COBWEB CORNERS: Gold and the area’s earliest towns

By Mel McFarland

       In 1858, substantial finds of gold were reported in Colorado. Once word spread that the claims were valid, the rush was on.
       The westward push was led by the cry, "Pike's Peak or Bust!" Most had no idea where this gold was, but many knew where Pike's Peak was! The real hot spot was where Cherry Creek met the Platte River (now the Denver area).
       Prospectors soon headed from there into the mountains looking for the "mother lode." Old Indian trails provided foot or horseback access to mountain mining camps. One of these was Ute Pass. The earliest settlers had given it that name because of the tribe that regularly traveled it. Fountain Creek flowed beside parts of the trail. Occasionally prospectors turned up gold there, but never enough to cause any excitement. One of the early residents who had lived below Pike's Peak was "Uncle Dick" Wootton. He lived up a valley near the base of the mountains. As more people moved in and things got more crowded, he moved south near Pueblo.
       A group from Lawrence, Kan., settled across the river from the old Fort Pueblo ruins in 1858 at the junction of the Arkansas River and Fountain Creek. They called their community Fontaine (or Fountain) City. Some of the remaining adobe blocks from the old fort were incorporated into new buildings. Later another camp started south of the river and west of Fontaine City. It was called Pueblo.
       An unorganized camp near the mouth of Ute Pass was called El Paso City. It grew out of the settlers' attempts to use the Indians' mountain trail. Later a camp named El Dorado was equally short-lived. In August 1859, R. E. Cable, Melancthon S. Beach and several others organized Colorado City near the site of the earlier unsuccessful communities. The camp turned into an organized town that became a pivotal point for miners and other travelers heading into the mountains. We have Territory Days to remember those times. Our history does not just go back to July 1862, when the first territorial legislature met in Colorado City.