COBWEB CORNERS: Tough times for a tenderfoot
By Mel McFarland
It was great fun 100 years ago for Colorado City's residents to watch the recent arrivals from New York, Pennsylvania and even Denver who were on their way to strike it rich in the mountain gold camps. Many traveled Colorado Avenue, shopping for the right supplies. Any such stranger was quickly labeled as a “tenderfoot.” To the locals, these people stood out as if they were wearing neon.
At the time, the Cripple Creek District had grown from a ranch with a few cows roaming the hills to one of the largest cities in the state. The majority of the land was under claim by 1900 and the exploration of the hills was still rolling right along.
On arriving in the camps, the tenderfeet were surprised to find that most of the people had been there for many years and were not rich yet. Was there some reason that they had not made it yet? For the most part the newcomers were not willing to listen as to why, and this made the old-timers even more likely to laugh at them. The sight of a well-dressed, well-equipped man or two wandering the hills in a circle miles away from Cripple Creek seemed fair sport for anyone who had been in the area more than a year. In the saloons, barber shops and most stores the subject often entertained anyone in the place… even though some of these had been in their spot a few years earlier.
Many of the new arrivals left without much more than they were wearing, with low opinions of the camps and their residents. Yet, with a population just over 20,000, it was obvious that the district was providing a living for many who managed to stay. Cripple Creek alone, a hundred years ago was home to just over 10,000. There were still rich men to be made, and the camp would support larger numbers.
Still to come were big strikes and more businesses. For many more years it would be possible to get rich without lifting a shovel, except maybe to sell it!