Browse Exhibits (4 total)

From Gold to Hay: Ranching in Park County

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Ranchers first arrived in Park County due to the Gold Rush. As Park County residents adjusted to new climates and ways of life, ranchers and their properties grew in size and influence. This exhibit covers the history of ranching in Park County from the early 1800s to today.

The connection of early ranching and developing mining and railroad industries are discussed in detail, as well as women's roles in the industry. The exhibit moves on to examine improvements in ranching techniques as ranchers moved away from classic cowboy methods of cattle roundups to keeping their livestock within fences. Topics such as the impact of the Great Depression and the World Wars on ranching are also explored. The exhibit concludes with a discussion on modern rancher exploits regarding tourism and conservation. 

 There are some limitations involved in our exhibit regarding indigenous populations. While we hoped to include them to a greater extent, due to a lack of resources this proved extremely difficult. Although our exhibit displays an interesting story on Park County ranching and homesteading, it is important to acknowledge the indigenous population and culture missing from our story. 

Mining Memory From Park County, Colorado

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Led by the '59ers, the Pikes Peak Gold Rush brought new settlers West fulfilling the United States’ concept and execution of Manifest Destiny. In the Colorado Territory, mining was part of the lure of the journey. Staking claims and taking advantage of the abundant resources provided by the land they stumbled upon was the custom of these wealth-seekers. From Pikes Peak, prospectors made their way north west through Tarryall Creek to Fairplay, Alma, and Montgomery of current day Park County.The Park County area was ripe for gold and silver placer mining early in the boom, and later in the 20th century, hard rock mining and dredge placer mining. Mining is effectively what established the Colorado Territory in 1861. 

Park County's Railroad History

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The railroads changed lives beginning in the mid 1800s across America. They connected towns and regions, improved the ability to trade goods and raw materials, and everyday citizens could travel farther and quicker than ever before. In the state of Colorado, railways emerged with the Colorado Gold Rush and silver mining boom, sparking a new wave of settlers and commercial enterprises.

The transformation brought by locomotion was especially pronounced in Park County and towns such as Como that acted as a main depot for the Denver, South Park, & Pacific (DSP&P) railroad. As the railroads vastly improved the efficiency of local mining endeavors, they also shaped the landscape and the demographics of towns along rail routes, many of which experienced booming economies during this time. However, the short lifespan of the railways greatly limited the long-term prosperity of the towns and and those settlers dependent on railway traffic.

Towns and Settlements

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Before Colorado became a state in 1876, it was considered a part of the American Frontier. The untapped wealth of the American Frontier stimulated interest in westward expansion. The discovery of gold along the Front Range mountains of Colorado in 1859 saw the start of the Colorado Gold Rush. 

Attracted by the prospects of making it rich, thousands of migrants from numerous backgrounds moved into the developing counties of Colorado territories. The region within Central Colorado known as South Park saw a population boom that was largely concentrated along the South Platte River. It was here that migrants began to establish a presence that can still be felt today.

Towns such as Fairplay, Alma, Como, and Jefferson evolved from rustic mining camps into the present-day towns and communities that make up Park County. As time progressed, these communities diminished in population, with some communities eventually being labeled “ghost towns.” What follows is a visual exploration of the towns and communities that make up the region known as South Park, Colorado, illustrating the beginnings, hardships, and gradual decline of the settlements that emerged because of the Colorado Gold Rush.