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On May 6th, 1859, John Gregory discovered the first gold lode in Colorado on a hill near the current town of Central City. Previously gold nuggets had been only been found in streams through panning. After Gregory’s discovery prospectors rushed to the Clear Creek Valley. Hundreds of mines popped up in the areas around Idaho Springs and Black Hawk. An interesting account of Gregory’s time in Colorado appears in the July 1943 issue of Colorado Magazine: “The Elusive Figure of John H. Gregory, Discoverer of the First Gold Lode in Colorado.” Apparently he only spent a few years in Colorado after his discovery, selling his claims and returning to his home state of Georgia.
Images of this time period were captured by the mining photographer Lachlan McLean. A unique aspect of his work is that he took photographs underground, capturing miners at work. A collection of his photos taken in Central City, Georgetown and Idaho Springs: “Secure the Shadow” can be borrowed from our library. In addition to the photographs, there is a nice history of mining in the Clear Creek Valley.
For a brief history of gold mining in Colorado, along with geologic information about gold deposits in the state, check out this issue of Rock Talk from the Colorado Geological Survey: “Gold! Gold! Gold!.” Gold is still being mined in Colorado today. The Cripple Creek and Victor Mine is the last operating gold mine in Colorado.