Silver Mining History of Creede, Colorado

Creede has a long and interesting mining history. As a mining district it was famous in the mining world because of its amazing quality and great variety of minerals.

The first mineral discovery in Creed was in 1869 when silver was discovered at the Alpha Mine by H. M. Bennet and J. C. MacKenzie. Not much came out of this discovery because of the ore was quite complex for the mining technology of those days.

In the 1870s the construction of stage coach stations in the area encouraged many homesteaders and ranchers to move to the region. This made it easier for more exploration to be done as more people could now explore the land and still have better access to nearby towns.

 

Silver Boom in Creede

 

The discovery of silver in 1889 at the site of the Holy Moses Mine in the Willow Creek Canyon by Nicholas Creede and company marked the start of the silver boom in Creek. The town quickly grew from about 600 residents in 1889 to over 10,000 people in 1891. This actually made Creede one of the last silver boom towns in Colorado.

The first mining camp in the area was somewhere above the junction of Eat Willow Creek and West Willow Creek. The town was later renamed Creede following Nicholas C. Creede who had discovered the first and the most famous mine in the area, the Holy Moses Mine. The name was also used for the local mining district.

The Holy Moses Mine was just the start. In the following years, several other mines were discovered in what was later known as the Creede mining district. For example in 1891, W.V McGilliard and J.C. Mackenzie staked the Commodore claim just North of Creede on the West Willow Creek. In the same year, Julius Haas and Theodore Renniger discovered and staked the Last Chance Mine. Just next to the Last Chance Claim, Nicholas Creede staked his second mine in the area, the Amethyst claim. To the south of the last Chance Claim S. D Coffin and George K. Smith staked the New York Claim. There were several other claims all over the place, but most were short-lived and did not survive the silver panic of 1893.



 

Boom and Bust of the Colorado Silver Mines

 

The mining boom in Creede led to the growth of a number of mining camps all over the Creede mining district along the Town of Creede. Some of the most prominent mining camps in the area included Ouray, Silverton, Jimtown and Telluride.

Due to the prosperity of the mines in Creede, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad extended to Creede in 1891. This helped bring in more minors and lots of machinery that helped increase the productivity of the mines in the area. By 1892 mining in Creede was at its peak and the district reportedly produced ore whose value was estimated to be over $ 4.2 million at the time. During the year the Last Chance Mine and the Amethyst mines where the most productive mines in the district.

The silver mining boom in Creede lasted from 1889 to 1893, when the price of silver plummeted following the silver panic. This forced a number of mines to close down in the area, although a number of mines in Creede never closed down and continuously produced silver until 1985 when the last mine was hurt down.

After the silver panic, quite a number of mines in the district focused more on copper, gold, lead and zinc which were previously considered by-products of silver mining. This made the mines thrive even when the prices of silver dipped. The district was quite productive at it is reported by 1966 it had produced about 870 tons of silver, 4.7 tons of gold, 112,000 tons of lead, 34,000 tons of zinc and 2,000,000 tons of copper.

 

Mines Close with the Drop in Silver Price

 

The decline of mining in Creede began in 1893 following the decision by the government to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. This caused the famous silver panic which was accompanied by a sharp decline in silver price.

Most of the mines in Creede that depended on silver mining closed down. Those that remained in operation had a sizable amount of other minerals such as copper, lead, zinc, and gold. Mining in a number of minerals continued steadily until 1930 when a number of mines also closed down following a sharp decline in silver prices.

 

Potential for Future Mining

 

In 1950's the government conducted a geological survey in the district which showed the potential of mineral mining in the Bulldog Mountain Fault. This lead to renewed interested in the area and both Fred baker and Manning Cox staked claims in the mountains in 1960. The Homestake Mining Company Opened the Bulldog Mill in 1963. Mining continued to decline in the following years and in 1985, Homestake closed its Bulldog Mine.

This was the last mine in Creede to be shut down.

Today there is no active mining in Creede, but this isnít to say that there isnít still some valuable silver ores left in these mountains.

Most of the early mines have been preserved for historical purposes. Visitors can visit the mines and learn about the history of mining in the district. Creede is also a favorite for prospectors who look for gold and other precious metals using metal detectors and other simple tools.