The Gas Creek Wars

By Virginia McConnell Simmons

With Mount Princeton and Mount Antero providing a serene backdrop, Gas Creek and Chalk Creek thread a valley lying north of Centerville, where U.S. Hwy. 285 drops down, passing under a water diversion pipe. This valley extends north to Cache Creek, which flows beneath the highway south of Nathrop. Here began local discord that, encompassing the nearby area, became known as the Lake County War.

When the following events took place, Gas Creek was part of Lake County, extending from the Continental Divide on the north and west, the Mosquito Range on the east, and Poncha Pass on the south. Leadville’s silver mines were not yet booming. But soon after the Pikes Peak gold rush and the Civil War, ranchers and farmers had started to take up land at Gas Creek, and irrigation ditches were being dug, some with affirmed legal rights and some without. Although a few of these early settlers had arrived as prospectors, they now were settling down with plows and cattle, returning to activities they had known “back home” in the Midwest and East.

It was a small world of early comers which the Gibbs family and others joined before long. Elijah Gibbs’ cabin was at Gas Creek, and his father had a place nearby. Elijah’s wife was the daughter of a Methodist preacher called Gilliland down at Brown’s Creek, a short distance south of Centerville, and another of Gilliland’s daughters was married to Justice of the Peace A.B. Cowan. Gilliland was an acquaintance of the well-known Methodist circuit rider, Rev. John L. Dyer, whose son Dyer taught school at Brown’s Creek. After a while, though, Elijah had moved, but only as far north as Granite, where he served as Probate Judge while also prospecting at Iowa Gulch near today’s Leadville. 

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