Mining History Association

18th Annual Conference, June 7-10, 2007

National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum

Leadville, Colorado


The 18th Annual Conference of the Mining History Association was held in Leadville, Colorado, June 7-10, 2007.  This was the Association’s second conference in Leadville which, at its peak, was one of the largest silver camps in the world.  The value of the cumulative production from the Leadville mines is estimated to be $512,000,000 (through 1967) or over $5 billion in current U. S. dollars.  The venue for the Conference was the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum.  It honors the memory of men and women who pioneered the discovery, development and processing of our Nation’s mineral resources.  New Hall of Fame inductees are selected annually.  The Mining Museum contains a variety of exhibits including a walk-through replica of an underground mine of the type found in Leadville, dioramas illustrating many types of mining, and an excellent collection of spectacular mineral specimens including gold from the famous Little Jonny Mine owned by John J. and “the Unsinkable” Molly Brown.  The convention and catering facilities at the Hall of Fame provided everything needed for a successful conference.

In 1860 gold prospectors hit pay dirt in California Gulch on the south side of modern-day Leadville.  They worked their way up the gulch and founded Oro City.  Lode mining for gold followed the placer mining.  By 1874 the gold was running out but the heavy grey mineral in the creek beds was determined to be Cerrusite, a rich silver-bearing lead ore mineral.  A number of silver mines were discovered in the early 1870’s on Iron Hill and Carbonate Hill, east of town.  The 1878 discovery of the rich silver lode at the Little Pittsburgh Mine on Fryer Hill northeast of downtown helped kick the silver rush into high gear.    It provided Horace A. W. Tabor with the start of his fortune and his subsequent success at the Matchless Mine.   By 1880, the population of Leadville had jumped to 40,000. 

For over 100 years, Leadville was one of the major U. S. mining districts.  The last mine, the American Smelting and Refining Company‘s (ASARCO) Black Cloud Mine, closed in 1999.  Fortunately, several environmental remediation projects have spared many of the historic mine buildings scattered throughout the district.  The 12.5 mile long Mineral Belt Trail was created as part of the remediation effort.  It utilizes several old railroad rights-of-way and provides an easy way for hikers, bikers, and cross-country skiers to visit several parts of the historic mining area.

In addition to the Browns and the Tabors, many other famous and infamous people have connections to Leadville.  Meyer Guggenheim invested in the A. Y. and Minnie Mines in California Gulch and amassed a fortune that grew into ASARCO. David May got his start in Leadville and went on to found the May Company department stores.  They later merged into Federated Department Stores and more recently into Macys.  The notorious characters included John Henry “Doc” Holliday and his wife “Big Nose Kate.”  The outlaw, Jessie James, con man “Soapy” Smith, and lawman, Bat Masterson, also passed through Leadville.  Many of the other less-famous and less-infamous found eternal rest in Leadville’s Evergreen Cemetery.  Established in 1879, it has sections for various faiths as well as many fraternal orders.

The MHA Tour of the Leadville Mines was led by Colorado mining expert Ed Raines.  It included many of the stops along Leadville’s “Route of the Silver Kings.”  There was plenty of time for the MHAers to take the Walking Tour of Leadville and make a visit to the Matchless Mine (see the Photo Gallery link below).  An updated version of both the walking tour and the “Silver Kings” driving tour are in the Leadville Heritage Guide available at the Leadville Visitors Center.

There are plenty of other mining-related sights to visit in the area.  The Healey House and Dexter Cabin are museums operated by the Colorado Historical Society.  The house was built in 1878 by August R. Meyer, a mining engineer, who also built the first reduction plant and ore sampling works in Leadville.  The adjacent log cabin, modest-looking on the outside but plush on the inside, was owned by James V. Dexter a businessman and mining investor.  The Heritage Museum, housed in the old Leadville Carnegie Library, includes a replica of the huge 1896 Ice Palace, among its many exhibits and artifacts.

Tours are also available at the 1879 Tabor Opera House, still a venue for performances (see the photos in the Photo Gallery below).  The Tabor Home shared by H. A. W. and his first wife Augusta until 1881, is worth a visit.

Those arriving in Denver and driving to Leadville passed through the heart of the Colorado Front Range mining area.  Its legendary mining towns include Central City, Blackhawk, Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Breckenridge, Frisco, Climax, and Gilman, in addition to Leadville.  Many of the “hills” that once were dotted with mines have since sprouted ski resorts.  The Georgetown Loop Railroad lets modern-day tourists once again experience the thrill of miners heading for the “diggings.” Casinos have even returned to a few mining towns.

Whether they had visited Leadville before or were first-timers, the MHAers all agreed that there is always plenty to see and do and learn in this historic mining town.

National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, Leadville, Colorado.


Historic Tabor Grand AKA the Vendome Hotel on Harrison Street.


View of Mt. Massive from the mining area.


Historic miners’ watering spots on Leadville’s notorious 2nd Street.


(Photo Credits: Johnny Johnsson and Mike Kaas.)

(Adapted from the December 2006 and the March 2007 Mining History News)


Oral History Workshop, Barbara Sommer, National Mining Hall of Fame, June 7, 2007

“The Leadville Silver Deposits,” Ed Raines, National Mining Hall of Fame, June 9, 2007

SOCIAL EVENTS (See Photo Gallery Below)

Welcoming Reception, National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, June 7, 2008

“An Evening with Horace Tabor,” Featuring Duane Smith, Tabor Opera House, June 7, 2007

Awards Banquet, National Mining Hall of Fame, June 8, 2007

“All Roads Lead to Leadville,” Stan Dempsey

Presidential Luncheon, National Mining Hall of Fame, June 9, 2007


Matchless Mine (On Your Own), June 8, 2007

Leadville Mines Tour, June 10, 2007

Leadville Mines Tour Update, 2014



Colorado Tourism Office

Leadville, Lake County Chamber of Commerce

Lake County, Colorado Visitors’ Center

National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum

Mineral Belt Trail 


Samuel F. Emmons, W. F. Hillebrand, and Antony Guyard, “Geology and Mining Industry of Leadville, Colorado, with Atlas, “ U. S. Geological Survey, Monograph 12, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1886).

G. F. Loughlin, “Guide to Ore in the Leadville District, Colorado,” U. S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 779, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1826). 

Samuel F. Emmons, John D. Irving, and G. F. Loughlin, “Geology and Ore Deposits of the Leadville Mining District, Colorado,” U. S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 148, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1827).

Caroline Bancroft, “Tabor’s Matchless Mine and Lusty Leadville,” (Boulder: Johnson Publishing Company, 1964).

Ogden Tweto, “Leadville District, Colorado,” Ore Deposits of the United

States, 1933-1967  (John D. Ridge, ed.), (New York, American Institute of Mining,

Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME), 1968), 681-705.

Edwin Blair and E. Richard Churchill, “Everybody Came to Leadville,” (Leadville, CO: Timberline Books, 1971).

Don L. Griswold and Jean Harvey Griswold, “History of Leadville and Lake County, Colorado,” (Denver: Colorado Historical Society in cooperation with the University Press of Colorado, 1996).

Duane A. Smith and John Moriarty, “The Ballad of Baby Doe: I Shall Walk Beside My Love,” (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2002).

Gillian Klucas, “Leadville: The Struggle to Revive an American Town,” (Washington: Island Press/Shearwater Books, 2004).

Glenn R. Scott, “Historic Trail Map of the Leadville 1º x 2º Quadrangle, Central Colorado,” U. S. Geological Survey, Scientific Investigations Map 2820, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 2004).



Ed Raines

Duane Smith



The Tabor Opera House on Harrison Street is still a performance and concert venue.

H. A. W. Tabor (AKA reenactor, Duane Smith) and Gay Smith walking to “his” opera house.

(Above)  MHAers enjoying “An Evening with Horace Tabor” featuring Duane Smith, in the Tabor Opera House.




(Left)  Close-up of Tabor/Smith spinning tall tales of the Leadville’s Silver Boom Days.

Jim McBride, MHA Chairman (left), congratulates Ed Raines (right) for his leadership in organizing the Leadville Conference.

Bob Weldin (right) presents the Cherry Hunter Award to Ted Mullings (left).

Christine Bradley (left), Barbara Leyendecker (center, wife of Liston Leyendecker, deceased), and Duane Smith (right) are recipients of the Clark Spence Award.

Ed Raines (left) presents the MHA Distinguished Service Award to Bob Sorgenfrei, outgoing MHA Membership Chairman (right).

Photo Credits: Johnny Johnsson, Mike Kaas, Mark Langenfeld, and Mark Vendl

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