Mining History Association

Third International Mining History Conference and

Symposium on the Preservation of Mining Sites

June 5-10, 1994

Colorado School of Mines

Golden, Colorado


The 1994 Annual Conference of the Mining History Association (MHA) was incorporated into the Third International Mining History Conference and Symposium on the Preservation of Mining Sites held at the Green Center of the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, June 5-10, 1994.  The campus of the School of Mines is located where Clear Creek breaks from its scenic Rocky Mountain canyon.  Early prospectors followed the creek into the mountains where placer gold was found.  The town of Golden and its colorful main street retain the look and feel of the Old West with a few modern updates. Housing accommodations for the approximately 300 conference attendees were at a number of hotels, motels, and inns in the Golden and Lakewood areas. 

The conference/symposium program was comprehensive, covering mining history and preservation developments world-wide and well as Colorado’s rich mining heritage.  Two receptions allowed friends and colleagues, old and new, to get acquainted and share information.  The opening reception at the School of Mines celebrated the 500th birthday of Georgius Agricola (Georg Bauer, 1494-1555), author of “De re Metallica.”  The second reception was held at the Colorado Historical Society Museum in downtown Denver and provided an opportunity for attendees to see its excellent exhibits.

Field trips visited Cripple Creek, Leadville, and the Clear Creek and Gilpin County mining towns of Central City, Black Hawk, Idaho Springs, Georgetown and Silver Plume.  An optional post-conference trip to southwestern Colorado included Mesa Verde National Park, the historic mining areas of Silverton and Durango in the San Juan Mountains, and a ride on the scenic narrow gauge Durango and Silverton Railroad.  Attendees with a bent for independent travel could explore the beautiful Rocky Mountains and visit many other famous mining places during their stay.

A Snapshot of Colorado Mining History

By most standards Colorado mining developed only very recently.  It started with placer mining and a gold rush in the late 1850s, and matured into lode mining for a variety of metals during the 19th century.  Much of this early mining was located in the Front Range Mineral Belt, the roughly 70 mile long, 15 mile wide mineralized area running from Jamestown to Breckenridge at elevations between 12,000-14,000 feet.  Coal mining began in response to demand for smelter and railroad fuels.  Molybdenum and Uranium mining put the state on the map during the 20th Century.  Much has been done to advance the development of oil shale mining.  Early gold, silver, and base metal mining put some big names on the world mining map, names like Central City, Leadville, Telluride, Creede, and Cripple Creek.  The atomic and space age metals added Grand Junction, Uravan, and Climax to the list.

Colorado mining imported know-how from many other famous mining places around the world.  Californians brought knowledge of Spanish methods for mining placer ground, Cornishmen taught us how to mine narrow veins at Caribou and Silver Plume, and we learned to smelt refractory ore from experts in Saxony, Germany, Swansea, Wales, and Austin and Eureka, Nevada.  Despite being a newcomer, Colorado gave some things back to mining.  Advances in mechanical rock drills were made in hard rock mines of Colorado.  The Wilfley shaker table was invented in a place called Kokomo, Colorado.

Climax perfected block and panel caving methods that allowed that mine to become the largest underground mine in the world at one time.  Colorado miners working with the Forest Service and highway engineers pioneered high altitude revegetation methods.  Not least of the contributions of the State to mining are the graduates of the Colorado School of Mines, mining professionals who have for more than 100 years gone out to work at their special calling and serve society all over the world.



(Adapted from the Mining History News, May 1994)




Welcoming Reception and Agricola’s 500th Birthday Celebration, Green Center, Colorado School of Mines, June 5, 1994


Reception, Colorado Historical Society Museum, Denver, June 6, 1994


Georgetown Tour, June 7, 1994 (Half-Day Afternoon Tour)

Central City and Black Hawk

Option A: Idaho Springs, Edgar Mine (CSM Experimental Mine), and Georgetown Tour

Option B: Georgetown Loop Railroad to Silver Plume, Lebanon Silver Mine Tour

Option C: Downtown Georgetown Historic Tour


Walking Tour of Golden, June 8, 1994


Gamblers’ Bus to Central City Casinos, June 8, 1994


Cripple Creek Tour including the Western Museum of Mining and Industry, June 9, 1994 (Full-Day Tour, Lunch Included)


Leadville Tour including the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, June 9, 1994 (Full-Day Tour, Lunch Included)

Post-Conference Tour of Southwest, Colorado, June 11-14, 1994 (See the field trips taken during the 1999 Ouray, Colorado meeting and the 2009 Creede, Colorado meeting.)


Web Coordinator’s Note.  Unfortunately, no photographs have been located from the 1994 conference and symposium or the field trips.  Because the conference pre-dated digital photography and the extensive use of the Internet, we have used more recent photographs to attempt to recreate the 1994 field trips.  In addition, the MHA held annual conferences in Cripple Creek and Leadville in 2003 and 2007 respectively.  Links are provided to the more comprehensive field trips taken during those conferences.


Colorado Tourism


Colorado Historical Society Museum


Colorado School of Mines


Colorado School of Mines, Edgar Mine


Georgetown Loop Railroad


National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum


Western Museum of Mining and Industry


Many excellent books have been written about the history of the Clear Creek (Central City, Black Hawk, Idaho Springs, Georgetown, and Silver Plume), Cripple Creek and Victor, and Leadville mining areas.  Many have been published since the 1994 conference and symposium.  An on-line search will provide a list both current and historical titles.


The publications of the U. S. Geological Survey dating from the mid-1800s to the present, provide excellent historical and technical data on the mines of Colorado’s Front Range Mineral Belt, including the areas in the central part that were visited on the various Georgetown Tour options.  The following reports cover those areas and can be downloaded via the Internet.  In some cases, the large accompanying maps and drawings need to be downloaded separately.  All the reports are available at no cost.


Edison S. Bastin and James M. Hill, “Economic Geology of Gilpin County and adjacent parts of Clear Creek and Boulder Counties, Colorado,” U. S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 94, (Washington: GPO, 1917).  Download site for the report and the accompanying plates.   Accessed 2 September 2014.


T. S. Lovering and E. N. Goddard, “Geology and Ore Deposits of the Front Range, Colorado,” U. S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 223, (Washington: GPO, 1950).  Download site for the report and the accompanying plates.   Accessed 2 September 2014.


Robert H. Moench and Avery Ala Drake, Jr., “Economic Geology of the Idaho Springs District Clear Creek and Gilpin Counties, Colorado,” U. S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 1208, (Washington: GPO, 1966).  Download site for the report and the accompanying plates.  Accessed 2 September 2014.


Paul K. Sims, A. A. Drake, Jr., and E. W. Tooker, “Economic Geology of the Central City District, Gilpin County, Colorado,” U. S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 359, (Washington: GPO, 1963) 8-11. Download site for the report and the accompanying plates.  Accessed 2 September 2014.


Josiah E. Spurr, George H. Garry, and Sidney H. Ball, “Economic Geology of the Georgetown Quadrangle (Together with the Empire District), Colorado. With General Geology,” U. S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 63, (Washington: GPO, 1908).  Download site for the report and the accompanying plates.  Accessed 2 September 2014.


Also see the Readings and References Sections for the 2003 Cripple Creek and Victor Annual Conference and the 2007 Leadville Annual Conferences.


Robert Spude, Coordinator

Clark Spence, Program Chair

Duane Smith

Ed Pieker

Carl Miller

Lee Behrens

Ed Hunter

Karen Griss

James McDivitt

Gary Baughman

Melody Francisco

Main Street, Golden, Colorado


Colorado School of Mines with the golden dome of the Administration Building and the distinctive “M” on the hillside above Golden.


The Central City Opera House constructed in 1878 is still an active theater venue.



Miners in a stope of a Idaho Springs gold mine ca1910.


(Photos courtesy Colorado School of Mines and the Library of Congress)

1994 Mining History Association Field Trip



Central City/Black Hawk Historic District

with Nevadaville


Central City and Black Hawk are two of the best known historic mining towns in Colorado.  They are located less than an hour from Denver and one half hour from Golden. A lode gold deposit was discovered on May 5, 1859 by John H. Gregory along what is now known as Gregory Gulch, between the two towns.  In the rush that followed his discovery, prospectors located dozens of promising claims.  The area became known as “The Richest Square Mile on Earth” with Central City as its hub.  Nevadaville, located little more than a mile from Central City, became another important center of gold production.  The influx of miners to the region led to the creation of the Colorado Territory in 1861.  Because of an abundant water supply, Black Hawk became a milling and smelting center.  The first smelter in Colorado was established there in 1866.  The narrow gauge Colorado Central Railroad reached Black Hawk in 1872.  Silver was discovered near Black Hawk in 1877.


By 1900, the boom days had come to a close by but not before the substantial urban infrastructure that we see today had been constructed. Mining had its ups and downs in the 20th Century with spurts of production when the gold price was raised to $35 per ounce in 1933 and when the demand for strategic minerals increased during World War II. By the 1950s, mining was nearly over and the population of the district had decreased sharply. The estimated value of production from the Central City district is $100 million.


Like most mining towns on the frontier, Central City and Black Hawk had a legacy of gambling.  In 1990, legalized gambling was approved for Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek as a way to jump start the local economies and increase state revenue.  The Central City/Black Hawk Historic District was formed in 1961.  It led to the protection and preservation of many of the historic buildings, especially in Central City.


Unfortunately, no photographs remain from the 1994 Mining History Association tours.  Using historic and more recent photographs, the Photo Galleries attempt to reconstruct what attendees saw as they visited the various Colorado mining towns.


(Left) An overview of Central City in the late-1870s.  (Courtesy, Library of Congress)


(Above) A view of the southern end of Main Street in 2014. It is part of the National Historic District.

The Teller House Hotel on Eureka Street, ca1872, is the location of the famous Face on the Bar Room Floor.  It was painted by Herndon Davis in 1936.

The Central City Opera House, ca1878, brought many famous performers of the time to the mining camp.  Performances of the Central City Opera are still given during the summer.

A view of the northern end of Main Street at the intersection with Lawrence Street in 2014. The corner building is now a casino.

Another view of Main Street looking further south from Gregory Street in 2014. The historic facades have been preserved and most of the buildings have been repurposed.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Lodge Hall. 

The Central City Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) Lodge No. 557.



Photo Credits Mike and Pat Kaas (unless otherwise attributed)


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