The Great Divide Magazine, May 1892.
“If you have a cut or vain in the bowels of the earth, we have the sucker.”
Below is the text of a great article on early Creede, Colorado published in the May 1892 issue of The Great Divide, a magazine published in Denver.
Various phases of Life in Colorado’s New Silver City.
[In the following article on Creede Camp we get the results of the observations of many men who have visited the new town. These opinions are presented in narrative form, in order that the reader may have a connected story of Creede life, and these opinions are, to the best of our knowledge, the observations of truthful correspondents. The illustrations are from the photo–negatives made on the spot, especially for THE GREAT DIVIDE, by the well-known Denver photographers, W. H. Jackson and Co., And give actual views and occurrences, instead of being merely artistic fancies. — EDITOR.]————
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A FEW months ago Creede was so thoroughly unknown that the legislators and geographers overlooked it entirely in cutting up the state into counties. Now there are 8,000 people there, blowing bubbles of fortune and chasing them over the three-mile strip of Mountain Gulch.Five months ago Creede Camp had scarcely a population of 500. Willow Creek tumbled and roared down its narrow bed between the great cañon walls rising a thousand feet in the air, almost from its very banks, its waters swishing against logs and boulders in their course to the Rio Grande. To–day the foundations of a thousand houses encroach upon the channel of the stream, and all winter did its frozen surface furnish a resting–place for saloons and gambling–houses.Buildings have been forced into every nook or cranny in the rock walls, and no coign of vantage has been lost sight of.The precious metal in the rockribs of Bachelor, Mammoth and Campbell Mountains has drawn to Creede the human bee in every guise— the prospector, who has grown gray in his search for a “strike”; gamblers, with roulette wheels and other implements; merchants, who have grown tired of the sloth and dullness of the San Luis Valley; frail women, in search of new fields of excitement and gain; bunco steerers, thimble riggers, the bad man with his gun and all the other strange and dangerous elements that go to make up the population of a booming Colorado mining town.With the rush came the struggle for lots. There were the hillside and the creek bottom to choose from, but surveys and titles there were none. The first building up made a street, the stake took the place of a paper title, and the gun or the Dirk–knife was more powerful in holding a claim than a whole line of transfers would have been. “I claim this lot for building purposes,” was the notice Johnnie, the tough, Jenny, the adventurous, or Jones, the merchant, served on the world when he or she had picked out a place for a house. Attempts at stake–jumping were exciting and sometimes caused bloodshed.A Mr. and Mrs. Osgood were among the first arrivals. Mrs. Osgood was the business and of the concern, and she opened a hotel and staked out a number of lots. Then she went back to the valley town to rest, leaving her husband in charge. Hardly was she out of sight when Jack Pughe, the bad man of Creede, seeing in one of the lots an eligible site for a saloon, jumped it. While he held possession with his gun, two of his lieutenants hustled around, and by midnight lumber from the sawmill far below was holding the lot for him.Mrs. Osgood heard that her rights of property were in danger, and flew back on the next train. In the cold and snow she held the jumper at bay while a carpenter put up her building. “I’ll stand here till I’m frozen stiff,” she said, “but I’ll hold my lot. I ain’t afraid of Jack Pughe.” A few weeks later Mrs. Osgood sold her lot for $10,000.Just now everybody is making money, and each branch of the boom is booming.————
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“Oh, hello, the little joker—that’s the time you got me—ah, no, it was that—here, here is where it was all the time!” is one of the steady cries on the street of Creede, and the old prospector, the minor or the hardy pioneer, who has seen the three–shell game from New York to California, bites again at Creede because he has money, and the spirit of chance and recklessness is in the air.In a big gambling–saloon, one Sunday evening, Rev. Joseph Gaston, a Presbyterian divine from the camp of Ouray, mounted the chair of the faro–dealer. The games stopped at a signal from the proprietor, and the 300 gangsters in the room, at the site of the preacher, uncovered their heads and stood quietly for fifteen minutes listening to a sensible talk on the text: “if a man dies, shall he live again?”At the conclusion of the sermon the preacher commenced a recital of the Lord’s Prayer. First one or two weak voices began to follow him, then another here and there from all over the room came in, and at the last, men who had said the prayer the last time at their mother’s knee back in the States before the Pike’s Peak excitement call them to Colorado found the words on their lips.The closing was most impressive, and not a few drops of moisture hung on half–shamed faces as one caught the other in symptoms of weakness. Then somebody laughed. It was all over. The silence was broken.“The Queen wins and the tray loses.” “Thirty–one and the black and nobody there.” “First ball 41.” The men who had held their stacks of white and blue and yellow chips in their hands turned again to the play. The preacher folded up his Bible, shook hands with the proprietor and started out. Someone in the rear of the room cried out:“By ——, boys, we forgot something. We must make a collection for the parson. I’ll start it with $5. Pass it around.”But the preacher turned, smiled good-naturedly, and thanking them, said that was not what he had come for, and departed.These incidents give some idea of the “tough” side of life in Creede Camp.————There is a clangor of hammers and saws, a slamming of planks, a calling of men to one another, a din as of the war. That is the way they make mining camps in Colorado, at places where there are millions in sight. Now and then a man shoots out of a saloon door or a barbershop—for there are barbershops—with a foot or a fist behind him. The man from the barbershop at once goes into the saloon, the man from the saloon hunts another. The shanty on poles across the creek flourishes, as does the smoke–begrimed tent.The creek furnishes all the water for the camp, and already a waterworks company has been incorporated to pipe the water through both towns and preserve the purity of the water from garbage and sluice boxes. But every saloon and store is lighted by electricity. The construction of the electric plant was the quickest ever known in the history of this country. The town has not organized, and what is everybody’s business is nobody’s business.The train, when it comes in, is a sight to behold, the smoking–car being and an especial marvel. It is jammed. Men set on one another and on the arms of the seats, stand in the aisles and hanging to the platforms. Pipes, blankets and dilapidated satchels form the major part of their equipment.————
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Soapy Smith's Orleans Club (under flag)
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“Don’t jostle that fellow. he may be a millionaire to–morrow and resent the insult.”Such are familiar warnings in Creede of to–day, and they are not without sense. There is not another spot on earth which contains within its four miles of settlement so many men poor to–day who may by the turn of a card by the fickle goddess of fortune be a millionaire to–morrow.The man who peddles apples on the street, the woman who washes clothes, the carpenter of the boom and wood chopper of ordinary life, the hustler who does odd jobs, the merchant, the banker, the real estate dealer, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, each and all are working but for the money that goes to pay the man upon the hillside who is putting down “a hole” for him.To–morrow one of those men of the pick-and-shovel brigade may put in a shot just far enough to tear nature’s guarded secret from her, and presto! all will be like the transformation scene at the play–guys will be gentlemen, fellows men, and mayhap some men pure statesmen and politicians. So wags the world, and if Creede does not turn out its quota of the latter class it will be an exception to the rule which was heretofore maintained in Colorado mining camps.It would amuse one to pick out from the 8,000 players at the game of chance those who would be most likely to take front rank in the business, social or political life of the State after that elusive period of time having struck it rich, and the cynic can find much material for his grist from such speculation.Up and down the narrow, rough streets of the new city these prospected millionaires rush about, sustained in the fire of excitement and the pace that kills with ever recurring tales of new strikes, and the feverish flame is kept alive by rocks brought at night from the cut or shaft bearing in their composition hints of riches to be had when the working has gone deeper down in the door to the storehouse of silver opened to where the thievish elements of air and water have not penetrated.“If you have a cut or vain in the bowels of the earth, we have the sucker.” So advertises a confident broker of the camp, but the fellow with the prospect says he wants no sucker and has nothing to sell on those terms. So he puts up his money to the man on the hill and hopes on for the day when the “maybe” shall be “is.”Up on the hills all is not peaceful and serene. Even millionaires are not satisfied, and the Oliver Twist principle rules. Claim jumping as a means to an end is the resort, and is becoming of daily occurrence and dangerous quality.Up at Deer Lodge, a new camp at the head of Willow Creek, the miners have organized a Vigilance Committee and issued notices to jumpers to keep off the grass.A jumper sent an engineering corps up there recently to run out some claims. The leader of the committee was asleep in his tent when the lieutenant went to him, yelling: “there is a man here with an instrument and for men; every man has a gun and every gun has a wheel on it.”A call to arms was made, the surveyors halted and the captain confronted them.“We came to survey for the man who employed us.”“Go back and tell the man who employed you to come up here himself,” was the reply.The surveyors departed, but the man who did the jumping had lost no claims up Deer Lodge way.Up on the Quaking Asp, which takes in a part of Bachelor City, rival contestants have been watching each other with the keenest of eyes, and declarations of war passed between the lines many times a day. A contractor jumped the claims. The original owners—Denver men—engaged new men and put them to work. The jumper, with half the settlers of the town at his back, warn them to quit. They did so. The owners put them to work again, under promise of a guard, and, despite frequent warnings, notices, threats and gunplays, have kept at work.Just now it is a question for dispute among those who would come into the towns and the mining men who assert the desirability of such a move, what the extent of Creede’s mineral resources well ultimately proved to be. The doubter has come in now and then and said that the camp was to settle down to a heavy production from only a few mines of great richness. This proposition the men up mines dispute.Mr. N. C. Creede, who found the veins now shipping, says that he believes there are more big mines here, and that they will be found this year. He said:“I hope to show up more mines in the camp this year, and do not believe the resources have been nearly exhausted. I cannot help thinking there are more mines here than those now shipping.“Mammoth is a good mountain. The ‘Mammoth’ vein is unquestionably a continuation of the ‘Holy Moses.’ I expect to see a rich strike made there this summer, one such as the camp is looking for. It may not equal the ‘Amethyst,’ for I firmly believe that to be one of the richest mines in the State, but one almost as good. It may be in the ‘Mammoth,’ it may be in the Eclat,’ but it is there and will be found.”Mr. Creede asserts that the “Mammoth” vein is the continuation of the Holy Moses,” and four strong companies are now at work sinking there. When the holes go deeper, there is no question but that the big reserve fund of the camp will be largely in the boom.Parallel veins to the big ones on Campbell, Bachelor and Mammoth are being worked in a way that means business, and the mining men of Creede have quit standing by the holes, speculating on what may be below. They are taking off their coats and going after it.Down in the lime, there is the real puzzle of the camp. Men who know contacts see the stuff between the porphyry and the lime, scratch their heads and say, “if it ain’t there, it ought to be,” then go look at the “Amethyst” and “Last Chance,” and come back and say that everything in the camp is a contact.Thousands of ten-foot holes are being sunk, and hope is high in that locality.Probably another boom of such magnitude will not occur in the West for years, and if it should, and be hedged about with all law and police regulations which authority can give, it is great odds against it settling down with such a good record for good conduct as Creede has so far and will in all likelihood continue to make. From time to time, war in the camp has seemed eminent, but the troubles have been smoothed over, and now, with a partial police regulation and a full authority near at hand, the prospects for peace are improving. Deputy Sheriffs from the various counties claiming the camp, Marshals appointed by the citizens and commissioned specially by the State authorities, act as a check on would-be law breakers.Prominent among the mining men who have flocked from all over the West was “Old Bill Comer,” who found the great “Lamartine” mine, and says he will find another at Creede.So the great boom—great in its every feature—grows and spreads, and will continue to do so as long, as one miner put it, “as the precious minerals lie in the heart of Mother Nature, and the governments of the earth will coin them.”————Mr. R. MacMechen, in writing upon the geological formation of Creede, says: “the chief peculiarity of the section is the enormous preponderance of trachyte without any exemplifications of a sedimentary formation. Yet the existence of the latter is easily traced. Just as a lower limit of Jimtown we discover the presence of the carboniferous, and along the Rio Grande and upon other side of that stream, below Jimtown, can be followed an island of sedentary formation, some eight miles in length by two and a half in width, encompassed by an ocean of highly eruptive material of a much later period. The first good idea of the geological nature of this section is obtained, shortly after leaving Wagon Wheel Gap, in ascending the Rio Grande towards Jimtown. Along the stream a horizontal stratum of limestone is observed to the east. This is the lower carboniferous or, in mining parlance, blue limestone. At frequent intervals, the stratification is exposed by erosion, and at these points is noted an overlying volcanic trap– rock, showing the indigenous overflow. North of the Rio Grande, following Willow Creek for about one and one–half miles, the northern limit of the carboniferous, it is discovered in a highly mineralized state, broken and seamed with dykes of eruptive rock. The eruptive flow again appears south of the carboniferous island, thus practically enclosing the sedentary formation.”————
There are earlier articles in the March 1892 and "preceding numbers of The Great Divide but I have yet to find them. It should be noted that the business district of Creede burnt down on June 5, 1892, the month of the next issue of this magazine. It will be interesting to see if they have anything more.
Creede, Colorado: A search under "Creede" for this blog. Note that the articles are not in any particular order so the best one may be the last one.
Creede: pages 11, 63, 73, 75, 77, 79, 82-84, 87-89, 90, 94, 199, 131, 137, 183, 197-242.
There is more than a morsel of truth in the saying, "He who hates vice hates mankind."
—W. MacNeile Dixon
1787: New Jersey becomes the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
1796: The Monitor of Baltimore, Maryland is published as the first Sunday newspaper.
1856: Lieutenant James Witherell of Company C, 2nd Cavalry, and two officers from the 8th Infantry, battle with a party of Apache Indians while scouting by the Rio Grande from Ft. Clark, Texas.
1862: The first orthopedic hospital, the Hospital for Ruptured and Crippled, is organized in New York City.
1865: Slavery is abolished in the United States with the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
1894: Soapy Smith and John Bowers are arrested in Denver on complaint from Thomas Moody. Soapy pays a $300 bond to get them out of jail.
1898: A new automobile speed record is set at 39 mph.
1899: President McKinley commutes the sentence of Soap Gang member “Slim Jim” Foster in the robbery of John D. Stewart in Skagway, Alaska, after one year due to his having contracted consumption.
1903: The Panama Canal Zone is acquired 'in perpetuity' by the U.S. for an annual rent.
1912: The discovery of the Piltdown man in East Sussex is announced. It will be proved a hoax in 1953. Bad man Soapy Smith had a petrified man found in 1892. It was not proven to be a hoax until 2012, when it was determined that the corpse was intentionally mummified.