Tarryall City & Hamilton: South Park’s First Gold Rush

FOR FOUR YEARS, 1859-62, the hotspot of mining activity in South Park was at Tarryall City and Hamilton, situated a half mile apart on opposite banks of Tarryall Creek, 2 miles north of present-day Como.  In the summer of 1859, a group of miners whose luck had run out at Gregory Diggings (Central City), including …

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Wild West Lore: Guerrilla Raids in South Park 1863-64

Colorado is chock full of legends and lore, from mysterious mining tales to haunted hotels. Some of the most intriguing stories include Wild West characters and buried treasure. Two of southern Colorado’s most famous legends involve the Espinosa brothers’ murderous swath through Park County in 1863 and the Reynolds Gang’s destructive path and alleged hidden …

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Railroading Returns to Como

Chuck Brantigan with No. 4 in February 2017, as the engine begins its journey to Wyoming for repairs. (Photo courtesy of Chuck & Kathy Brantigan)

Article and photos by Laura Van Dusen

It’s been 80 years since the last train left the Como depot. Eighty years, a lifetime ago, since a train whistle gave a last shout pulling away from the station, and a narrow-gauge engine, steam belching from its stack, pulled rail cars across South Park.

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Book Review – Early Days in South Park: Parked in the Past

By Laura Van Dusen
Vandusenville Publications, 189 pages
ISBN 978-692-72310-4

Reviewed by Forrest Whitman

Sooner or later, if you live in Colorado, you’ll drive through South Park. It’s a lovely ride in its own right, but this book will keep the motorist seeing it all in a fresh way. Van Dusen, long-time writer for many publications (including this one), opens up the surprising history of the park.
Her vignettes about early notables in the park are well done and give us a new look at them. Some of them, like Willia Hamilton Johnson of Alma, or Marshall Lewis Link, are especially crisp. She reveals them in “the bad and the good.” They emerge as real people.
She draws on the letters of Wilbur Fisk Stone to show us just how dastardly some of our early heroes and villains were. Her historical accounts of the outlaws are gripping. Some of the bad guys, like the Espinoza brothers, were terrorists of the most incredible kind.

Wilbur Stone spared neither Governor John Evans nor Reverend Chivington (the fighting Methodist minister who led the massacre at Sand Creek). Both were crooked and amazing liars, as were many others who dealt with the Indians.
A weakness in Van Dusen’s coverage concerns the Utes. They were very much a part of South Park history, but other than a brief appearance by Chief Saguache, they don’t come through. On the other hand, Van Dusen can write only about the accounts of the first settlers, and the Indians were only backdrops for them.
Especially interesting is her coverage of how hard life was in South Park. For instance, Benjamin Berg, second owner of the Fairplay Hotel, lost three of his children to typhoid. During World War I, The Fairplay  Flume reported death after death to the Spanish influenza. Some 675,000 died in the U.S. in that outbreak.
There were interesting cures to various diseases, which she covers in detail, including Bayer Heroine, Lydia Pinkham’s Herbal Remedy (popular with women partly because of its alcohol content) and Magic oil (87 percent alcohol).
Driving on U.S. Hwy. 285, the motorist will have a new understanding of how hard travel was by stage coach. You’ll also learn more about Como. This was a big rambling coal mining town with its own “war” to remember. Her chapters on Como and the Antero Reservoir fights are especially good. The motorist may even pause to think of the King Coal disaster where so many miners died. The book makes a routine trip through South Park fascinating.
There’s more to the book than the 19th century too. Her accounts of pre-history and the Porcupine Cave are compelling. So are her accounts of modern history. She covers the death of JFK and the beginning of the Ed Snell race.
I’m always looking for books to add to my holiday giving list. Early Days in South Park is on mine this year. Laura Van Dusen has done an outstanding job here.

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The Hilltop Mine – A Relic at 12,900 Feet

Story and photos by Maisie Ramsay

High atop the wind-blasted saddle between Mount Sherman and Mount Sheridan sits the time capsule that is the Hilltop Mine. This is not the kind filled with trinkets and buried for future discovery – no, the Hilltop Mine is an accidental time capsule, a relic of times long past, a monument to human ambition. Crack open the history books, and get a glimpse of the past.

The Hilltop Mine is now little more than a sun-bleached outbuilding clinging precariously to a 12,900-foot talus slope. The massive infrastructure that transported tons of ore has largely disappeared. What meager evidence remains is slowly dissolving into the earth.

“Some see (these sites) as a monument to history and our founding economy, others see them as an eyesore and something environmentally destructive,” says South Park historian Christie Wright. “I find them quite fascinating … but then you look at Leadville, a Superfund cleanup, and the EPA spill in Ouray. It was the founding economy of our state, both good and bad.”

The Hilltop Mine was not the Mosquito Range’s first high-elevation claim, nor the most well-known. Rather, it was among several high-elevation mines extracting precious metal from the Mosquito Range during silver boom of the 1800s. 

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Antero Reservoir – Built to Quench Denver’s Thirst

By Laura Van Dusen Antero, the sun-sparkled, windswept reservoir hidden behind low rolling hills seven miles west of Hartsel, will be drained beginning June 1 to repair and strengthen the leaking 106-year-old dam; water will flow downstream to Cheesman, Marston and Chatfield reservoirs. It’s nothing new. According to Denver Water, this drain is the eighth …

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An Oasis in South Park: Buffalo Peaks Ranch Transforming Into Rocky Mountain Land Library

Article and photos by Laura Van Dusen

The Rocky Mountain Land Library at Buffalo Peaks Ranch is one of a kind. Located about nine miles southeast of Fairplay on Colorado Hwy. 9, it will soon be a nature research study center – a library with residential facilities where students, artists, writers, naturalists and scientists can study and stay for a few days, weeks or even months.

The project has been in the works for six years, since negotiations began in 2006 between co-directors Jeff Lee and his wife Ann Martin and ranch owner, the City of Aurora. On Sept. 25, 2013, a 95-year lease was signed, giving Jeff and Ann control of 60 acres at the heart of the ranch. It includes a 1906 home and several barns and outbuildings dating to the 1940s.

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South Park Symposium put on hold for a year

Brief by Central Staff

South Park – June 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

There won’t be a South Park Symposium this summer, but the organizers are planning one for 2002.

The first two symposiums, in 1999 and 2000, featured presentations on everything from prehistoric archæology to contemporary water issues in South Park.

But there were some scheduling problems this year, and the organizers also wanted to regroup and find a way to increase attendance.

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Yet another South Park emerges

Brief by Central Staff

South Park – July 1998 – Colorado Central Magazine

It turns out that Colorado doesn’t have the only South Park that isn’t on TV. There’s one in Pennsylvania which is actually a park in the most common sense of the word.

The South Park in the Keystone State is a game preserve and part of the Allegheny County public park system.

It was featured in the June 9 edition of the Wall Street Journal on account of its small bison herd and resulting difficulties with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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