Cripple Creek & Victor
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About Cripple Creek & Victor, Colorado
For many years Cripple Creek’s high valley, at an elevation of 9,494 feet (2,894 m), was considered no more important than a cattle pasture.
On the 20th of October, 1890, Robert Miller “Bob” Womack discovered a rich ore and the last great Colorado gold rush began. Thousands of prospectors flocked to the region, and before long Winfield Scott Stratton located the famous Independence lode, one of the largest gold strikes in history. In three years, the population increased from five hundred to ten thousand by 1893. Although $500 million worth of gold ore was dug from Cripple Creek, Womack died penniless on 10 August 1909.
In 1896 Cripple Creek suffered two disastrous fires. The first occurred on April 25 destroying half of the city including much of the business district. Four days later another fire destroyed much of the remaining half. The city was rebuilt in a period of a few months, most historic buildings today date back to 1896.
During the 1890s, many of the miners in the Cripple Creek area joined a miners’ union, the Western Federation of Miners (WFM). A significant strike took place in 1894, marking one of the few times in history that a sitting governor called out the national guard to protect miners from anti-union violence by forces under the control of the mine owners. By 1903, the allegiance of the state government had shifted and Governor James Peabody sent the Colorado National Guard into Cripple Creek with the goal of destroying union power in the gold camps. The WFM strike of 1903 and the governor’s response precipitated the Colorado Labor Wars, a struggle that took many lives.
Colorado voters allowed Cripple Creek to establish legalized gambling in 1991. Cripple Creek is currently more of a gambling and tourist town than a ghost town. Casinos now occupy many historic buildings. Casino gambling has been successful in bringing revenue and vitality back into the area. It also provides funding for the State Historical Fund, administered by the Colorado Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. In 2012, Colorado casinos produced over $104 million in tax revenue for these programs.
The gold-bearing area of the Cripple Creek district was the core of an ancient volcano within the central Colorado volcanic field, last active over 30 million years ago during the Oligocene.
Railroads – From 1887 to 1918, Colorado Midland Railroad operated rail service along a 222-mile line from Colorado City (now Old Colorado City), through Ute Pass and across the Continental Divide, to New Castle a coal mining town that was west of Glenwood Springs. It was the first standard gauge railroad through the Rocky Mountains. Travelers heading for Cripple Creek would get off the train at Divide and take the Hundley Stage along the toll road to the town. In 1892, passengers could also travel to Cripple Creek from Canon City via the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad, a narrow gauge line.
Cripple Creek features many events throughout the year like the Cripple Creek Ice Festival, Donkey Derby Days, the July 4 Celebration, and a Gold Camp Christmas.
Cripple Creek is home to the Butte Opera House and the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad. Cripple Creek features many events throughout the year like the Cripple Creek Ice Festival, Donkey Derby Days, the July 4 Celebration, and a Gold Camp Christmas.
The Cripple Creek Historic District received National Historic Landmark status in 1961.
Victor was founded in 1891, shortly after Winfield Scott Stratton discovered gold nearby. The town was named after the Victor Mine, which may have been named for an early settler, Victor Adams.
Victor officially became a city on July 16, 1894.
The town boomed as the surrounding Cripple Creek mining district quickly became the most productive gold mining district in Colorado.
With Cripple Creek, the mining district became the second largest gold mining district in the country and realized approximately $10 billion of mined gold in 2010 dollars.
Heavyweight boxing champion William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey was a mucker in the Portland Mine.
In August 1899 the entire business district was destroyed in a five-hour fire. The town had about 18,000 residents at the time. As a result, many of the historic buildings date to 1899, including the St. Victor Roman Catholic church, the First Baptist Church of Victor, the Victor Hotel, and several others
The workforce became heavily unionized after the Western Federation of Miners conducted a significant strike in 1894. A subsequent strike in 1903 had such an impact that it came to be called the Colorado Labor Wars. The WFM’s union hall in Victor still stands, with telltale bullet holes left intact.
“Victor Celebrates the Arts” is a judged painting contest held on Labor Day weekend, which began in 2000.
Victor also lies along the Gold Belt Tour National Scenic and Historic Byway.
The Gold Belt Byway contains many roads. Most of them are dirt roads that are narrow and run through canyons and other geological features.
Phantom Canyon Road is a scenic road that connects Cañon City and Victor. The road goes through Phantom Canyon. The road has two tunnels and three elevated bridges. It has many camp locations. It was originally the route of a railroad that connected Florence and Cripple Creek. The route contains many narrow roads and high wooden bridges. The road is unpaved.
Shelf Road is a portion of the byway going through Fourmile Canyon. It was originally used as a stagecoach road. The cliffs of the canyon near Shelf Road offer some of the best sport climbing in Colorado.
High Park Road
High Park Road was the first route to connect gold mines with the Arkansas Valley. Unlike Shelf Road and Phantom Canyon Road, it doesn’t run through a canyon and is entirely paved. High Park Road is located in area where cattle ranching takes place.
Teller County Road 1, shortened to Teller 1, was the first stagecoach route to Cripple Creek and thus it is called County Road 1. It is a paved road that offers diverse views of scenery. For example, along the road are steep mountains and rolling hills where cattle graze.
Gold Camp Road follows the former railroad from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek called the “Short Line”. In the 1920s the railroad was converted to a car toll road, eventually becoming a free public road. In 1988, tunnel #3 collapsed and was never repaired. This portion of the road is now closed to vehicular traffic and is popular with bikers and hikers, and vehicular traffic was rerouted to Old Stage Road behind The Broadmoor. In September 2013, flooding washed out a large portion of the road between tunnels one and two. It is said that the tunnels are haunted and many stories abound concerning the tunnels.
Vintage Cripple Creek Photos
Vintage Victor Photos
Enjoy our selection of Books about
Cripple Creek and Victor!
Cripple Creek as a Boom Town
Victor: The Ghosts of a Gold Rush Town