The Birth of a Town...1864
At the juncture of two streams we set our town. History did the rest."
D. T. Griffith, 1870
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
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
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