Gilpin County Colorado Gold Production

Posted July 16, 2009 in Gold Mining


Click here for the Principle Gold Producing Districts of the United States Index

Gilpin County, on the east slope of the Front Range in north-central Colorado about 30 miles west of Denver, ranks second among the counties of Colorado in gold production. Through 1959 it produced, in round numbers, 4,255,000 ounces of gold valued at $89,785,000. Of this production, 4,207,000 ounces was lode gold and 47,900 ounces was placer gold.

Some of the first significant gold discoveries in Colorado were in Gilpin County. In May 1859, John H. Gregory found a rich and easily worked, oxidized, gold-bearing lode at the Gregory diggings near Blackhawk. Early in June 1859, W. Green Russell discovered gold placers and decomposed outcrops of lodes in what is now called Russell Gulch. By July 1, 1859, about 100 sluices were at work in the vicinity of Gregory's discovery, and toward the end of September about 890 men were at work in Russell Gulch. Some lodes averaged $100 a day for months at a time and yields as large as $400 for a day's work were not uncommon.

In June 1859 the miners at the Gregory diggings met and adopted resolutions denning the boundaries of the district (now known as the Central City district) and the conditions under which claims could be taken and held. In July a provisional local government was formed at the Gregory diggings.

All the veins of the region were oxidized and gold bearing at the surface, and the decomposed ores could be easily and cheaply mined and treated in sluices and crude stamp mills. The underlying sulfide ores, which commonly contained silver and base metals as well as gold, were not amenable to such simple treatment, and many mines were closed when the oxidized ore gave way to sulfide ores at depths of 40 to 100 feet. Stamp mills saved only about one-fourth of the gold and wasted all the other metals in the sulfide ores (Henderson, 1926, p. 30).

In 1868, the Hill matting smelter at Blackhawk opened and the first matte was shipped that same year. The successful smelting of ores stimulated the mining industry and made possible a long period of development and production from lodes. In 1872, additional impetus was given to mining in Gilpin County when the Colorado Central (later the Colorado and Southern) Railway was completed from Denver to Blackhawk. Records show that Gilpin County had a steady output of gold from 1859 through 1908, a peak production valued at $3,237,346 being recorded in 1871 (Henderson, 1926, p. 122). From 1909, output gradually declined and in 1920 it dropped below $100,000 for the first time since gold was discovered in the county. Production rose in the late 1920's and during the depression in the early 1930's, and after the price of gold was raised in 1934 there was a marked increase in output. Since 1944, mining in the county has been on a reduced and fluctuating scale.

There are many small mining camps in the county but they are in general grouped into two districts referred to as the Northern Gilpin district and the Central City district.

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Related Towns:

Black Hawk Central City Nevadaville Russell Gulch

Did You Know.......

A mine is a hole in the ground, owned by a liar.
-Mark Twain


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