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5 Mine Towns You Gotta Visit. Pt 2

Telluride Colorado
It was in 1875 that a prospector by the name of John Fallon staked a claim in Marshal Basin close to what is modern day Telluride. The town was orginally called Columbia but because there were other towns that had the same name, it was decided to call this town Telluride. Telluride was one of these hard to get to towns where there was just a narrow trail and only pack mules could get you to this place. In 1881 a fellow by the name of Otto Mears opened a toll road and this allowed wagons and cargo into the town and so it was from this time on that the town started to grow.

In 1891, Otto Mears who ran the toll road into Telluride built a section of a narrow guage railroad into the town. This was cheaper transportation for passengers and freight which allowed miners and goods to flow into the town and ore to flow out to the mills and foundries elsewhere. During this time the town and area grew fast however Telluride almost went bust in the 1893 during the Silver Crisis. However Further exploration located additional gold and within a decade, a second mining boom was underway. By the end of the 1890’s there were 204 active mines, 18 mills and around 1,300 miners in the immediate area. Some fo the big mines were the Tomboy, the Smuggler Union, the Pandora and the Sheridan mines along with several smaller mines.

These mines were very lucrative and it wasn't long before there were labor strikes with miners wanting higher wages. Of course mine owners were really only interested in profits and not workers pay or comforts. Worker safety was almost non existent and many miners died on the job doing everyday tasks. In 1901 a fire broke out at the Smuggler where 22 men lost their lives.

Telluride saw it's share of wild west action in the early days. It was here in 1889 that Butch Cassidy did his very first bank robbery making off with over 24,000 dollars in hard cold cash from a local bank.

Today Telluride is kind of an upscale trendy town for skiers and the outdoorsy types who like to mountain bike and hike the hills. Many of the old town building have been restored into fancy cafe's, giftshops and eateries. Not only is the elevation of this town very high at just under 9000 feet, but a quick weekend getaway in 2024 is also high and will cost you an ounce of gold or more. I notice hotel prices online at over 400 bucks a night.

Bisbee Arizona
In the spring of 1877 Sergeant Jack Dunn, a government scout and a group of men with an Army search party from Fort Bowie are said to have staked the first claim in the region. At first this area was called Mule Gulch, but in 1880, the camp was renamed after Judge DeWitt Bisbee who was one of the financial backers of the Copper Queen Mine. Bisbee sat on one of the richest mineral deposits in the world and became famous for it's high grade copper mines. These mines produced more than 8 billion pounds of copper and nearly 3 million ounces of gold. By the early 1900s, Bisbee had a population that reached over 25,000.

At first Bisbee was rough and tough mining town much like all the rest of the old west mine camps. Drinking gambling and fighting were an everyday occurance. However in 1902 after the town became incorporated, the first ordinance passed after the city was was to ban women from saloons. By 1910 all gambling and prostitution was outlawed however there was a place called Brewery Gulch, that had saloons and shady ladies. In 1908 a fire burnt half the town down but because the mines were so busy and workers needed housing, the town was quickly rebuilt.

Bisbee saw it's share of trouble too. The first episode was in 1883 when six gunmen robbed the mining payroll that was in the general store safe. However their timing was off and there was only around 800 bucks or so. During the robbery the men killed five people, including a lawman. A posse caught up with the men and all were later tried and hung. Bisbee would go down in the history for the Bisbee Deportations. Tentions in the town started from striking miners about working conditons and pay. Bisbee policemen and some local citizens rounded up hundreds of out of town miners and deported them to New Mexico by train. This act was was declared illegal by the Federal Government. Over 200 people were arrested or indicted, including the President of the Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation. However nothing really ever became of it at the Federal or State level and only one case ever went to trial.

Today Bisbee is a tourist town. The population is around 5000. The town has really neat architecture and narrow streets with lots of steeps stairs because the town in in a steep gultch. The street are lined with bars and cafes. Lots of gift shops and other antique type shops. You can take a tour of the Queen Bee Mine. Tours run pretty much everyday. Lots of places to stay if you decide to stay more than a day. The RV park is right close to the Queen Bee Mine. Bisbee is only a 20 minute or so drive from Tombstone so it's easy to catch two historical mining towns on the same trip.

Jerome Arizona
It was in 1876, that rich copper deposits of were found in this area. What started as a tent town, Jerome was at one time the fourth largest city in Arizona with the population peaking at around 15,000 in the 1920’s. Built on top of Cleopatra Hill between Prescott and Flagstaff, this town became Known as the wickedest town in the west. With a population of almost 80 percent men, drinking, gambling and prositution was the main business's in town. In fact the first wooden structure to be built was a brothel owned by madam Nora “Butter” Brown. The first rail service cam in 1895. This rail line was called “the crookedest line in the world” from all the twists and turns that were needed because of the steep terrain.

By the early 1900's the United Verde Mine had become the leading copper producer in the Arizona with more than 800 men on the payroll. By this time Jerome had electricty and even telephones in the town. By the start of the first world war demand for copper was high and there were said to have been 22 different mining companies working around Jerome and by 1918 there was a smelter built in the area.

Jerome had it's share of fires also. In April 1894 a fire broke out in a saloon burned a dozen buildings. Then another fire on Christmas Eve in 1897 burned down four saloons,a brothel, a restaurant along with a boarding house. Another fire in September 1898 burned a large portion of the town down where at least eight people died in the blaze. Then again in May 1899 another fire started in the Leland Hotel and burned it's way through the downtown and even burned the new hospital. After the city became incorporated new codes for building were put into place and buildings were then constructed of stone and brick. The city then had a tax to be used for fire protection.

Jerome also had it's share of labor issues also. In July 1917 around 70 members of the workers union were rounded up and loaded into rail cars and shipped to California. However once there the train was forced to turn around and took the union members and dropped them off in Kingman. Some say this was a trial run for what would happen in Bisbee

Over the years the mines around Jerome produced nearly 33 million tons of copper along with untold amount of gold and other metals and were said to be worth more than $1 billion.

Today Jerome has a population of around 500. You can go and visit this twon any day of the week. Lots of neat old buildings and gift shops along with eateries and bars. Take a walking tour of the town. Even the drive through the switch backs on the road getting to this town is well worth the drive. Jerome is an easy one hour drive from Presscot so there's no excuse to not take a day trip and visit this old town.

Pioche Nevada
Pioche got it's start back in 1863 when prospector William Hamblin along with a local Indian came across some good looking samples of silver ore. These samples were assayed but because this area was so remote nothing really happened here until 1868 when a man by the name of Francois Pioche bought these claims. Because of the lack of water here, crushing ore was a difficult task but soon a small mill was set up 12 miles away where there was water. After that ore could be hauled by wagons to this mill to be crushed. Soon a water line was run to Pioche and milling and smelting could be done local. The real rich ores came from an area known as Treasure Hill which was just above the townsite. An ariel tram was built to take ore from this mine to the smelter below the town.

Pioche grew fast and and very quickly the population is said to reached 7000. The town never had any law enforcement at first so it was every man for himself. Pioche became known as the roughest, toughest mining camp in the West. Places like Tombstone, Bodie and Dodge City looked like a Sunday school picnic compared to Pioche. It is said that a good gunman could fetch 20 bucks a day in pay and mine owners hired them for protection. Local lore says 72 men were killed in gunfights before the first natural death occurred in the camp. The town has it's own “Boot Hill” Cemetery where most of the men were buried.

This is the town that built the “Million Dollar Courthouse”. The building was suppose to be around $30,000, but with corruption and kick backs, the price tag balloned to $75,000. This cost overrun along with refinancing and compound interest charges the court house ended up costing a million bucks.

Pioche is a neat little town and is about a 3 hour drive from Las Vegas. You can see a lot of the old buildings and ore bins as well as the Godbe Mill and smelter. The tram way still stands and goes right over the boot hill graveyard. There are a few bars and cafe's and places to stay. If you are traveling with and RV there are places to park and camp as well as numerous state parks and recreational areas right close by.

Dawson City
It was in 1896 that three prospectors, Tagish Charlie, Skookum Jim Mason and George Carmack found gold in Rabbit Creek, near Dawson City. After the find the creek's name was changed to Bonanza Creek and soon some other local prospectors were out staking claims in the same vicinity. However it wasn't until the following year though that the rush was on because it was then in the summer of 1897 that a steam shipp docked in to Seattle with over a ton of gold on board and all this gold had come from the Yukon. From that moment one the rush was on and over time almost 100,000 miners, propectors, farmers and anyone else who wanted to get rich set out for the Klondike gold fields to find their own fame and fortune. Dawson City had a population of around 500 in 1896 and by 1898 there was an extimated 30,000.

Of the roughly 100,000 men that set out for the Klondike, only about 30,000 actually made it all the way. Many died on this trip. Some fell off steep cliffs, others drowned rafting the rivers and rapids, some froze to death and other's even starved to death. Temperatures could drop to -50 degrees fro months at a time. Summers were long days of sunlight but bring billions of blood sucking and other biting insects out. Being so remote there was no services and when there was the prices was out of this world. Articles are written of a single egg costing a dollar. This was back still in the early 1900's when a dollar was almost a days wages. By the time most of the so called stampeders made it to Dawson all the creeks had been staked and there were few claims of any value left. Of all those who went to the Klondike, no more than 4,000 struck gold and only a few hundred became rich.

Today Dawson City is one of those old mine towns with a population of around 1500 is a place that seems to be on everyones bucket list. People travel the Alaska highway by the thousands and many take the turn just past Whitehorse Yukon to see this place. Others take tour buses from crusie ships that travel the Alaska inside passage to Skagway. People tour the gold fields and see real live mining in action on the many creeks in the area. Walk the streets of where the propectors of old once walked. Whether it's Camping in the land of midnight sun or tring your hand at gold panning, there is alwasy something for a visitor to do.