CRIPPLE CREEK as Aunt Mary wrote…
“As I remember,” Told To Me By John Walker
By Mary Walker
“History of Colorado” May 25, 1961
I am going to write about some experiences of a fine old gentleman, John Walker. He spent five years in Cripple Creek, Colorado during the gold mining era.
John Walker came to Cripple Creek in 1900 from Missouri. He was a strong robust man of twenty-five when he migrated to Colorado, and he is still today at the age of eighty-four. The reason for his leaving Missouri was the same as the multitudes, from all over the United States, who ventured west for quick riches to a better way of life.
The following pages are just a few of the experiences that happened to this man during the colorful era of early Colorado. As he would say, “I could fill a book about the “good od days” of Cripple Creek.”
When John Walker left Missouri he was making a wage of $18.00 per month. His first job in Cripple Creek made him a wage of $26.00 a week with a lot of pluses.
He drove ore wagons for Mr. X. They picked up the raw ore for the CKN Mining Company and hauled it by wagon to the railroad where it was sent to the smelter at Colorado Springs.
Mr Walker tells that while he would drive the teams around the winding roads, Mr. X would climb in back and high-grade the ore. In this way they would make an additional fee and the price for Mr. Walker’s silence; half the money Mr. X received from high grading. There were millions of dollars of ore that was high graded, somewhere around twenty millions, winding up for the most part across the bar in saloons or exchanged in trade in parlor houses.
There were also numerous gambling halls that did a notorious amount of business. What young adventurous man was going to pass up this opportunity to make some additional money. If a man knew how to steer clear of the professional gamblers, he had a better chance of coming out the victor during the game of poker.
There were about 30,000 people in Cripple Cree in those days, mostly miners and gamblers. There were dozens of saloons, numerous brokerage houses, assay offices, doctors, lawyers, newspapers, clothing stores, grocery stores and jewelry stores.
Assayers, who for the most part stole from the miners who brought in the ore, got five cents on the dollar from those who high graded. There were also picture houses that one could attend on a Saturday night. There were also dances held every week.
One of the things Mr. Walker remembers well was the hot tomalley man who stood on the street corners and sang, “Hot Tomalieeees!” As he remember they were delicious.
The streets of Cripple creek were brightly lighted with arc lights powered by the first electricity. It was a bustling city with people going and coming at all hours of the day and night. It was an exciting time for a man of twenty-five.
Bennett Avenue was lined with shops, fine restaurants, high class saloons and several buildings of city government. Myers Avenue, on the other hand, was taken over by the operators of cheaper dance halls, and the town high class and low class bordellos. Myers Avenue ws a sort of citadel of sin and, in a sense, Cripple Creek citizens were proud of it.
The shacks put up for homes were one-room affairs — sometimes with two-rooms and an attic–made with a double layer of boards, newspaper-covered walls and old tensor other canvas to insulate the ceiling.
Mr. Walker worked in the Cripple Creek, Victoref and Elton areas. There was an electric street line that went back and forth to Victor and Cripple Creek every hour. Elton was another mining town located between Cripple Creek and Victor. It had a population of around 15,000.
Mr. Walker worked at the Elton Mine for $3.00 a day. He received this wage for being a mucker. He filled about ten cars of ore and then took it to the shaft where it was raised to the top. The cars held about fifteen hundred pounds of ore. This was a long days work. The ore was taken to be smelted at Colorado Springs, usually by the railroad.
One of the best jobs Mr. Walker had was working at the Golden Cycle at Victor. The men worked down sixteen hundred feet in the ground. The Golden Cycle Mine had very good ore. Mr. Walker had the job of driving a drift. This meant deriving holes back in the walls of the mine so they could put in the dynamite. When you lit the fuse of the dynamite you really scurried to safety. Even at that, lots of men went deaf from the loud blasts. It was dangerous work and lots of me got killed or wounded.
Still another job Mr. Walker held was loading ore at the CN mine. This mine ws located between Cripple Creek and Elton. This mine was Silvenite, which was seventy percent gold. There was a lot of stealing at this mine due to its good quality and it’s easy assesability to most of the miners that were down under.
There was a lot of labor trouble in those years. Mr. Walker remembers the tragedy at the Cripple Creek Railroad Station where several men were killed and would when some agitators dynamited the station. Mr. Walker had to have a document testifying that he wasn’t a member of the union.
Note: This ended Aunt Mary’s narrative of which was tendered to Professor Pogue with a resulting grade of “A!”