COBWEB CORNERS: The treasure train
By Mel McFarland
The biggest treasure train that ever left the Cripple Creek District, if not any mining camp in the world, started from the Cresson mine in early January 1914. Six carloads of gold ore were in the shipment, all from a fabulously rich treasure chamber known as a “Vug” or geode in the Cresson mine. While the exact figures were not given out, the value was estimated at $10,000 to $12,000 per ton, with a total worth of about $2,000,000. (For today's value, multiply that by a thousand!) Armed guards accompanied the train from Cripple Creek to the Globe Refining Mill in Denver.
At Divide, M.L. Phelps, general superintendent of the Colorado Midland, boarded the train and assumed personal charge of it. The train continued right through Colorado City without stopping. Arriving at Colorado Springs that evening, the train was transferred to the Colorado and Southern at the Santa Fe station. Although the train was a special and had right of way over all other freight shipments, the Midland ran it slower than average freights in view of the great value represented. What would normally have been a two-hour trip took almost four hours.
A few days later, the Cresson company sent out a second train with carloads of the geode ore, although the value was considerably less than the first. This shipment went to Colorado City's Golden Cycle mill. The average value was about $300 to the ton, or $8,000 to the car.
Miners had drilled into the geode while working in an area that had not proved to be very valuable. Blowing into the rock, when the dust cleared, all they could see were crystals and almost pure gold and silver. The area was estimated to be a ball about thirty feet in diameter. The miners who made the discovery were sworn to secrecy, and a crew immediately fashioned a steel door to the area. Guards were posted, and the treasure was removed before any word of the event was made public.
A sample of the gold was exhibited in the district and in Colorado Springs. For a time, a piece of the gold was on display at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.
The Cresson geode was probably the richest single find in the district until modern times, when workers found high concentrations of gold, also near the Cresson mine.