The History of Leadville

Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 10,000 feet is the historic mining town of Leadville, Colorado.  This charming Victorian era town is one of the original mining towns in the state and still a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.  The town is now a desired destination for runners to acclimate to the elevation and those who enjoy the scenic beauty and ample outdoor opportunities. 

In 1860 Abe Lee, a gold miner, decided to try his luck a little further up in the Rocky Mountains then any had previously thought to try.  He struck gold, and after hearing of his success many people moved out the the area.  They settled in California Gulch and called their settlement Oro City.  After only a year the town began to suffer from water shortages which caused the preferred method of mining, the placer method, to become unusable.  With no more mining around, people gradually began to leave the area.  By 1865, a mere 500 people were left. 

William H Stevens was one of the few people who stuck around.  He felt that the area still had promise and wasn’t willing to give up just yet.  With the Arkansas River running through the area, he was able to build a ditch-type system and get running water going right into California Gulch.  With this ingenious move, he was able to continue mining.  He bought many of the dirt-cheap claims people had left behind and found that silver ore was running rampant in the area.  By 1874 he had attracted many investors, such as H.P. Morgan, and the town began it’s mining boom.   

Leadville, Colorado became an official incorporated city in 1878 when the resident count hit 15,000 people.  Two years later, the Leadville and Rio Grande Railway made the area accessible to everyone!  Leadville quickly became a hub of tourist activity and shipped out high quality silver ore all over the states.  The stock of silver dropped significantly in 1893, and the town hit hard days.  Over the next years the rising and falling stocks would bring people to and from the small city, but never for long. World War II brought in an influx of soldiers stationed near by, patronizing local businesses and giving the city hope.  That soon dried up as war ended and Leadville once again became a ghost town. 

Leadville still has it’s original Victorian era roots; each year the town celebrates the Boom days of the mining area.  The town aches for its mining days and museums line the street’s as a door to the past.  As a gateway to the Arkansas Valley, many people choose to stay in the area because of the lower cost of living as well as some of the local establishments that give Leadville the Colorado small mountain town feel.  When driving through town, you can still see the effect the fall of mining boom days had on the city with empty building and abandoned mines scattered around.  Leadville has had it’s ups and downs throughout the years, but the rich history makes it a place many still love to visit.