Sunday, April 5, 2020

April is National Poetry Month

Cave Art 

The twenty-thousand-year-old bison
of Lascaux appear arranged and alive
in the glimmering glow of a burning torch—
where ancient walls whisper
and prehistory holds us,
then slowly


Saturday, February 29, 2020

Incident at the Kalamazoo Gold Mine

By Steven Wade Veatch

During the cold day of December 27, 1901, Martin Gleason, a mining superintendent working in the goldfields of Cripple Creek, Colorado, was attacked in the shadows of the Kalamazoo mine. Gleason’s assailant struck him on the head and then pushed him into a mine shaft, where he fell 500 feet to the bottom of the mine. The attack left behind two things: Martin Gleason's corpse and footprints suggesting a struggle. What brought Martin Gleason to this grim end?

Martin Gleason was born in Queenstown, Ireland, on December 25, 1848. When he was 18, he immigrated to America. Gleason worked for fifteen years in the Pennsylvania coal mines before coming west to Colorado in the early 1880s (Annonymous, 1900). He ended up working for the Consolidated Gold Mines Company in the Cripple Creek Mining District in 1898 (Poet, 1932). Two years later, the Woods Investment Company employed him as the superintendent of the Wild Horse (figure 1), Deadwood, and Battle Mountain mines.

Figure 1. View of the Wild Horse mine. The writing on the left lower corner states “Gleason shaft.” The Wild Horse mine was one of several mines under Martin Gleason’s management when his troubles with the union deepened. Undated photo by A. J. Harlan. Photo courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum (CCDM 82 591).
Things were looking good for Gleason. His reputation as a hard-as-nails mining man brought him success in the mining district.

Prior to Gleason becoming a mine superintendent for the Woods Investment Company, the Cripple Creek Mining District experienced its first labor strike in 1894. The union called a strike to resist wage cuts and a longer workday. Specifically, the miners demanded a minimum daily wage of $3.00 and an eight-hour workday.

During the strike, James C. Veatch, former Denver chief of police, arrived in Cripple Creek with a force of 125 heavily armed deputies, mainly former policemen and firemen, to confront the striking miners (Rastall, 1906). The pro-labor Populist governor Davis Waite used the state militia (figure 2) to stop this army of deputies from advancing on union miners. The strike was resolved in favor of the miners, and the power of the union was firmly established in the mining district.

Figure 2. Encampment of state militia on Bull Hill, Cripple Creek Mining District, June 12, 1894. Cripple Creek was the site of two labor conflicts: the first in 1894 and the second one in 1903-1904. Photo by A. James Harlan. Courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum. 
After the miners won the strike, the union’s power continued to expand, and by 1902, unions organized most of the workers in the district, including bartenders, clerks, cooks, waitresses, laundrymen, and newsboys (Jameson, 1998).  However, power soon began to shift from the unions to the mine owners and capitalists. Trouble brewed as organized labor worked to maintain its authority while intimidating miners to either join the union or leave the district. Violence escalated. Union thugs threatened miners in their homes and assaulted them as they went to and from their work. Sometimes the beatings resulted in death (Montgomery, 1904).

About this time, Martin Gleason, the superintendent of several local mines, aroused the enmity of the union as he supported nonunion labor. According to an article in the Victor and Cripple Creek Daily Press (December 28, 1901) Gleason “had the reputation of not discriminating in the employment of men” (Jameson, 1998).

Gleason further antagonized union bosses and miners when he hired a black miner at the White Horse mine. There were few black miners in the Cripple Creek Mining District, and when the White Horse mine employed another black miner, most of the white miners opposed the hiring. Gleason reminded the angry miners that President Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation 35 years earlier and that they should show some “brotherly love” (Jameson, 1998). Gleason’s remarks held no sway, and the white miners refused to go work with the black miner.

The circumstances turned lethal. Two days after Christmas, 1901, Martin Gleason, 50 years of age, was found dead, with his head crushed in, at the bottom of the Kalamazoo shaft—Miners brought his mangled body up 500 feet to the surface. The Woods Investment Company, Gleason’s employer, offered a $5,000 reward for the capture of his killer (Anonymous, 1902).

Several men were charged with this crime but were later released. According to Poet (1932), the principal of the Victor High School, “the murderer was never brought to justice.”  We may never know who murdered Martin Gleason.

Although Martin Gleason worked for mine owners as a superintendent, he was sympathetic with the plight of the miners. As he tried to bridge the two worlds of labor and capital, Gleason became a grim statistic in the violence leading up to the second (1903-1904) of two Cripple Creek labor strikes.

References Cited

Anonymous, 1900, Fortunes of a Decade, Colorado Springs: Sargent and Rohrabacher for The Evening Telegraph, p. 116-118.

Anonymous, 1902, “Martin Gleason:” Mining Reporter, Vol. 45, No 1, p. 12.

Jameson, E., 1998, Class, Conflict, and Community in Cripple Creek, Chicago, University of Illinois Press.

Montgomery, W. H., 1904, Colorado Bureau of Labor Statistics: Biennial Report 1904. Denver, The Smith-Brooks Printing Company.

Poet, S. E., 1932, The Story of Cameron, Colorado. The Colorado Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 5, p. 197.

Rastall, B. M., 1906, The Labor History of the Cripple Creek District, A Study in Industrial Evolution. Madison, Wisconsin, Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, No. 108, Economics and Political Science Series, Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 1-166.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Ancient Weevil Pupal Cases: Trace Fossils from Australia’s Pleistocene

Curious pupal cases made by prehistoric weevils, together with worm burrows, are found as trace fossils in rock exposures of the Upper Bridgewater Formation along the western coastline of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia (Flint, 1992; Flint and Rankin, 1991; Rankin and Flint, 1992).  According to Parker and Flint (2005), the Upper Bridgewater Formation is a middle to late Pleistocene aeolian calcarenite (a wind-blown, consolidated gritty calcareous sandstone).  These trace fossils are found inland from the coast for a distance of about 40 km.  Microscopic analysis of these ancient pupal cases shows they are made of gritty sand and gravel that were cemented by calcite over thousands of years.

Fig. 1. Fossil pupal cases from the Bridgewater Formation resemble small elongated eggs.  These cases have a hole where the fossil organism exited.  The trace fossils are characterized by their strong cementation and a hollow interior.  Scale in mm. Specimen from the S. W. Veatch collection. Photo by S. W. Veatch.
These cases are thought to have contained the pupae Leptopius duponti, a medium-size, soil-inhabiting weevil or snout beetle of the family Curculionidae. The Curculionidae are one of the largest families of organisms, with at least 44,000 described species (Grimaldi and Engel, 2005).  Adults of most species of this family have a characteristic elongate snout or nostrum.  At the end of this well-developed snout is a small pair of mandibles for biting and chewing food.

Taxonomic Classification:
Kingdom        Animalia
Phylum          Arthropoda
Class             Insecta
Order             Coleoptera
Suborder       Polyphaga
Superfamily Curculionoidea
Family           Curculionidae
Subfamily Leptopiinae
Genus           Leptopius
Species         duponti

The adult female Leptopius duponti not only relishes the foliage of acacia trees as food, but also carefully lays her eggs on the leaves.  When the larva hatch, they move underground to feed on roots. When they are ready to pupate, they form a chamber or pupal case out of the soil.  After their metamorphosis, they cut a hole near one end of their pupal case to leave and then burrow to the surface, where they quickly climb the acacia trees to feed.
The pupal cases are usually too delicate to survive for any length of time, but, occasionally, some of the empty cases remain underground where they become petrified by calcite.  (Tilley et al., 1997).  Some of these pupal cases in the Upper Bridgewater Formation are estimated to be 40,000 to 100,000 years old.

Fig. 2. Leptopius duponti is common in Australia, where they are called “wattle pigs.” 
The body length of Leptopius duponti averages 20 mm. 
These slow-moving weevils are plant eaters.
Photo by David Nelson. Used with permission.

References cited:

Flint, R.B., 1992, Elliston, South Australia, Sheet SI3-6, South Australia Geological Survey, 1:250,000 series, explanatory notes.

Flint, R.B. and Rankin, L.R., 1991, Kimba, South Australia, Sheet SI53-7, South Australia Geological Survey, 1:250,000 series, explanatory notes.

Grimaldi, D and Engle, M. S., 2005, The Evolution of Insects: New York, Cambridge University Press, 689 p.

Parker, A.J. and Flint, R.B., 2005, Yardea, South Australia Sheet SI53-3, Geological Survey of South Australia, 1:250,000 series, explanatory notes.

Rankin, L.R., and Flint, R.B., 1992, Streaky Bay, South Australia Sheet SI53-2, South Australia Geological Survey, 1:250,000 series, explanatory notes.

Tilley, D. B., Barrows, T.T., and Zimmerman, E.C., 1997, Bauxitic insect pupal cases from northern Australia.  Alcheringa 21, p. 157-160.

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Michigan Puddingstone

Steven Wade Veatch

Michigan’s puddingstones are intriguing rocks that look like a glob of pudding stuffed with raisins, nuts and bits of cranberries. These white rocks, with small red, brown, purple and black pebbles, are not a Michigan product. During the last ice age, they hitched a ride into Michigan on an ice sheet and got off in the southern part of the state when the ice melted.

Fig. 1. An unpolished puddingstone from Michigan. Some contain trace amounts of gold and diamonds. These rocks are commonly found just after farmers plow their fields in Michigan.  Puddingstones were brought to Michigan by Ice Age glaciers. Jo Beckwith Specimen.  Photo by S.W. 
Puddingstones went through several steps in their formation (in what is now part of Ontario in Canada), before they went on their journey to Michigan. First, a network of rapidly flowing streams tumbled red and coffee-brown jasper, funeral-black chert, hematite and quartz in their churning water. Next, the streams deposited the material as sedimentary fill in eroded troughs and as alluvial fans, when the streams reduced their velocity and scattered the colorful pebbles onto mounds of sand (Lowey, 1985; Baumann et al. 2001). 

Then, the sand and pebbles hardened beneath the Earth’s surface and, over time, formed sedimentary rocks known as conglomerates (Slawson, 1933).  Later, intense heat and pressure metamorphosed the matrix of sand into a light-colored, coarse-grained, sugary-textured quartzite that tightly held the pebbles (Schaetzl, n.d.).  These geological forces formed the puddingstones around 2.3 billion years ago.

Today, geologists recognize these conglomerates as part of the Lorrain Quartzite of the Cobalt Series (Door and Eschman, 1970). This rock formation occurs as thick beds at Saint Joseph Island in Northern Ontario, Canada. The conglomerates also are found by the Saint Mary's River north of the Bruce Mines. This area is located 65 km (40 miles) east of Sault Sainte Marie in Ontario.
Puddingstones traveled south during the last ice age with the immense Laurentide Ice Sheet as it flowed at a glacial pace down from Canada. This ice plucked the puddingstones from the underlying bedrock, carried them hundreds of kilometers, and delivered those rocks to Michigan about 24,000 years ago.
This slowly advancing ice plowed across the landscape for thousands of years until rising temperatures, brought on by a climatic shift, ended their movement in Michigan. As the glacial ice melted, it deposited glacial till that contained the puddingstones. 

Today, farmers in the southern part of Michigan find puddingstones after spring plowing.  Since tightly cemented puddingstones can be cut and polished, they are in demand by Michigan artists and crafters, who make jewelry and ornaments out of them.  Puddingstones are commonly found as garden decorations that adorn Michigan homes and farms. People also collect and display puddingstones for their striking colors and appearance. 

Fig. 2. Since puddingstones are so hard, they take a nice polish as seen in this example. 
Steven Veatch specimen. Photo by S.W. Veatch.

In fact, as grandparents and parents take children outside to hunt for puddingstones, they pass an interest in puddingstones and geology down through generations of Michigan families. The tradition of looking for these goes back to the settlement of Michigan, and there is no sign of this interest ending anytime soon. 

References cited:

Baumann, S. D., J. T. Arrospide, and A. E. Wolosyzn, 2011, Preliminary Redefinition of the Cobalt Group (Huronian Supergroup), in the Southern Geologic Province, Ontario, Canada. Midwest Institute of Geosciences and Engineering, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Door, J. A. and Eschman, D., 1970, Geology of Michigan: Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press.

Lowey, G.W., 1985, Stratigraphy and Sedimentology of the Lorrain Formation, Huronian Supergroup (Aphebian), Between Sault Ste. Marie and Elliot Lake, Ontario, and Implications for Stratiform Gold Mineralization, Open File Report no. 1154. Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, Canada.

Schaetzl, R. J. (n.d.), Geography of Michigan and the Great Lakes Region. Retrieved, from on January 22, 2020.

Slawson, C. B., 1933, The Jasper Conglomerate, an Index of Drift Dispersion. The Journal of Geology, Vol. 41, No. 5, p. 546–52.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Miner’s Photograph: A Pathway to the Past

By Steven Wade Veatch

This photograph, taken around 1899, shows my ancestors posing at their modest frame home, where they lived one step away from Cripple Creek’s gold rush world of cardplayers, whisky drinkers, and midnight carousers. The scene depicts my great-grandfather (Robert Pickering Plews), my great-grandmother (Janet Plews), and two of their daughters in front of their miner’s cabin, built from pine boards, on a hillside in the newly established mining town of Elkton, Colorado.

Robert Plews (32), with two daughters, Elizabeth (4) and Mabel (3) and his wife Janet (25), stand in front of their small home in Elkton, Colorado, one of the towns in the Cripple Creek Mining District. Photo date circa 1899, from the S. W. Veatch collection.
My great-grandparents were from England. Two years after my great-grandfather married my great-grandmother, he left England—by himself—to build a better life in Cripple Creek’s goldfields for the family that he left behind.

Robert Plews was a hope-chaser. He carried his dreams from England across the Atlantic and then 1,700 miles to the Front Range and Cripple Creek. He arrived in the gold mining district in 1897. Victoria was the Queen of England, William McKinley was the US President, and Marconi had sent his first wireless transmission. The Colorado Rockies meant a new chance for him at a place with unlimited opportunities. He went to work at the busy Elkton mine. After my great-grandfather established himself in the mining camp, he sent for his wife, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Mabel, who were still in England. They left Newcastle in the northeast of England in 1899 and immigrated to Elkton.

I discovered this photograph recently, tucked away in an old box. I am drawn to this image’s simple charm. It’s a staged scene: the family hired a photographer, dressed up and posed for the camera. And, it would not have been an inexpensive endeavor at the time. The photo is an affirmation of their place and position in society. My great-grandparents wanted to preserve this sense of success in a new country.

In the photograph, the modest home in the mining camp is a tidy place. My great-grandfather raised six daughters there. A seventh daughter later grew up in CaƱon City, Colorado. Great-grandfather Plews was the strict English father of legend, who made all of his daughters behave at a time when children were to be seen and not heard.

In stark contrast to the rustic cabin, everyone is dressed as if they came from a holiday party, not a rough-and-tumble mining camp. The clothes are stylish and expensive. My great-grandfather is smartly attired. A simple watch fob hangs out of a pocket of his waistcoat. He wears sleeve garters on his ready-made shirt. Shirts in those days came in only one sleeve length; and the garters allowed him to adjust the sleeve so that the cuffs were the correct length. My great-grandmother’s long dark dress covers her high-button shoes. She covers her abdomen with her hand and arm, as did many women of the day who were pregnant. She was pregnant with my great-aunt Emma. The two young girls, newly arrived from England, are in white dresses. One has ribbons in her hair.

According to my grandmother, my great-grandfather satisfied his hunger for learning by reading books late into the night, some of which were about mining. His hunger for education resulted in several promotions at the Elkton mine. He eventually became the hoist operator there. While he worked at the mine, the shafts sank lower and lower, and the horizontal drifts dug deeper into the rich goldfields, while tailings piled up on the surface. My great-grandfather worked at the Elkton mine for 21 years.

This photograph is a path for me into my past. I can connect with my great-grandfather and imagine his days of mining, and how that work somehow reached through several generations to me, explaining, in part, my interest in mining and geology from an early age. I can envision how my great-grandmother baked, cooked, cleaned and sewed for a family of nine. And I think of their lives, deeply lived in Colorado’s last gold rush.

Today, the cabin is no longer there; modern gold mining operations replaced it and the town of Elkton. Yet, everything my great-grandfather created there would live on through his seven girls, their children and beyond. I am a direct descendant of one of his daughters, and remain deeply rooted to the Cripple Creek Mining District.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Ozymandias: A Scientist’s Reflection

By Steven Wade Veatch

There are many ways to view and understand our world. Science provides theories, psychology exposes human nature, philosophy assesses reality, religion shapes faith, and literature offers insight. Poetry shines light into the dark recesses of our lives, revealing essential truths about us and to us.

Poetry inspires me; it is one way I experience and understand the world. Poetry’s highly charged words make the speeding bullet of my life slow down so that I can enjoy the best parts of living.

One of my favorite poems is the sonnet “Ozymandias” that Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote in 1818, when Egyptian archaeology was in its infancy. Ozymandias is the Greek name for Ramses II, arguably one of the greatest Egyptian Pharaohs. Ramses II erected magnificent statues of himself to ensure his immortality. The text of Shelley’s sonnet follows:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias King of Kings;
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

This poem does a lot of work. Its dancing words distill life down to its essence; and, in fourteen lines, it yields a dense architecture of meaning.

What are the meanings in Shelley’s poem? First, there is the message about the decay of empires over time. Ozymandias represents despotism and tyranny. The crumbling, ancient statue underscores the fact that power and glory are brief—they do not last; even though the “shattered” face of Ozymandias, with his “sneer of cold command,” his “wrinkled lip,” and his “frown” survived through the millennia, the great Egyptian Pharaoh no longer commands anyone.

Second, the poem is about the fleeting nature of life, fame, and fortune. “Ozymandias” shows the ephemerality of our existence and what survives, what fades, and what vanishes.

Through the poem I sense the endless desert; where sand reaches in all directions around “that colossal wreck, boundless and bare.” The word “boundless” in the poem describes time—it has no bounds. The poem also shows that every person is subject to time. In the case of Ozymandias, the passing of time took its toll on him and his kingdom, leaving a crumbling, lifeless statue drenched in silence, gripped by parching heat, and surrounded by somber swirling sands. Everything is gone. Gone. The sculptor who made the statue is gone, Ozymandias is gone, and the traveler seeing the ruins is gone. Shelley’s poem pushes me to consider what is left, and what is not; what is important, and what is not. The sobering thought of the fate we all share—death, decay, and ultimately ceasing to exist, looms large.

Poetry teaches. It brings ideas and understanding. It delivers discovery. It crafts beauty despite the chaotic landscape on which life plays out.  And through “Ozymandias” I concede the time-bound nature of humanity—knowing that at one point I will disappear from the Earth and be forgotten—a stark reminder to live for what matters. Poetry is a pause in my hurried and hectic life—an oasis to find some measure of truth in my journey, even if only for a brief time in the swirling, shifting sands of life.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Cresson Mine: The Untold Stories

By Benjamin Hayden Elick and Steven Wade Veatch

The Cresson mine (figure1), situated between Cripple Creek and Victor, Colorado, was established in 1894 (MacKell, 2003). No one is certain who started the mine, but records show that two brothers, insurance agents J.R. and Eugene Harbeck from Chicago, were early owners. After a hard night of drinking, they sobered up the next day and learned of their new acquisition (MacKell, 2003). The Cresson Mining and Milling Company was organized a year later, in 1895, to raise capital and operate the mine (Patton and Wolf, 1915). The mine continued operating through several leases with low but steady proceeds.

Figure 1. Early view of the Cresson mine, Cripple Creek, Colorado. 
Photograph date circa 1914, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum. 

The Cresson mine became profitable when Richard Roelofs, a known mining innovator, was hired by the Harbecks as mine manager in 1895. Roelofs wrote on an undated letterhead: “I was a prospector, a leaser, a miner, an assayer and chemist, an underground shift boss, foreman, superintendent and then general manager of one of the greatest of Colorado’s mines” (Roelofs, n.d.).

Roelofs (figure 2) was a newcomer to Colorado, as many were when the Cripple Creek gold rush ignited in 1891. He moved to Cripple Creek in 1893 with his wife, Mabel. They had one child, Richard Jr., who was born on August 19, 1894 in Cripple Creek.

Figure 2. Richard Roelofs, manager of the Cresson mine. 
Photograph date 1914, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum.
Not only did Roelofs have to manage the Cresson mine, he had to raise his son alone. Shortly after the birth of Richard Jr., Mabel left her husband and went to Philadelphia, taking their infant son with her. She left Cripple Creek to pursue riches. Then, in July 1895, police arrested Mabel Roelofs for passing bad checks (Keels, 2018). Richard Jr. was sent back to Cripple Creek to join his father. Mabel Roelofs later fled to New York, where she continued a life of crime working con after con. As authorities began to close in, she committed suicide by poisoning in 1908 (Keels, 2018). Richard Roelofs, in his employment contract, earned a percentage of the Cresson mine’s profits, making him a very rich man. If Mabel Roelofs had stayed with Richard, she would have shared in his fabulous wealth.

Roelofs introduced new technology and mining techniques at the Cresson mine, including an aerial tramway he designed that transported ore to a railway at the bottom of the large hill on which the Cresson sat. The tramway reduced the costs of transporting ore (Sprague, 1953). Roelofs deepened the shaft and enlarged the mined-out voids (or stopes). The Cresson’s stopes were the largest in the district, at almost 100 m in width and hundreds of meters high. It is estimated that several houses could fit inside the stopes of the Cresson (Jensen, 2003; Sprague, 1953). Roelofs’s work allowed the mine to be debt free by 1911, and it earned $150,000 annually between 1912 and 1913.

Miners discovered the famous Cresson vug by accident on November 25, 1914 (Smith Jr., Feitz, and Raines, 1985). While following large ore shoots on the 12th level, miners broke into the large chamber (or “vug”) which was in the shape of a pear (Patton and Wolf, 1915). It was approximately 12 m tall, 7 m long, and 4 m wide. The walls were lined with delicate, sparkling crystals of gold tellurides. However, many had fallen to the floor—disturbed by nearby blasting (Jensen, 2003).

The ore minerals in the vug were mostly the gold tellurides sylvanite and calaverite. Sylvanite is comprised of gold, silver and tellurium, while calaverite contains only gold and tellurium. The tellurides within the Cresson vug occurred as crystals, varying in length from 1 mm to 3 mm. On some crystals of calaverite, pure gold was found, suggesting chemical alteration (Patton and Wolf, 1915). These ore minerals penetrated beyond the surface of the vug into the surrounding rock to depths of up to 1.5 m (Mehls and Mehls, 2001).

The gold camp was soon buzzing with conversation about the vug and word of the discovery spread across the nation. National newspapers said the vug “staggers the imagination,” and another paper declared it “the most important strike ever made in the Cripple Creek District” (Various period newspapers: Cripple Creek District Museum, n.d.). This astonishing discovery supported Cripple Creek’s claim that it was the “World’s Greatest Gold Camp.”

The vug, and a considerable amount of Cresson ore, was a part of the Cresson pipe, or blowout. The Cresson pipe is an elliptical cylinder of lamprophyric material (mafic rocks) 100 m to 150 m in diameter (Jensen, 2003). The lamprophyric matrix graded into a lighter colored carbonate matrix (Jensen, 2003). The entire blowout is encased inside a diatreme, a carrot-shaped volcanic complex, emplaced in the Oligocene (about 30 Ma) that reached deep into the crust (Jensen, 2003). The perimeter of the pipe produced 2,000,000 ounces of gold, indicating major deposits of gold-bearing solutions along the contact between the Cresson pipe and the diatreme (Jensen, 2003).

The gold ore from the vug was so valuable that Roelofs quickly took measures to prevent theft or high grading. He ordered a storehouse built underground (on the same level as the Cresson vug) into an old drift and secured it with solid steel doors. Bags of gold ore were stacked by hand and securely locked inside. A newspaper article described the magnitude of ore as “they had stacked between 80 to 100 tons of the phenomenally rich ore at the time of my visit, and from all indications, will continue stacking this ore for some time” (Various period newspapers: Cripple Creek District Museum, n.d.). At times, up to $500,000 (1914 value, or $36,250,000 in today’s dollars) worth of gold ore was stored there.

The Cresson vug’s valuable gold ore also needed special handling. Roelofs hired guards to protect the vug and ore. The guards watched over the ore on every part of its journey through mining, transportation and processing—keeping it safe from thieves. Two to three armed guards worked each shift underground, providing constant protection for the ore and vug. To prevent high grading, Roelofs allowed only two of the most trusted and senior miners to work the vug at a time, and always under close supervision.

The Cresson mine took precautions to secure the ore while it traveled on the railways to smelters. These measures included locked box cars and guards carrying sawed-off shotguns and rifles, who rode inside and on the top of the cars (Newton, 1928). Accounts claim that gold ore was scraped off the vug’s walls and then shoveled into large canvas bags (figure 3). It took four weeks to mine the vug out (Cunningham, 2000).

Figure 3. Canvas bags of gold ore from the Cresson vug are brought to the surface. 
Men are getting the bags ready for shipment. 
Photograph date 1914, courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum. 
There were two main grades of ore from the Cresson vug: the first grade included ore worth over $5,000 (1914 dollars) per ton and the second grade from $1,000 to $1,500 (1914 dollars) per ton ("$10,000,000 Strike in Cresson Mine Proves Again that Colorado is the Paradise for the Gold Hunter," 1914, p. 5). The higher-grade ore had 250-plus ounces of gold per ton, while the second grade of ore had 75-plus ounces per ton, based on the 1914 gold price of $20 per ounce (Historical Gold Prices, 2015).

In all, a whopping 60,000 ounces of gold was recovered from the vug (Hunter, 2002). The total value of the vug’s ore in 1914 gold prices was $1,200,000 (Smith Jr., Feitz, and Raines, 1985). Based on today’s gold values, the vug’s rich ore would be worth over $87,000,000.

The discovery of the Cresson vug prompted other mines in the district to deepen their shafts, since the vug was found on a deep level of the Cresson. Mine owners also expanded exploration in their mines.

Roelofs, at the age of 50, sold out in 1917 and spent the next 30 years comfortably in New York while spending time abroad, mostly in Paris Richard. He died at the age of 82 in 1939 (Sprague 1953).

The Cresson mine was operated for 66 years, finally closing in 1961 (Munn, 1984). After finishing as one of the top producing mines in the district, its buildings were torn down and the head frame and its machinery were moved to a park in Victor.

In the early 1990s, exploration geologists discovered a 2.5 million-ounce gold deposit in the same area as the historic Cresson mine, called the Cresson deposit. The Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company submitted permit applications in 1994 for open pit mining of the Cresson deposit and surrounding areas. Mining started in December 1994 and, by the end of 1995, 76,500 ounces of gold were produced. The Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company is still mining the area today under the ownership of Newmont Goldcorp with headquarters in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

The original Cresson mine shaft is long gone and, in its place is the Cresson open pit at 518 m deep (Poulson, personal communication, 2019). Newmont will deepen the pit another 91 m for an ultimate depth of 609 m. At this point, a portal for underground exploration is planned at the bottom of the pit. This project is planned in two phases. In phase one, a decline drift is planned with 762 m of easterly exploratory drifting underneath the Cresson pit. The intention is to establish drill bays at the end of the drift for core drilling below the historic Orpha May and Vindicator mines. The estimated cost of this phase is $26 million. Phase two includes 3,048 m of exploration drifting and positioning core drilling bays at an additional $100 million cost. The goal is to prove the potential for underground mining projects. If Newmont Goldcorp’s investment council approves this plan, the project would start as early as the first quarter of 2020 (Poulson, personal communication, 2019).

The Cresson mine took its place among the important mines in Cripple Creek as a result of its early establishment in the district, an innovative mine manager, expansive underground workings and the discovery of the rich Cresson vug. Mining continues at the Cresson today.

References Cited

$10,000,000 Strike in Cresson Mine Proves Again that Colorado is the Paradise for the Gold Hunter. (1914, December 30). Denver Post, p. 5.

Cunningham, C. (2000). Cripple Creek Bonanza: From Gold to Gambling. Ridgway, CO: Wayfinder Press.

Historical Gold Prices. (2015). Retrieved from Only Gold:

Hunter, E. T. (2002). A Thumbnail Sketch of the Cripple Creek/Victor Mining District's History. Manuscript on Newmont Gold Corp website:

Jensen, E. P. (2003). Magmatic and Hydrothermal Evolution of the Cripple Creek Gold Deposit, Colorado, and Comparisons with Regional and Global Magmatic-Hydrothermal Systems Associated with Alkaline Magmatism.  PhD Thesis. Departement of Geosciences, University of Arizona.

MacKell, J. (2003). Cripple Creek District: Last of Colorado's Gold Booms. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing.

Mehls, S. F., and Mehls, C. D. (2001). Goin’ Up to Cripple Creek: A History of the Gold Belt Byway. Lafayette, CO: Western Historical Studies.

Munn, B. (1984). A Guide to the Mines of the Cripple Creek District. Colorado Springs: Century One Press.

Newton, H. J. (1928). Yellow Gold of Cripple Creek: Romances and Anecdotes of the Mines, Mining Men, and Mining Fortunes. Denver: Nelson Publishing Company.

Patton, H. B., and Wolf, H. J. (1915). Preliminary report on the Cresson gold strike at Cripple Creek, Colorado. Golden: Colorado School of Mines Quarterly. Vol 9, No. 4, p. 199-217.

Poulson, B. (2019, Febuary). Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine . (S. Veatch , Interviewer)
Roelofs, R. (n.d.). Undated letter, Cripple Creek District Musuem. Retrieved 2018.

Smith Jr., A. E., Feitz, L., and Raines, E. (1985). The Cresson Vug Cripple Creek. The Mineralogical Record, Volume 16, p 231-238.

Sprague, M. (1953). Money Mountain: The Story of Cripple Creek Gold. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Various period newspapers: Cripple Creek District Museum, n.d. (n.d.).