History

The Birth of a Town...1864

At the juncture of two streams we set our town. History did the rest."
D. T. Griffith, 1870

There can be no specific date for the beginnings of a community, for often the unofficial birthing consists only of a lonely building at an obscure crossroads, or a mill at a convenient junction. Just as often nothing comes of such placements, and they fall into disuse and ruin. But, occasionally, others build on the location, and once in a great while a city evolves. Who can say the exact day, or even year, that the city was born?

In the case of Georgetown, however, we can pinpoint its birth to the summer of 1864, the date of the discovery of the Belmont Lode by James Huff, Robert Steele and Bob Layton. Although Huff found the rich quartz ledge (50 lbs. of quartz assayed 1000 oz. of silver to the ton) all three must share in the discovery that started a stampede from the gold camps, and ultimately gave Georgetown its uniqueness and the euphonious name of "The Silver Queen of the Rockies."

There were only four cabins, a few tents and one or two dugouts in George's Town in the spring of 1864. By snowfall the heavily forested slopes had been laid bare to provide timber for a score of mines, and the rows of cabins neatly arrayed along the two streams.

Actually there were two towns, the original Griffith settlement was located below the juncture of the two streams on the beaver flat. But as more men arrived they began to build to the south, at the foot of Leavenworth Mountain. This area grew rapidly and soon became the more populous. It was named "Elizabethtown" after Griffith's sister-in-law who was probably the only "lady" in the camp at that time.

When a post office was granted in 1866, a public meeting was held and it was agreed to combine both camps under the name of Georgetown. So much for chivalry!

By 1867, Georgetown was the center of a silver craze that was to eventually sweep the entire western half of the country and cause tremendous political upheaval at a later date. When the Anglo-Saxon, with ore assaying at $23,000 a ton, was discovered in that year, the boom came on with a rush and the small mountain valley rang with the mingled voices of 5000 miners.

Georgetown had become a city, no doubt about that! Each day, Concord Coaches from Denver arrived over the newly built toll roads up Mt. Vernon Canon and down Floyd Hill (more or less the highway 40 route of today) disgorging adventurous men and women intent upon wrestling treasure from the earth, or from their comrades. Jack trains, bells jingling, crowded the muddy streets, beginning the arduous pack climb to the High Argentine. A branch bank of Clark and Co. of Central City, and Wells Fargo, opened doors to handle money matters, and the fabulous Barton House, said to be the finest in the newly formed Colorado Territory, presented first rate accommodations and cuisine to the be-dazzled multitude.

If it can be said that the shady ladies made a quick appearance in the camp and quickly began the lusty work of "mining the miners," we must not short change the "Soldiers of the Lord" who were, as always, not far be- hind. All major denominations were represented, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics and Episcopalians. First services were held in the saloons, the fleshy back bar painting covered with burlap, and "no booze for thirty minutes, boys, the sky pilot's got a few words to say," but by 1867 religion was a part of the town. The first church to be built, the Grace Episcopal, promptly blew down in the "big wind of '67," but was just as promptly rebuilt, and stands today on Taos Street, almost as it was over 100 years ago.

Yes, a lusty, brawling child was Georgetown, but it needed a charter and incorporation before it could truly move from gangling adolescence to maturity. That happened one year later-in 1868!
Wayne L. Allen

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