c 2018 by Jan MacKell Collins
As mining booms hit areas just west of Denver during the 1870’s, a number of satellite towns, communities and camps sprang up. The best known of these was Georgetown, surrounded by places such as Bakerville, Graymont, a stage stop turned railroad stop and later resort; another resort town called Green Lake; Lawson with its Six Mile House, Magnet with its Magnet Mine; Pomeroyville, Santiago, Sidneyville, another railroad stop on the Argentine Central Railroad upon its completion in 1905; Silver Dale with its Upper Dale and Lower Dale; Waldorf, site of the world’s highest steam railroad when the Argentine Central Railroad was built, and of course Silver Plume.
Established in 1870, Silver Plume quickly became a lively sister city to Georgetown with a population of 2,000 miners and their families. Tall-tale tellers used to claim the town was named for politician James G. Blaine, who in the 1890’s was known as the “Plumed Knight”. Given its date of birth and its silver production, however, the name Silver Plume likely was given for the many plume-like silver streaks from the rocks in the hills above town.
Silver Plume’s biggest dilemma of the 1870’s was when it was discovered that two mines, the Pelican and the Dives, were located on the same vein of silver. Both mines ended up in court and the Pelican eventually won. The suddenly unemployed miners of the Dives may have had the last laugh, however, absconding with six coffins filled with high grade ore and disguised as dead miners.
Other mines around Silver Plume produced such valuable minerals as gold, lead, zinc, copper and granite. There was a theater, two churches, a school and several stores at Silver Plume. When the railroad came in 1877, Silver Plume enjoyed even more success. The town finally incorporated in 1880. Immediately, such state of the art structures as the New Windsor Hotel, Ma Buckley=s House with rooms to rent, and a jailhouse arose. These buildings luckily survived an 1884 fire that consumed over 50 buildings in and around the business district.
Nearby suburbs such as Bakerville and Brownsville utilized Silver Plume as their main supply town. Brownsville in particular was subject to rock slides and avalanches, succumbing to a final rockslide in 1912.
Silver Plume boasted 1,500 people in 1890. Following the Silver Crash of 1893, both Georgetown and Silver Plume began their decline. During Colorado’s tourism boom during the late 20th century, both towns saw a revival in their economies as visitors flocked to the historic towns and explored the area. While Georgetown remains larger and more often visited today, Silver Plume is a must-see destination almost directly across Interstate 70.