Updated: Apr 29, 2019
A history of the Alice/Fall River area with emphasis on the various mines and their owners
It was in 1881 that the first important gold discoveries were made in the Upper Fall River Mining District. The first title of 7 placer claims and 4 lode claims located on 930 acres was granted by the United States of America on December 4, 1884 to the Alice Mining Co., founded October 25, 1881. The name of Alice comes from the wife of George Taylor who had worked the property prior to the Alice Mining Company. R.O. Phillips, the president of the Alice Mining Co., was also the secretary of the Lincoln Land Co., a subsidiary of Burlington Railroads. The land around the Alice Mine was worked as placer claims, which strips the top from several acres of land at a time and is then washed in order to find the mineral. A stamp mill was erected to crush other ores, and several thousand dollars in gold, silver, and lead were taken out that first year.
John Kaminky was one of the earliest miners to reside in the area. John Kaminky married Ethel Wright, who was teaching at the Alice School, on June 10, 1912. John was on the School Board at the time. The young couple moved to a three room cabin located above Silver Lake, to the east, on a lonely, windy hill.
The cabin was near John’s Sierra Nevada mining properties. The Charlie Dow cabin was located just to the south, the only close neighbor. Mr. Dow was working the Blanche and Columbine claims.
Three daughters were born in the Kaminky home, Rosalie in 1913, Elizabeth in 1915, and Alice in 1917. The family moved into the Slater home in Alice in the fall of 1919, for Ethel was to teach in the Alice School that year, and Rosalie was to enter her first grade in school. Son John was born in 1921, and Ethel took him to school with her until a replacement was found to take over her classes. Ethel taught in Alice again in 1924-25, earning $900.00 a year. She was also the postmistress for two years. The family moved to Idaho Springs in 1925 so Rosalie could enter high school. John spent part of the winters at his mines and the family spent some summers at their cabin in Alice. The cabin was sold in 1942 at the time of John’s death for $100.00.
However, as depth was attained in the Alice Mine, the ore became more heavily mineralized and unfit for the mill. Operations generally proved unprofitable and ceased. The Alice Mining Co. began leasing of the Alice properties to various individuals in 1890. The properties were never worked profitably from this time, usually from lack of capital and the inability to treat the low-grade ore profitably. In May 1900, payment was defaulted and a public trustee put the properties up for auction. The sale was held on June 24, 1901, at the mill site, and C.O. Whedon bought the properties for $6766.25, including the machinery. Whedon sold the properties in 1902 to Silver Creek Mineral Co. who until 1929 would hold some claim to the land. The Alice Gold Mill Corp. and the Alice Development Co. owned the properties from 1908 to 1913. An effort was made to sell stock in the company which resulted in the publication of the two reports in our possession. The properties went back to Silver Creek Mineral Co. in 1913 by repossession due to failure to make payment by the Alice Gold Mill Corporation. Very little evidence has been found to substantiate any work being done or profits being made at the time of ownership by the Alice Gold Mill Corp. or at any time after the initial mining was done prior to 1890. The properties were again sold in 1929 and in 1931, but were repossessed due to failure to make payment. In 1934, the Yukon Gold Mining Co. purchased the properties and leased the claims to the Porphyry Mines which developed the mineral resources extensively between 1935 and 1939.
The Alice Mining Company build a 100-ton mill and expected ore to average $4.00 to $4.50 a ton, with mining costs expected to run 60¢ per ton and milling costs to run about $1.50 a ton. The property was worked through an open pit with chutes at intervals in the base to let ore through. In 1936, the American Smelting and Refining Co., at the time the world’s leading smelter and refiner of metals, acquired control of the Alice Mine, with plans to spend $400,000 in the development of the mine. Thirty percent interests were retained by the Porphyry Mines.
The American Smelting and Refining Co. was the country’s largest shipper of ores in 1938. The end was near however; the war in Europe was soon to make the quest for gold in Colorado only a bright memory. From 1936 to 1946, the taxes were not paid on the Alice Mine properties. The president of the Porphyry Mines, C. Sanford Thayer, bought the properties back for the amount of the taxes owed. Thayer sold some properties in 1947 to the St. Mary’s Lodge, Inc. which developed a dude ranch near Silver Lake. The first housing development properties were sold in May 1960 to Winterland Incorporated. Various land promoters have been involved in the area since.
The mines at Yankee, 94, and Lombard were the primary source of minerals in the Upper Fall River Mining District in the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s. Yankee was first settled by northern sympathizers, thus the name of Yankee. The post office at Yankee was established in 1893. ’94 was first settled in 1894 but was never incorporated. The post office at Yankee was discontinued in 1910, and soon all signs of Yankee disappeared. Only an occasional family lived at ’94. All mail was then sent to the post office at Alice which was established in 1900. Alice was now the center of activity in the area. The Alice School District #18 had been established in 1896. The community around the school was taking on the look of permanency. The Alice School District and the post office were in existence until 1927 when mining all but shut down in the area. Both the school and the post office reopened again in 1935 when mining activities were renewed. However, the mining activities were short lived as by 1939 the area was almost totally deserted.
Electricity to the area arrived in 1902, being financed by the Burlington Railroad. Fall River road underwent improvements in 1905 and ore shipments were then sent to Idaho Springs rather than Central City. The mining operations of families living in the area were the primary suppliers of minerals from around 1910 to the 1930’s.
The Thomas Slater family was another family that settled in the area in the late 1800’s. The current home of Don Speed was built by the Slaters. Catherine, the only child of Thomas and Margaret, was born in 1889. Thomas worked in various mines in the area. Thomas also had a cabin to the north of Silver Lake. He was in the cabin when it was hit by a snow slide. He fell and hit his head on the stove, but received only minor head injuries. Thomas Slater died in Denver in 1935. Catherine Slater was the first to teach at the Alice school built in 1906, she was 19 years old. She then went to college in Greeley to earn her degree, and returned to teach at the Alice school from 1913 to 1917, earning $80.00 a month in 1917. Catherine was also postmistress for one year. Catherine married Clarence Edwin Alexander in 1919. The Alexander family was associated with the Planet Group of mines on Gold Hill. The Slater and Alexander family’s left Alice around 1919, and the Kaminky family moved into their home.
Another prominent family in Alice was the Steuarts. George Steuart was born January, 1862 in Meadville, Pennsylvania. He was an engineer on the Colorado & Southern Railroad around 1880, working on the branch running out of Denver to Leadville. George purchased the Puritan Mine property in 1901 from W.S. and James Gow for the cash price of $15,000.00. George build a large frame house on the road to the glacier where he lived with his mother until his marriage to Alice Bannister on June 4, 1903. Alice Bannister was born September, 1879 in Des Moines, Iowa. She came to Idaho Springs to visit friends, and met George at a concert in that town. The power house at the mouth of the Mayflower Tunnel was build by George, and housed the air compressor and black smith shop. A water wheel nearby was powered by water from St. Mary’s Lake which ran through a 950 foot pipeline, 10 inches in diameter, with a drop of 280 feet. Ore from the Puritan Mine was reportedly valued at $100.00 per ton in 1901. The first child of the Steuarts’ was Alice Dorothy, born July, 1904. Margaret was born May, 1906 and George was born November, 1907. All three children, and most children in the area, were delivered at home by Dr. Frazier of Idaho Springs. Catherine Slater was the children’s teacher and they attended the Alice School for three years before going to Denver for school, only living at Alice in the summer. George R. Steuart did most of the surveys for the mines in the area at the time, and drew the maps. The Steuart home burned down in 1922. Everything was lost in the fire which was by an arsonist. Castle de Gow and Air Castle mining claims were owned by Edward and George Reynolds, cousins of George Steuart. They purchased their holdings from the Gow brothers also, coming from Pennsylvania around 1910. George Steuart was no longer mining by this time. After the fire he moved to Erie, Pennsylvania to work for Standard Stoker for several years. He invented partes for stoking coal on trains, and rode the trains checking to see if stokers worked properly. He was still working for Standard Stoker at the age of 80 when he was struck and killed by a car in Denver (1942). Alice Steuart died in Denver in 1959.
Silver City and Fall River
Up to the time of discovery of silver and gold in the County of Clear Creek, the Arapahoe and Ute Indians used the canyon only as a passage way to South Park in the Granby area. The hot springs located near Soda Creek were considered by both tribes to be neutral, sacred ground. The peace and solitude of the area ended in 1859 when George Jackson discovered gold along the south fork of Clear Creek. The rush was on; and in 60 years the Clear Creek area would yield more than $100 million worth of gold. The first discovery of minerals found along Fall River, named for the falls along the way, was in 1860 in the form of silver lodes. Nearly 8000 miners swarmed into the area, picking and shoveling the earth and blazing the trees to mark the claims. 7000 claims were filled in the Fall River area that year and the newly founded town of Silver City, located near the head of Silver Creek, boasted 1000 men living in tents and brush huts. The Upper Fall River Mining District was established in July, 1860, and the town of Silver City was surveyed and plated in September of that year. The rush was short-lived however. Most of the miners were jobless individuals, a product of the financial panic of 1857. They knew nothing about mining nor how to survive in the wilderness. At this time there was no way of processing silver profitably. So, due to lack of knowledge and the expense of transportation and milling costs, most mines in the Fall River area were soon abandoned. Silver City existed for only the summer of 1860. The town of Fall River, or Spanish Bar, which began at the junction of Clear Creek and Fall River, continued to prosper. In 1860, it boasted a hotel, post office, and several shops and residences, two large mills and several smaller ones. In 1866 county residents had the choice of Fall River or Idaho Springs as the county seat. The camp reached its peak in the 1880’s when discoveries rich in free gold were made.