Leadville Colorado Mining Class June 23-24, 2023


Leadville Colorado mining during the Gold and Silver Boom and Bust

The Leadville Colorado class focuses on discovering gold and silver in the areas. The first miners lived in a tent camp near the silver deposits in California Gulch, where “gold” was found in 1860. At that time, Leadville was called “Slabtown.” However, by 1880, Leadville had gas lighting, water mains, 28 miles of streets, five churches, three hospitals, six banks, and a school for 1,100 students. Many buildings constructed with bricks hauled in by wagons sprang up, and businesses filled them rapidly. At its height, it boasted over 30,000 residents.

In this class, we will become acquainted with the town itself and uncover what brought people here. We will learn about the citizens themselves and understand the importance of the area to these people and their significance to the town, Colorado and Internationally. Many of these individuals made essential discoveries, developed technologies, and later embarked on generous philanthropy due to their financial successes. Some were involved in local, State, and Federal government. Finally, some were important for their engineering and architectural accomplishments. These colorful personalities were important to Leadville’s development but expanded beyond that to the present.

We will also learn more about the environment including the geology, geography, and ecology of the area.

CSM Website


June 23-24, 2023- $210 with four credits or $145 without credit includes lodging, most tours and one picnic lunch. Colorado School of Mines Teacher Enhancement Program

Leadville, Colorado, was once called the “wickedest city on earth”. As of late, this high-elevation mountain town was a USA TODAY’s 2020 10 Best Historic Small Towns. The town was founded in 1877 by mine owners; Horace Tabor, prospector, businessman, and Republican politician, jointly with mining engineer August Meyer. Meyer recognized the value of the area’s lead carbonate ores, built a smelter, developed local infrastructure, and helped organize the new city. These two men were at the heart of the Colorado Silver Boom, leading to the development of Leadville. They built Leadville on a flat land area below timberline at an altitude of 10,152 ft. Its location gave rise to its other nicknames of “Two Mile High City” and “City in the Clouds.” The first miners arriving here lived in a tent camp near the silver deposits in California Gulch, where Abe Lee first discovered “gold” in 1860. The mining camp later became known as Oro City. Leadville, known at the time as “Slabtown,” was renamed when the residents petitioned for a post office. By 1880, Tabor and Meyer’s new town had gas lighting, water mains, 28 miles (45 km) of streets, five churches, three hospitals, six banks, a school for 1,100 students, and a railroad. Businesses sprang up, with numerous buildings constructed of bricks hauled in by wagons. At its height, it boasted over 30,000 residents. Some reports say 50,000. Second in size only to Denver. Some of Leadville’s most famous and notorious residents and others who passed through and made their mark included:

  • The “Unsinkable Molly Brown”
  • Horace and Baby Doe Tabor
  • August Meyer
  • Doc Holiday
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Jack Dempsey
  • David May (founder of the May Department Stores and later became Macy’s)
  • Jessie James
  • Wyatt Earp
  • The Guggenheims
  • Charles Boettcher

Another well-known, famous visitor to Leadville was President Ulysses S Grant. He rode the newly-completed Denver and Rio Grande Railroad up to Leadville in 1880. Five bands and a 100-gun salute greeted him. He gave a short speech on a platform erected in front of the Clarendon Hotel built by Tabor. President Grant was wildly popular in Colorado. Of significance today: We can thank President Grant for the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave formerly enslaved people the right to vote. He wrote: “The adoption of the 15th amendment constitutes the most important event since the nation came to life.” up until that time. He viewed it as his greatest achievement as President.

Class Itinerary:

Day 1: 6/23/2023

8:00-11:00 AM
We will meet in Leadville at: Silver Llama Market And Eatery 615 Harrison Avenue Unit
B. Here we will have a presentation on Colorado’s Mineral Belt and what sparked the
gold and silver “Boom” that occurred in Colorado and what caused it’s eventual
“Bust”. We will also go over the day’s agenda
As a group we will be touring the Tabor Opera House and Augusta and Horace Tabor’s
Home. We will take a peek into the assayer’s office as it was during the time of the
mining boom. We will visit or view other sites and buildings of Leadville’s historic era.
Harrison Ave is a main focal point of Leadville’s walking tour of the 70 square blocks
designated as a National Historic Landmark District.

11:00-12:30 AM
As the U.S. National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum are at the end of the walking
tour we will view the various and extensive exhibits here.

12:30-1:15 PM
Lunch 45 minutes to 1 hour—– arrive at the depot by 1:30

2:00-4:30 PM
After lunch we will walk to The Colorado & Southern Railroad Depot. Here we will take
The LC&S train along the old Denver, South Park & Pacific and the Colorado &
Southern lines to the Continental Divide. We will further learn how Mining and
Railroads played a huge part in the local history.

Day 2: 6/24/2023

8:00-8:30 AM
We will meet again at the Silver Llama where we will discuss the day’s agenda and talk
about the different industries that cropped up in the area to support mining in addition
to the mines themselves. We will introduce many individuals who were involved in the
new technologies that developed out of the Mining Boom.

We will visit Baby Doe and Horace Tabors’ Matchless Mine for a self guided tour and
learn of its importance in Colorado and Leadville History. And read about their riches to
rags story.

9:30-11:00 AM
ROUTE OF THE SILVER KINGS we will take a driving tour through the 20-square-mile
dirt road trail through the historic mining district surrounding Leadville. We will take
time to get out and take a closer look at mines, power plants, ghost towns, mining
camps, smelters. We will make stops at important locations along the way and discuss
the mines the mining complexes and the people associated with them.
These roads are just outside of town and are dirt but mostly in good passable
condition. However, there are some 4 wheel drive roads that you can take off these for
further exploration. The road to the top is worth the drive as there are some incredible
views of the 7 peaks, Turquoise Lake and the town of Leadville below. A few roads are
a little slower going but if you have a SUV or higher clearance vehicle you won’t have
any problems.

11:15-12:30 PM
Tour the National Fish Hatchery and learn about fish biology and its importance in
preserving the Colorado Waterways. Focus on endangered species. We will learn
about proper catch and release techniques for fishing which help conserve wild trout
species. Fishing is wildly popular in Colorado and is considered an environmentally,
sustainable sport or activity.

12:30-1:15 PM Picnic lunch at the hatchery and discuss what was learned at the hatchery

1:15-1:35 PM Drive to Twin Lakes

1:40-3:10 PM
In Twin Lakes. There is a general store, hotel, blacksmith shop,and schoolhouse from
the mining days, The town is listed on the National Historic Register.

Interlaken Resort. Considered Colorado’s most beautiful resort in the late 19th century,
today, some of the resort’s buildings remain standing and are open and free to the
public. Most notable is Dexter’s private cabin, which was designed to reflect his
nautical interests. The resort can be accessed via boat an easy hiking trail that
starts at the southeastern end of the larger lake. Another option your own is to drive to
the top of Independence Pass for a view from the top of the Continental Divide down

3:10-3:30 PM Return to Leadville

3:30-5:00 PM
Established by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1983, the California
Gulch Superfund Site encompasses about eighteen square miles in central Lake
County, including the city of Leadville. One of the nation’s first Superfund sites, it was
created to clean up heavy-metal pollution caused by mining and smelting in the area
during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
When we arrive back in Leadville we will take a drive up California Gulch north of the
Downtown area. This is where placer Gold was originally discovered by Abe Lee.

Mining in California Gulch dates to 1860, but heavy industrial mining and smelting did
not begin until a silver boom kicked off there in the late 1870s. Silver mining fell off after
the price of silver crashed in 1893, but mining of base and industrial metals such as
lead, copper, zinc, and molybdenum continued in the area through the twentieth

There are numerous hard rock mining sites located here. Many very prominent and
wealthy families made their fortunes in Leadville.

Always be aware of the high altitude, which will make some activities more challenging.

(bring snacks or food, plenty of water, sunscreen, and layered clothing).

Additional information


1 Graduate Credit $ 210, No Credit $145

No credit

If you are taking the class for no credit the cost is $145


For further questions please contact Danette Ulrich 303 419-3693 or danetteu@gmail.com


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