Last Update: 8/26/2007 - Jens Moller
|If you are traveling on highway 9 or 285 west of the Front Range (Denver - Colorado Springs - Pueblo) odds are good that you will drive by or thru Fairplay. On the northern end of Fairplay as highway 9 leaves the city going towards Alma you'll find South Park City. South Park City as you see it never existed as itself, its actually the work of many people who went to ghost towns and moved entire buildings here and placed them along side existing structures. Now everyone can stop in and see for themselves how people lived. They not only brought back buildings, but they also took artifacts and placed them in the places that they would have appeared over 100 years ago. If you are interested in seeing what an early mining city might have looked like in the 'good old days', this is an easy and pleasant afternoon adventure.||
||These buildings are actual cabins and business houses that were used in the early days of the South Park Gold stampede. Each building has been restored and re-furnished as authentically as possible to match the time and place it it served in the city. These came mostly from the Ghost towns of Buckskin Joe, Horseshoe and Leavick - saving you a 4WD trip to go out to see them. The other advantage is that instead of seeing collapsed and vandalized ruins of what once was, you get to feel like you were living there at that time.|
|I always enjoy seeing and trying to understand the technology of the late 1800s. At the 1898 Worlds Fair it was proclaimed that all that would ever be invented had already been invented, and there would be no more new inventions. The people of that time were sure that you simply couldn't improve on what you already had. I guess not! If you find one of the reproduction 1900 Sears catalogs and look at what modern conviences were available you'll find hand operated washing machines - hand or foot operated everything (there are no mechanical electrical appliances in the catalog, save for a series of medicinal electric belts - for the nerves, and a battery operated door-bell)! I guess everything was already invented!||
||Visiting the Doctors office and reviewing the medical tools that are on display and the doctors procedures books from that time make me appreciate the times we live in today quite a bit. They seemed to like to amputate when in doubt. The mines of the time were not very safe for miners; this was a skill that seemed to be in high demand. There are numerous doctors kits on display. My wife spent quite a while reviewing the obstetrics policies and tools of the day. You have to remember that it was only in the early 1900s that doctors accepted that it might be a good idea to sterilize your tools and wash your hands. Aspirin was available to relieve headaches starting in 1899. Before then, you took whatever patent drugs that were available.|
In those days, morphine was mixed into a syrup to help baby sleep
thru teething pains. Since there were no truth in advertising
laws at the time, nor any government agency that verified that the drugs that
you were taking would cure you (much less kill you), anyone could package
anything and claim anything they wanted. My personal favorite was a tooth
whitener that had an acid in it that dissolved a little bit of the enamel
on your teeth, whitening what was left after each use. These were days of
My 1900 reproduction Sears catalog (from a used book store) had a very entertaining section on Patent medicines. They list diseases that I've never heard of, and some claim to cure baldness, gout and kidney problems with one teaspoon per day - satisfaction promised, or your money back! Many miners died of 'consumption'. Consumption was the result of using air powered rock mining drills (also referred to as 'Widow Makers'). These blew a fine silicon rock dust into the air - each particle with razor sharp edges - and deep into the lungs of the miners.
cure anything that ails you
and turned into a pumping station
Miners suffering from 'consumption' coughed most of the time
and were suseptable to any colds or virus moving thru the camps. The
mining ghost town graveyards are full of 30 year old miners.
Consumption didn't stop mining. Flooded mines did, but with a bit of work, and a water pump driven by a gas motor (as shown in this photo), a steam engine or an electric motor, the mines could stay open. Electricity made its mark in the mines of Colorado - mine owners saw a way to reduce costs and increase profits because of the electric motor, and many of the first power companies outside of the east coast were established high in Colorado Rockies in the late 1800s.
|The late 1890s up thru the 1920s were the era of the giant river Gold dredges. If you look all around Fairplay, and take highway 9 over to Breckenridge, you'll find miles and miles and more miles of river rock piled along the stream bed. These are the legacy of the Gold dredges that ran in the area. They scraped the rocks down to bedrock and brought the rock to the surface. The larger rocks were cast aside and the smaller sands were processed to remove gold using a sluice, just like that of early miners. They moved enormous amounts of rock looking for tiny metal flakes. The funny thing is that they cast aside many nuggets of gold, because they were mixed in as larger rock that was too big to be bothered with. In 1974, a woman with an inexpensive metal detector found a medium sized gold nugget laying on top of one of these piles of rock near Breckenridge. People with metal detectors are occasionally on these rocks attempting to duplicate the effort (sometimes with a lot of success).||
Fairplay offers a location that you can pan gold at, down in the creek. Every time I've tried it, I got a tiny bit of gold in my pan. Its free; give it a try! I prefer to scrape my starting pan of dirt from the rocky sides, and not the sandy areas - this is the same place that the Gold Dredges found it - mixed in with the rocks.
Sorry, there was no earthquake here - I just scanned in the photo in crooked.
There is a train here and some tracks, but the Steam Locomotive is a static display. Have
a seat in the train station or take a look around at the maps and get a feel
for where you are and how difficult it might be to get there in the late
Its not free to visit the South Park City museum (it cost around $5.00 per person in 1997, I'm not sure of the cost now), but once in, all the displays are free for you to enjoy. Its open late May to early October every year. Its right on the main highway and any car that can drive on a paved road to Fairplay can visit.
The South Park City Gift Shop (you don't need to buy admission to go there) sells Plastic Gold pans in case you want to try your luck in the River/Creek (there is flake gold there, but at 9000+ feet above sea level, you will not have the energy to do much panning).
The largest Gold Nugget found in the rock piles by people with metal detectors that I'm aware of was approx 4 oz (worth about $2500 or so in gold content alone - 2007 prices). I have a few smaller nuggets from these rock piles, the biggest about the weight of a dime. These were the result of many days worth of hunting away from the main road in huge rock piles. I have a Whites Metal Detector - You need a good one to dial out the minerals in the area.
WARNING: There is usually almost always a police car waiting for speeders as the speed limit quickly drops off in Alma - been that way for the last 20 years.