Leadville, Colorado – History of Silver and fading glory

History when Silver was King (the Colorado Silver Rush)

Leadville was once a wild town, with an illustrious reputation. For a time, it rubbed shoulders with San Fransisco and similar cultural cities before the Silver Panic of 1893.  When the price dropped from 83 cents per silver ounce down to 62 cents per ounce, a run on the banks started. Horace Tabor was one of the most famous Silver Barons who lost everything in the crash. His fortune started out in the mercantile business but quickly switched to mining once the money started coming – and in his case, it came in torrents!

Gold was first found in the California Gulch in 1859.  A camp called Oro City sprung up, but the strike quickly played out, and the population dwindled accordingly. However, in 1874 the dark sand that hindered gold mining was found to have high silver content. That discovery effectively turned scrap heaps, originally viewed as waste, into a valuable commodity.


Silver Mine Processing Building

Mountain Backdrop for Silver Mine

Silver or Gold Mine Building and Tailings

2016 Adventure

Now the mines stand abandoned at the high altitude – many are accessible only by 4-wheel drive. Back in the day, the valleys would have rang with the sound of work taking place. Silence descended in the mining district – the former activity fallen silent with only the wind as company.



A Town Springs to Life

Silver paid for lovely houses, schools and hospitals and an impressive business district replete with a famous opera house – named for its owner, Horace Tabor.

Main Street

Harrison Street, Leadville

Old Mine Leadville

Trestle tracks

Museum in Leadville

Harp in the Healy House

But all good things come to an end, and the end of the line for several of the less fortunate citizens was the Paupers Field – one of the most atmospheric (read the spookiest cemetery) I have ever been in.


Grave Markers

Paupers Field, Evergreen Cemetery, Leadville

My upcoming book, The BEATEN TERRITORY takes place both in Denver and along the notorious State Street (now 2nd Street)