History

The Discovery-1859

And there was a mountain of silver! We passed it by in our frantic search for gold."
D. T. Griffith, 1865

Of course, no one will be sure of the feelings of George Griffith as he climbed slowly up the side of the rocky slope above the flooded beaver pond and willow flat near the end of a box canyon nine miles above Jackson's Bar. But we can be certain that he was downcast and disappointed over his thus-far barren venture into the front range of the shining mountains of the Kansas Territory. He and his mule must have been dead tired after their month long journey from Auraria (soon to be Denver City) up Clear Creek to the Gregory diggings and then through Russell Gulch and down Virginia Canyon to Sacramento City (or Jackson's Bar and later Idaho Springs). And now it seemed that he had reached a dead end. Here the stream that he had followed so hopefully split just above the beaver flat and climbed two equally steep and rocky gorges. If the golden treasure he sought was not to be found here where the water quieted to drop its heavier minerals, then what chance had he to discover anything of value in the swift and tumbling streams above?

Griffith climbed to a level area on the hill side and rested for a moment to sort out his muddled thoughts. The mule grazed tiredly a few yards away. He and his brother, David, had started from Kentucky many months previously with an idea to make their way overland to the golden shores of California. Perhaps, they felt, there were still rich and unstaked claims to be had in that far-away land. But on their weary way overland they had been sidetracked by the news of William Green Russell's strike at Dry Creek near the confluence of the South Platte and Clear Creek.

However, when they had arrived in Auraria they had found only a miserable huddle of log and sod hovels- and no gold to speak of. But there was word in the cold wind that blew down Clear Creek that a man named Jackson had panned out a bonanza thirty miles upstream where it was joined by a rill he had named Chicago Creek. He and David had hurried to join the rush, but before they reached Jackson's Bar they had been sidetracked by what seemed to be better news, that John Gregory had hit it big several miles to the north of Clear Creek. There was gold in Gregory Gulch, but by the time the Griffiths arrived the timberline hills teemed with men and all the claims that were worthwhile seemed to be already staked.

David stayed at the Gregory diggings as a two-dollar a-day contract miner, but George and the mule moved on up the mountain to where Russell was working another gulch that was to bear his name. It was the same story all over again, all the good claims were gone. "Go over the hill," Russell advised him, "and down what we call Virginia Canyon. Good color there, and if you have no luck it will lead you to Sacramento City." So George worked his way, prospecting as he went, to Jackson's Bar, his original destination. It was the same story all over again and rather than admit total defeat, he and the mule plodded upstream. Now it seemed that they were boxed in by seven high mountains and the cliff-spewed stream

Perhaps George Griffith lighted his pipe and watched his mule graze; perhaps he mused over a cleft in the rock close by the little glade in which he sat. "If only that were filled with gold," he might have said to himself. At any rate, he investigated the tiny crevice-and discovered an outcropping of what he believed to be gold bearing ore The Griffith Lode had been found!

George Griffith hurried back to Gregory Gulch, hearing on the way that it was to be re-named Central City and brought his brother back to the valley of the seven mountains. They named the beaver flat upon which their crude shelter stood, George's Town and began to work their find. With the help of three other men, they took over $500.00 in gold from the small opening in the rock face.

The word of their discovery got away from them and soon the valley swarmed with other treasure seekers. But no more gold was found. Instead, other men discovered The Belmont Lode up near McClellan Mountain in the Argentine, and free silver two miles away in a place that one day would bear the euphonious name of Silver Plume and the peaks that frowned down upon George's Town came to be called "The Seven Silver Mountains." Until Virginia City and Leadville came in, George's Town -or Georgetown, as it later came to be known-was the greatest silver producer in the world.

But it was not until 1864 that all this came about. In the spring of 1860 George, David, another brother an his wife, Elizabeth, and their father returned to the valley and staked the entire area as a homestead ranch. This was called the Griffith Mining District and in June of that year the miners called a meeting and drew up laws and regulations to govern the district. This was the true beginning of a boom town that was truly unique in the annals of mining communities throughout the world. But that is another story entirely.

Wayne L. Allen

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