Cripple Creek, Colorado - A Brief History
How Cripple Creek Got Its Name and Other Tales
As the story goes, cowboys were herding cows across a small creek. One cow stumbled and the poor thing broke a leg. So, a cow is crippled in a creek ... "I know, let's call this place Cripple Creek". Not sure it will ever make sense. Maybe at the time, the cautionary nature of the name was enough - just be careful where you walk.
Pre-1890, Cripple Creek, Colorado was a stop-over for the adventurous traveler heading west. A lot were going to California for gold and riches. Folks kept passing through until someone finally looked down and said "Hey wait a minute, there's gold right here! We don't have to go to California...yet" That's not a direct quote but gold was discovered fairly close to the surface. This was known as placer gold. It was easier to find but not as valuable as the gold that would be mined in the mountain.
Anyway, there was gold in the Rocky Mountains and the Colorado Gold Rush was on. Around Cripple Creek, Pikes Peak or Bust was the call to all who dared to dreamed of striking it rich.
In 1890, one who dreamed was Bob Womack. Bob had a theory about finding gold in Poverty Gulch and it paid off. Well, not literally. He is credited with the first discovery of gold in Cripple Creek but died broke and alone.
Bob probably never dreamed of having a casino named after him, but that happened. It's now The Century Casino, which is a shame. The name "Womack" will always be a part of the spirit of Cripple Creek.
Click here to read more about Bob Womack.
World’s Greatest Gold Camp
Bob Womack and many others never realized riches but they made history. The town of Cripple Creek went from 500 people (or less) in 1890 to 10,000 people just 3 short years.
The population swelled to 50,000 people before the mines fell silent by the 1960s.
Cripple Creek's First Millionaire
On the flip side, many did find riches. The first millionaire from Cripple Creek was William Scott Stratton. He came from Indiana to Colorado Springs for carpentry work and the opportunity to search for gold.
There was a lot of trickery and false reports of gold strikes. When there actually was a major gold strike on the south side of Pikes Peak in 1891, Stratton discovered what would be the richest strike - The Independence Mine.
More on William Stratton - click here.
The Fires of 1896
It's not hard to imagine Cripple Creek in the 1890s. The hustle and bustle of a prosperous albeit very western mining town with shops, saloons, people coming and going. It was mostly made of wood. Shouldn't be a problem...right?
Well, the fire of 1896 started at one side of town and engulfed everything within a matter of hours. It was devastating. To make matters worse, only a couple of weeks later - a second fire, finished what the the first fire had started. I know, a second fire! Some of the people of Cripple Creek had to think "geeeeeez maybe a town here is not meant to be". It had to cross somebody's mind. But no, rebuilding began immediately. This time with a solid purpose and vision for the future and a lot of brick. Take that fire!
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