Pikes Peak Gold Rush

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PIKES PEAK GOLD RUSH. In 1858, an expedition led by William G. Russell, comprised of miners from the goldfields of Georgia and California, followed reports of gold to Ralston Creek, near present day Denver. Discouraged after a few days of unsuccessful searching, most of these prospectors returned home. The remnant of the Russell party discovered some placer gold in Cherry Creek and other tributaries of the South Platte in July of 1858. Word of these finds brought new hopefuls to the region. Exaggerated stories of the reputed goldfields circulated in the nation's press during the winter of 1858–1859. Although seventy-five miles from the site of the discoveries, Pikes Peak was the best-known landmark, and the region adopted the name. The meager amount of dust found in 1858 hardly warranted so much excitement. But the country, suffering from the recent panic of 1857, grasped at any hope of rehabilitation. Merchants and newspapers in Missouri River towns, with an eye to spring outfitting, spread stories to encourage miners. The directed publicity created a great flood of goldseekers who traveled across the Plains in the spring. The Leavenworth and Pikes Peak Express, the first stage line to Denver, was established in 1859 as a result of these expeditions. Many early arrivals, finding that creeks were not yellow with gold, turned back. When John H. Gregory found rich gold veins near present-day Central City in 1859, an estimated 100,000 persons set out for the gold region, though only half of them reached the mountains.


Barney, Libeus. Letters of the Pike's Peak Gold Rush: or, Early Day Letters from Auraria. San Jose, Calif.: Talisman Press, 1959.

King, Joseph E. A Mine to Make a Mine: Financing the Colorado Mining Industry, 1859–1902. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1977.

Leonard, Stephen J., and Thomas J. Noel. Denver: Mining Camp to Metropolis. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1990.

LeRoy R.Hafen/h. s.

See alsoColorado ; Denver ; Gold Mines and Mining .