That was the suggestion of William N. Byers, founder of the Rocky Mountain News, who visited the area in June 1859. Another story is that the owners of a mining supply store put a sign on their store entrance, saying "Central City Store." Nevada established a post office on January 12, 1861. Central City became more of a commercial district. Where Black Hawk would continue to serve as an industrial complex of sorts, processing the ore coming out of the mines, Central City became the location for the best stores and hotels, as well as theatres and saloons.
Those who arrived early, with enough experience, were able to quickly profit from Gregory's find. Green Russell, the prospector who had started the Colorado Gold Rush a year earlier, arrived on June 1st with a party of 170 men. Realizing that the area around Gregory Gulch was already being worked, he looked for an unclaimed area. He found it beyond the south ridge, along a stream. The new claim soon was taking in some $35,000 a week. Yet, there were indications, as the summer wore on, that the gold available to the miners was running out. By the end of August, 1859, many of the sluices used to transport dirt down the hillside were idle and shafts were no longer being worked Miners had left, abandoning the cabins built when they first arrived. Ominously, or at least fortuitously, John Gregory had sold his two claims in July in return for $21,000, to be paid in weekly installments of $500.
There was still plenty of gold. But the "blossom" or "gossan" type, gold which had worked itself free of the quartz or other minerals to be deposited downhill or downstream in placers was disappearing. What was left could only be extracted with heavy equipment and methods only commercial mining companies could afford. Where the prospector could easily shovel loose sand and gravel into a pan or sluice-box, relying on gravity and water to locate gold already freed from a larger vein, commercial mining operations began with the separation process. Large chunks and rocks of quartz were crushed to a fine sand using heavy stones or iron crushers. The procedure could extract much more gold, partly because of the volume of material processed. Commercial operations also relied more on chemistry, particularly the chemical properties of mercury, to extract gold from the ore. Chemical processing picked up small, even microscopic, particles which would not have been visible to the prospector. Mercury was said to have an affinity for gold, which meant that it attached itself to gold but not to other minerals. Since gold and mercury are very heavy, the amalgam was easy to collect and, once collected, separated, usually by heating. The mercury vaporized, leaving the gold. Prospectors used mercury as well, but commercial operations used it more efficiently.
The rock crushers used, beginning in the summer of 1859, may have been Spanish arastras, used in Mexican mining operations. They were circular stone troughs, from 10 to 12 feet across, around which heavy, boulder-size stones, called mullers were dragged. The quartz rock and gravel was crushed under the weight of the stones as the mullers moved around the trough. A major disadvantage was that they were extremely slow.
Much faster were the stamp mills, made of heavy iron, which worked like pistons, rising when a revolving horizontal beam lifted them, and falling as the beam turned, pulverizing the rock underneath them. The quartz milling equipment ordered from the Rock Island manufacturer was of this type. Some sixty mills and thirty arastras were in operation by July 1860. By 1863, the number of quartz mills had grown to 132.
As the size of the mining operations grew, demand for supplies and transport increased. Suppliers began using several different routes. A northern route, out of Golden, started in the summer of 1859, followed Ralston Creek, then went over Michigan Hill and Dory Hill. Another route, through Golden Gate Canyon (Highway 46), had been graded by June 1860. Responsibility for the road was assumed by the Golden Gate and Gregory Road Company, organized in August 1862. The southern road ran through Mount Vernon Canyon (now I-70, north of Morrison).
The "Apex and Gregory Wagon Road Company" was organized on October 11, 1861. One of the southern routes, it ran from the settlement of Apex up Apex Gulch to the Gregory Diggings. It continued in operation until 1878-79, when floods destroyed part of the road. The Jefferson County Commissioners, in 1880, decided that only the more heavily used Mount Vernon Canyon Road was worth saving. They purchased and repaired it, then declared it a free public right-of-way. The Apex and Gregory Wagon Road was abandoned.
Reports differed as to the fate of John Gregory himself. Some said that he disappeared completely, once he sold his claims. Others reported him going back to Georgia, but then returning to operate a quartz mill, which he later sold for $42,000, after which he disappeared for good. During its operation, he was clearing $200 a day. There were other reports of the $200-a-day figure, but that it came from his work as a mineral guide, a professional prospector/geologist hired to locate gold fields as profitable as those of Black Hawk. He had owned a house at Gregory Point, which he sold in March 1860.
Suggestions for further reading.
Roger Baker, "Black Hawk: The Rise and Fall of a Colorado Mill Town," Black Hawk Publishing, (Central City, CO 2004).
Robert L. Brown, "Central City and Gilpin County: Then and Now," The Caxton Printers, Ltd., (Caldwell, ID 1994).
David Dary, "The Oregon Trail: An American Saga," Alfred A. Knopf, (New York 2004).
Phyllis Flanders Dorset, "The Story of Colorado's Gold & Silver Rushes" (originally published as "The New Eldorado"), Barnes & Noble Books, (New York 1994).
Alan Granruth, "Mining Gold to Mining Wallets: Central City, Colorado 1859-1999," Gilpin Historical Society, (Black Hawk, CO 2000).
Alan Granruth, "The Little Kingdom of Gilpin: Gilpin County, Colorado," Gilpin Historical Society, (Black Hawk, CO 2000).
J. S. Holliday, "Rush for Riches: Gold Fever and the Making of California," Oakland Museum of California and the University of California, (Berkeley 1999).
William Weber Johnson, "The Forty-Niners," Time-Life Books, (New York 1974).
Lois Cunniff Lindstrom, "First Gold: Lewis Ralston and Arvada June 22, 1850," Arvada Heritage Printers, (Arvada, Colorado 1992).
William W. McNeill, "Gathering Gold: How They Did It In Colorado's First Gold Camp - The Central City - Black Hawk District," (Arvada, Colorado 1974).
Ben H. Parker, Jr., "Gold Panning and Placering in Colorado: How and Where," Colorado Geological Survey, Department of Natural Resources, (Denver, CO 1992).
Theda Perdue and Michael D. Green, "The Cherokee Nation and The Trail of Tears," Penguin Group, (New York 2007).
Malcolm J. Rohrbough, "Days of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the American Nation," University of California Press, (Berkeley, CA 1997).
Anthony F. C. Wallace, "The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and the Indians," Hill and Wang, (New York 1993).
Elliott West, "The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers & the Rush to Colorado," University Press of Kansas, (Lawrence, KS 1998).