This is the story about a town that just wouldn't die. The town question is Creede Colorado and as you will read, it had a history that resembles the real wild west.
It was back in 1860 silver was discovered was made at place that became the Alpha mine in 1869, but because the ore was very complex, the silver couldn't be extracted and so there was very little profit is mining it. People heard about this silver strike and started moving into the area anyways, but it wasn't until 1889 almost 30 years later that the place actually took off and became a boom town. That was when there was a big discovery of rich minerals in Willow Creek Canyon and from that time onward, the towns population went from 600 in 1889 to more than 10,000 residents two years later.
Now originally the town was called Willow Creek because the at the time it was just a small settlement located by Willow Creek in the Willow Creek canyon. However, after a prospector by the name Nicholas Creede made the big discovery, at his new Holy Moses Mine, the locals changed the towns name to Creede. There were just a whole bunch fo small mines in the area at first but in the first year there was 380,000 ounces of silver that was mined. Some of the grades were really high with one mine having ore that graded over one thousand ounces of silver per ton. Within a couple short years, silver production had reached 4.9 million ounces.
The largest mine in Creede was the Commodore mine. By 1912, this mine had 200 miles of underground tunnels on five different levels and went as deep as 1,400 feet. This mine produced 16 million ounces of silver. That's 549 tons of silver bullion. As the mine went deeper it started to run into water problems and so the Commodore Mine developed its own drainage tunnel. Other mines that were working in the Creede area were the Last Chance, the Happy Thought and Park Regent Mines.
Creede was a booming town with over 10,000 residents and at about the same time, the city of Denver was experiencing a reform movement against gambling clubs and saloons. So all these saloon and gambling hall owners just packed up their stuff and headed down to Creede and set up shop. This of course brought in a lot of bad fellows including the notorious Soapy Smith. Soapy became the big guy of Creede running a criminal orginization after he opened the Orleans Club. Soapy had a string of gambling joints and brothels and speculated on property that he later sold at sky high prices. Soapy also had his brother-in-law, William Sidney Light living in Creede. William was a deputy sheriff but got himself involved with Soapy's criminal activities, which made it easy for Soapy to get away with a lot. Soapy eventually ended up in Skagway during the Klondike goldrush running brothels and gambling joints.
Another fellow, Robert Ford also hung around Creede for awhile. He and his brother Charley were both members of the James–Younger Gang. Robert's the guy who shot Jesse James. Ten years after he had shot Jesse, Ford himself died of a fatal shot to the neck by Edward O'Kelley in Creede, Colorado, at only 30 years of age.
On June 5, 1892 a fire destroyed most of the business district but a lot of the town was rebuilt. Then in 1893, there was the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, or sometimes known as the Panic of 1893 that caused the price of silver to drop and a lot of the mines closed down. This caused the town to loose a lot of it's residents and business's. Creede almost became a ghost town but because there was lead and zinc in these mines, some of the larger mines were able to keep producing as these commodities were in demand during that time. Then in 1930 all mining stopped because of the 1929 market crash. However in 1934, a lot of the mines reopened when the government had a fixed price on silver. After almost 100 years of mining, Creede's total production was 60 million troy ounces, that's more than 2,000 tons of silver, 9,000 tons of lead, and 4,000 tons of zinc.
Today the old mining town of Creede has about a 300 to 400 residents and caters to the many tourists that come through the town each year. People tour the old mines to see what life was like back then. There are galleries and shops along with mine tours that cater to those who like rockhouding.