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COBWEB CORNERS: Former gold mill turns into a 'gold mine'

By Mel McFarland

       The Westside Pioneer news office sits not far from several former gold mills. The biggest and best known was the Golden Cycle, which continued until the late 1940s. You can still see its tall smokestack, now part of the Gold Mill Mesa subdivision.
       All the mills have stories. This tale is about the Portland Mill, which was located where the Norris-Penrose Event Center is today. The mill closed before 1920, and in the 1930s, a few curious men, with the permission of the property's land owners, decided to explore its old railroad yard. The one-time Short Line railroad had gone from there to Cripple Creek. By the 1930s, most of that line had been turned into the Corley Mountain Highway (later the Gold Camp Road), but not the part at the Portland.
       In digging through the cinders of the former railyard, the men collected a pickup-truckload of pretty ordinary rock. They took it over to the Golden Cycle Mill, just over the hill. They got $10 for the load! In 1935 that was a week's wages on a good job.
       The men then went back and refilled the truck and again received $10. After a little over a week, they had made over $400. This was gold ore that had fallen off railroad cars as they were switched in the yard. When the trains would leave cars for the Portland, the bouncing around would deposit rocks beside the rails. It had been about 20 years since the mill had been used, but until that point no one had checked this area.
       According to reports, the total income from this cleanup operation eventually totaled just over $1,000. In 1935 money, that was pretty spectacular.
       The Portland was not the only spot where such searches took place. Another story tells about the gold that would accumulate in the flue that ran from the Golden Cycle mill to its big chimney. The flue was tall enough to walk in. The mill owners regularly sent in a crew with brooms to sweep out the collected dust. I understand they collected several hundred dollars worth of gold, every cleaning.

(Posted 4/20/16; Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

       Editor's note: Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since 2004. To see past columns, go to the Pioneer's Archives. Either look for desired articles under the Cobweb Corners category for any year, or search by keywords in the Find box.

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