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Tommyknockers in 1873,
by Joseph Blight


The Legacy of Metal Mining Around Nederland


Brian Alers
P.O. Box 775
Nederland, CO, 80466
brianalers@tommyknockeradventures.com 


CPG-11488, WYPG-2951
Office: (303) 258-7242
USA Cell: (720) 442-6013
 


By Brian Alers, Tommyknocker Geo-History Adventures Ltd.
July, 2016 (reprinted with permission).

Dedicated to the memory of the "old time" prospector, one of the most unique characters in American history.

Part 2: The Early Discoveries

John H. Gregory left his home in Georgia in 1857 for the Frazier River in California. While he was passing through Fort Laramie in Wyoming in the winter of 1858, he heard of the gold discoveries in the foothills of the Snowy Range and in the spring of 1859 he set out on a prospecting trip along the base of the mountains. He was not having much luck and had found little gold until he reached what was called, the Vasquez Fork (Clear Creek) of the South Platte River. By himself, he followed the gold showings up the branches of the river deep into the mountains until he felt that he had found the source of the gold in the creek. But, before he could prospect the area further, a spring snow storm forced him to return to Auraria for supplies. Gregory was penniless, so he convinced a stranger, named Wilkes Defrees of South Bend, Indiana, to accompany him back up the creek. Three days later, on May 6, 1859, they returned to the same spot and were able to pan four dollars in gold (0.2 ounces) from their first pan. The next day Gregory and Defrees washed out 40 pans of dirt and recovered 2 ounces of gold (worth $40), and returned to town. This time, a heavy spring snow storm prevented anything being done for another 10 days. Upon returning, John H. Gregory located the Bates vein, about 150 feet up the gully west of the Gregory vein, on May 19, 1859, 13 days after his discovery of the Gregory vein. It was not until June, that W. Green. Russell, a member of the original 7 Georgians to visit the state, discovers the gold veins in Russell Gulch, south of the future site of Central City. By July 1st hundreds of sluice boxes were in operation and a provisional government was formed at the Gregory diggings, by September some 890 men are at work in the gulch. It was said that by the 8th of September, Gregory left Denver with $30,000 worth of gold dust.

The Independent District, or Gold Dirt Lode, in Gamble Gulch was discovered by A. D. Gambell in June of 1859 and some of the free-milling ore was very rich and soon 12 stamp mills were operating. In 1860, John Quincy Adams Rollins moves from New Hampshire and purchases a 6-stamp mill in Gamble Gulch.

The amount of placer mining from the creeks and gulches became steadily less as the years passed, as all of the easily-accessible pay streaks and pockets were worked out. In a year or two, the more productive gulches had been worked over, and the decomposed vein matter that contained the free-milling gold ore that could be separated by gravity in the leading lodes had been exhausted. Many of the original claim holders abandoned their mining claims, or traded them for supplies in grubstake agreements.



Nielsen Honored

RICHARD L. NIELSEN was honored with the plaque, shown left, at our April meeting. The award to Dick was presented by Steve Zahony with this citation: “We would like to take this opportunity to honor and thank Dick Nielsen for his lifetime dedication to our profession of economic geology and for the effects of his exemplary career on many of us. In 1995 I assisted Dick in a two-geologist month-long helicopter reconnaissance in Peru. We had about one hundred satellite image-identified alteration color anomalies to examine.. Physically it was a straining task as much of the work was above 14,000 feet elevation; but the geology and adventures were exciting. We began by flying east from Trujillo towards Cajamarca in a highaltitude Lama helicopter. Newmont was well entrenched at Yanacocha by then, but we landed on some exciting prospects in the area. We then zig-zaged down the spine of the Andes to Arequipa, turning northwest toward Lima for the last leg of the venture.

Our stop at Castrovirreyna was notable as the chopper was low on petrol, with the fuel indicator first flashing, then glowing solidly, for a total of fifteen minutes. Luckily we did not drop from the sky. That night, the pilot stayed with the chopper, and the only lodging Dick and I could find was in a crammed room at the local bus stop. The bed sheets and pillow cases were apparently never changed, judging from their greasy deep brown color. The WC was a small open-air treacherous minefield in the back yard, and the guests in the room above us kept shuffling their feet, dropping dirt through the floorboards onto our faces. We had good laughs about this.

It was during this month-long trip that I learned to appreciate Dick’s professional demeanor, competence, strength, style, and absolute dedication to our profession. Dick, your lifetime professional achievements are exemplary and an inspiration to us all. Your heart has been in your profession, and we sincerely thank you for what you have done for students, for the SEG, and particularly for what you have done for DREGS over the years. You are our most honored elder and we thank you for sharing your wisdom and dedication.

Therefore it is our honor to present you this special award which represents our appreciation for you. In tune with your character, the walnut plaque includes a polished slab of porphyry ore from the Ajo Mine in Arizona. Sheeted veins of the rare and brightly colored copper silicate mineral papagoite run through the
rock, and the inscription engraved is shown on the Plaque.
 

The DREGS collection of memoirs from this page can be found at www.dregs.org/memoirs.html