Tuesday, April 23, 2024 -
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Booms and busts

What brought you to Colorado?

The pandemic has meant no far-flung vacations. Instead, I’ve explored different parts of the state and encountered pioneer stories.

One part of Colorado I’ve always wanted to visit is Cripple Creek, as it is where my great-grandfather lived when he first moved here from Ohio in the late 19th century. He, like several of his siblings, came here as soon as he was “of age,” that is, released from the Cleveland orphanage he was living in, to join his widowed father, John Harris, who had moved to Trinidad.

What my great-grandfather must have seen! He was living in Cripple Creek during the height of the Gold Rush and was the city’s Postmaster General.

Colorado seems full of these boom-and-bust towns. These unlikely locales, now quiet or dead, were once home to thousands, replete with culture and commerce, even boasting of grand opera houses.

It says a lot about the human impulse to create. Even after fires would destroy these settlements (as happened in Cripple Creek in 1896), citizens rebuilt, often turning to durable brick instead of flammable wood, and leaving us with a beautiful architectural legacy.

When they made these investments, did they consider that, as with most natural resources, the gold could run out? Or were they living in the moment, investing in their present?

On this trip I found myself reflecting that most people probably relocate either because of family or work. One could say that’s why my great-grandfather moved here: to be with his father and try his luck at gold mining (legend has it that he discovered gold but someone jumped his claim). But I choose to believe that his father, and the children who followed him here, also ventured out West for the adventure, for the nascent civilization and the untold opportunities it could bring.

I’ve got a feeling that Colorado is one of the few states that people still come to for similar reasons.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]

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IJN Assistant Publisher | [email protected]

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