“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Golden in Jefferson County, Colorado — The American Mountains (Southwest)

Settlement of Clear Creek Valley

Settlement of Clear Creek Valley Marker image. Click for full size.
By Charles T. Harrell, July 4, 2011
1. Settlement of Clear Creek Valley Marker
Inscription. In the 1700s French trading parties came to trade with the Utes. Around 1820 Americans such as the Long Expedition began to explore the Clear Creek valley. In 1834 the Estes Party discovered gold on a sand bar, later known as Arapahoe Bar, on the north shore of Clear Creek east of North Table Mountain. Mountaineers and trappers of beaver, otter, muskrat, and mink came to the Clear Creek area in the 1830s. They made a living trading with the forts in the region. During the early 1800s the Clear Creek valley was a hunterís paradise-antelope, buffalo, bear, elk, mountain sheep, and deer were in abundance.

In 1850 Lewis Ralston discovered gold in Ralston Creek, a Clear Creek tributary located in present day Arvada. After the Russell Party confirmed Ralstonís discovery in 1858, many prospectors came to the Clear Creek valley looking for gold. They started by mining the placer bars, gold bearing sandbars in the river. They discovered rich deposits at the location just east of Golden and named it Arapahoe Bar. There they laid out claims using the old Estes markers they found on the site. As the placers played out, the gold rushers became discouraged and began looking for gold higher up in the mountains. In 1859 George A. Jackson and John H. Gregory discovered gold near present day Idaho Springs and Central City. Following those discoveries, the faith of gold seekers was restored; the rush went into full boom. New towns laid out along Clear Creek and its tributaries, included Arapahoe City, Golden City, Black Hawk, Mountain City, Central City, Idaho Springs, Dumont, Downieville, Lawson, Georgetown, Silver Plume, Graymount, and Bakerville.

In 1860 William A. H. Loveland led the drive to build a wagon road up Clear Creek Canyon. Ensign B. Smith, commonly known as “Mexican Smith,” and his son Manuel, built the wagon road. Loveland converted the thoroughfare to the Colorado Central Railroad by 1872. The Colorado Central was Coloradoís first narrow gauge railroad, designed by Edward L. Berhthoud, to link the mountain mining communities to cities on the plains. The railroad greatly enhanced the economy of the region by enabling easier shipment of gold and silver ore as well as supplies to and from mining communities in the mountains.

Picture caption: The Gregory Diggings in the early twentieth century. Courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Department.
Location. 39° 45.412′ N, 105° 13.37′ W. Marker is in Golden, Colorado, in Jefferson County. Marker is on Washington Avenue. Touch for map. Near Washington Ave. bridge. Marker is in this post office area: Golden CO 80401, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Early History of Clear Creek (here, next to this marker); Gold in Clear Creek (here, next to this marker); Farming (here, next to this marker); Tourism (here, next to this marker); Settler Farm Wifeís Initiative (a few steps from this marker); First Bicycle Mishap in Golden (a few steps from this marker); A Daring Rescue (a few steps from this marker); Porcelain and Malted Milk (a few steps from this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Golden.
Categories. Settlements & Settlers

Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on December 17, 2011, by Charles T. Harrell of Woodford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 523 times since then and 21 times this year. Photo   1. submitted on December 17, 2011, by Charles T. Harrell of Woodford, Virginia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Wide area view of the marker and its surroundings. • Can you help?
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