COBWEB CORNERS: The early gold mills

By Mel McFarland

       When gold was discovered at Cripple Creek, Colorado City businessmen looked all over for someone to build a mill here. There was land, manpower, and just about anything you would need for a mill. The Colorado Midland railroad was already hauling the ores down the pass, so why not leave it here?
       In 1895, when the Midland Terminal railroad reached the Cripple Creek Mining District, it was only logical to finally get a mill going in Colorado City. Barely two years later, Spencer Penrose and his partners opened the Colorado-Philadelpha mill (off present-day 31st Street), and it was so busy that expansion plans were needed. Several mills had opened in Florence, but ore was still going to Leadville, Pueblo and Denver.
       In 1901, another mill opened near Colorado City. It was owned by Winfield Scott Stratton, who was also part-owner of the newly opened Short Line railroad between here and Cripple Creek. He and some of the other Cripple Creek mine owners had felt they were not making the kind of money they ought to from the existing mills. Their mill, the Portland (near the present-day Norris-Penrose Event Center), looked down onto the city of Colorado Springs.
       The next mill to open was the Telluride (on the present-day site of Gold Hill Mesa). Its owners were trying a new process. The older methods, used all over the state, were leaving a lot of the Cripple Creek ore barely refined, even when mixed with the ores from up near Leadville. But the Telluride's new process was not successful enough, and it closed. In 1906, the site became the Golden Cycle.
       The Colorado-Philadelphia company had changed hands a couple of times by then and opened the more modern Standard Mill, just south of the older mill. Now Colorado City had three big mills. One thousand men worked in the competing mills until all but the Golden Cycle closed.