There are numerous old mining structures and cabins through out the Rockies. Communities first began in the high Colorado mountains as a result of the gold rush in the 1800s. Some of the dwellings and mines still stand as a reminder of those first venturing out at 10,000 feet. The skeleton of a mine above now only offers a hint of former way of life near Montezuma, Colorado.
I explored the old trails and mines every summer, and I always visualize what life must have been like back then. No matter how difficult living at this altitude may appear today, the lives of those a hundred years ago were even rougher. The following unedited story, as written in Carl Fulton’s own words, confirms even the most imaginative speculations of the lives whose remnants still haunt the high-country valleys and ridges.
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“I was prospecting in Swandyke, Colo, Summit Co, Colorado 16 miles from Breckenridge. I had owened the mining clames there since 1890 had been working them ever sumer for 3 or 4 month each year and going out to work in the mines for wages for a grub stake. So the winter of 1898 and 1899 I desided to stay and work all winter. The sumer of 1898 I had bough a stamp-mill it was a small one had a 5 stamps of 250# drop and a 30 horspar boiler and 30 horse steam-ingen and a 4 ft by 8 ft coper plate and my batery was lined with coper sould handel about 5 toons in 24 ours it was free-milling and in a porfey dike was about 25 ft wide and would run in gold from $2.00 to $5.00 per ton.
I had a small streak on the foot wall about 6 in wide that would goe a bout $30.00 per ton sow I desided to work the small streak by it self as I had to sak it and pack in on jacks (burrows) and to try and make some quick money as it was late in august whean I got it ready to run. and as I had to pack oar on jacks and the altude was over 13,000 ft high whear the mine was and we had lots of snow in that altude in october. I wanted to get as much oar as I could down to the mill so I could run as long as possible. I had 32 head of jacks and carried from 200# to 300# to the jack and make 3 trips per day. But the snow came a bout the 15 of Setember so I had to take the jacks down to the valey for the winder since jacks is no good in snow.
“The oar I run went a lettle better than $20.00 to the ton. I worked at the mill and mine till the 27 day of nove. We had fine weather after our first snow in September. I had taken up the first of September one beaf, one toon of potoes, 8 or 10 cases of cand goods, a lot of flour suger and other stuf. ever thing I neaded to run till the first of June as we could not get a team up in the winter. we had to use snow-shoes to goe to work and travel around camp. Wea got a long fine till the afternoon of nove 27, 1898 it started to snow and by 9 oclock the moring of the 28 it was 5 feet deap on a level and it snowed every day and nite till the 20 of Febery. We staid till the midle of December and had to get out, snow-slides was geting to be coming and not safe for us to stay. so wea roled-up our beding and put it on our back and snowe-shoed to Breckenridge. we fond the railrod was blocked with snowe. thay had a bout 100 men and 4 ingens and a rotery snow-plow thay to open it up. they got as far as
Breckenridge and run out of coal and had to goe back to Como, had a hard time to get back as it was snowing all the time. and in a few days they tried it again but they never got back to Breckenridge for 94 days. the snow got to a deaph of 20 ft on the level. Breckenridge had a poplation of a bout 1500 people then. to fead had 5 grocris stoars and 7 sloon 2 Butcher shops 2 drug stores 2 dry goods stores 2 blacksmith-shops and 3 restronts lots of mines was working a 5 sawmills was running thay all had to shut down. the oar and lumber shiped to Leadville and Denver.
“The stores had a good stock on hand whin the trains stop running. but it soon run out and what cows was hear they Butcherd and eat. was fine horses to but thay had no hay to fead them and could not get them out. Was 4 or 5 small teams left in town to haul wood for the people. we would tramp a road to the timber in the afternoon then it would be freezing and by 3 in the morning it would hoald a team up so we could hall wood on the crust from 3 in the morning till 12 noon, that way thay hade fule, the next sumer I was up in the woods and the stomps (stumps were cut off at snow level) was 20 to 25 ft. high so you can see how deap the snow was. the midle of march the stores ran out of suplies and had to get grub. so thay had to brake the rodes to Como 21 miles and it took a bout 15 days to doe that. Como is in South Park. thay raise lots of hay and have lots of horses so the peopel of Breckenridge boried teams from them and they got grub in that way. the railroad did not open up to Breckenridge till the last of May or first of June. So in Janry I went to Frisco a mining camp 10 miles from Breckenridge. I worked thare in the mine. thay was doing development (looking for ore) work so had nothing to ship so we could work all write. but the later part of april we ran out of polder (powder) so we went to Como on snow-shoes and hand sleads and haled the poder over the devide, Como is on the eastern slope and Breckenridge is on the western slope. I staid and worl at Frisco till the first of June, then I went back to Swandyke had to goe up on snow-showes.
“I wanted to get things ready for sumer. when I got to Swandyke I found that the snow-slide come down and had carried my mill a way. it had taken it from one side of the montn across a deep gulch and left it on the other side of the montain all torn to peaces and runed and I had lost my $5000.00. Thay was lots of people wanted to get in to Swandyke so we started to shovel the wagon-rode out over to Jefferson a bot 17 miles over the contental-divide. Jefferson is in Soth park, Park Co. over 100 men shoveling and we did not get the road open to Swandyke till first of July. the first stage that come over it was on the 4th of July. the snow was at least 20 ft. on both sides of the road and did not goe off that sumer. the stage coch had six horse on it loded with peopel and a mong them was my Father from Ohio. I had not seen him since 1882. he staid in Swandyke that sumer and helped me work my mining property. along in september we went to work up on the Brilent mine on top of the Continal divide a bout 14,000 ft. high. we lived on the Park Co side of the montain at the head of Halls valey. we had some good oar. it net us about $55.00 per Ton. was doing very well with it. but on the 22 day of October 1899 my Father, H. J. Fulton and Gorge Sunderling went to
Montzuma a but 7 miles from our camp. thay had to cross the range and it was on Sunday morning a fine day the sun was shining fine, I had inted to goe with them as they did not know the contry very well. but that Saterday night a man from Leadville come over to look at a mine about 3 miles from our camp, he did not know whear the mine was so he wanted me to goe with him, I was a fraid thay might get lost and thought I should goe with them, but thay thought they could make all O.K. and I desided to goe with the man and showe him the property as I was the only one there that knowe whear it was. so I and he a started for the mine and Father and Gorge Sunderling started for Montezuma. I and the man got to the mine all write and went back in. We had cantles for lights and it was an old mine and had worked for years and had lots of stopes and drifts. the name of the mine was the Caisheare at the head of the Snake river in Sumit Co Colorado way a bove timer line. we was in the mine for a bout 5 ours as it was a big one and took lots of tome to see it. Well we got back to daylight at bout 3 oclock that afternon and when we got out we found a blizard one as bad as I ever saw. wea had to shovel the snow from them moth of the tunel it had blown full of snow.
First thing (I think of) whean I got out and saw the storm was of Father and Gorge and wanted to goe to look for them but I had the other man on my hands and he could not find the way back to camp and it was blowing so hard and the snow fling so thick yu couldent see 5 ft from you and we had to cross the mountain to get to camp and on top the wind blowed so hard that wea could not stand up. we had to croll for 1/2 mile could that wea could not stand up. Well we finly got to camp way after dark. We had left 4 or 5 mean at camp and they had giv us up as lost and could not see how I had found the cabins. well the way I did was I staid high up on the montain side. I now that the gulch started high up and very deep and our camp was in it. I know if I got started in it I could not miss the camp. it was at timber line or very nowar. I nowed if I was in the right gulch I could not pass it. the only thing that I was a fraid of if I was in the rong one and the man that was with me wanted to give up and lay down and I had to fight with him all the time to keep him going. well, we had some hot coffie and a few hot drinks of whiskey and somthing to eat and I was ready to goe a gain.
I started and wanted to goe to look for Father and Gorge but had to give it up the snow was a bout 5 ft deep and still snowing and blowing. I had snow-shoes whin I started the next time. I desided to stay in camp that night and try it the next day. I had a bout desided that maby the storm had started before they had left Montzuma. and if they stayed thare that thay was all right, so monday morning the hole of us going to look for them. but monday morning it was still a blisard and gusts was very bad. So we did not get started till Winsday morning. som of the men went in differnt driction. I started for Montzuma to see if they had left for home Sunday and fond out that (they hadn’t got there). We looked all of that day and did not get any trase of them so I went back camp that night and toald the boys that thay was lost. the next day we all went to look for them we looked for tham all that day and did not get any trace of them”.
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Sadly, Carl Fulton’s father was found dead the following June when the snow melted.