The Silver Queen of the Colorado Rockies
In 1858, two Kentucky-born men named George and David Griffith set out west in search of gold. On August 1, 1859, George discovered gold at the base of the mountain that now bears the family name. The Griffith Mining District was formed in June 1860, and soon afterwards, the town of Georgetown was formed. What started as a humble mining camp in the Kansas Territory eventually became home to thousands of people in the 1870′s-1890’s.
Georgetown is known for its wealth of silver. The discovery of a rich lode of silver ore on the ridge of Mount McClellan skyrocketed the notoriety of the town.
The town began to develop banks, stores, a local newspaper, the Barton House, saloons, jails, and churches. Georgetown had evolved into a refined community of white picket fences and came to be called “Silver Queen of the Rockies.”
In 1867, the Colorado Legislature called a special election and the County seat was moved from Idaho Springs to Georgetown.
Spirits were high in 1877 when the Colorado Central Railroad picked its way through Clear Creek Valley. The train promised supplies, tourists, investors, and visions of an easier lifestyle. However, the US government had discontinued the coinage of silver in 1873, and silver ore prices declined, making the future uncertain.
Georgetown Loop Railroad
Major silver discoveries in Leadville led the Union Pacific to build a Georgetown, Breckenridge, and Leadville extension. The engineers designed the tracks to “loop” over itself with the help of a 95 foot high bridge that spanned 300 feet of creek and track. The Georgetown Loop Railroad inspired visitors to ride, picnic at Green Lake, and dance at Pavilion Point.
In 1893, after the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, a depression set over the entire state of Colorado. Residents of Georgetown had to look for work elsewhere, forcing businesses to close, and making the population dwindle.
The Silver Queen had been battered and bruised after its brief brush with fame and fortune. However, the future of the ski industry would soon reinvent this mountain town.