COBWEB CORNERS: The Cripple Creek District, 1891
By Mel McFarland
I have gone back and read some of the old newspapers about the early days in the Cripple Creek District. Gold had been discovered there by Bob Womack, and it took him quite some time to convince people he was onto a real thing! Colorado City men were some of the first men into the camp in 1891. Today's story comes from letters they wrote to the Colorado City newspapers.
People traveling to Cripple Creek started at the Colorado Midland station at Florissant. The stage to Fremont (Cripple Creek had not been named as a town yet) carried five men. It left at noon, pulled by a six-horse team, with another six tied to the back. The 18-mile trip took three hours. There were other wagons on the road, including an express with eight horses in a dead run.
Those arriving at Fremont found some "hotels" with wood floors and beds with what passed as mattresses. But those were the deluxe accommodations. Most were forced to share tents with dirt floors. The writer of one letter tells of sleeping on the floor of a tent, filled with other men, wrapped in his own coat as a blanket. He found that his own body heat thawed the ground under him and by morning he was coated liberally with mud.
That December, there were fairly regular flurries, but the ground itself was still free of snow. According to the letter-writer, it took several days to locate a better place to spend the night. It was through the assistance of friends who had arrived, perhaps as little as a few days earlier. The hills seem to have been pretty open, without much that we would recognize as towns. Many of the groups of tents were within what we know as Cripple Creek and on the hills around.
The best jobs to be had were as builders. Several dozen structures were under construction on Bennett and Myers. The winter in the camp must have been amazing. Letters report that even on a bad day, the stagecoach from Florissant was full. The opinion was that if you were going to wait until spring, nothing was going to be left! 1 will continue to look for more of these old tales of the camp, before civilization really set in!