c 2023 by Jan MacKell Collins
Portions of this article are from Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado
The Cripple Creek District of Colorado lies high on the backside of Pikes Peak and fairly spills over with some of the most fascinating history in the west. Die-hard lovers of the Cripple Creek District’s fascinating history will tell you: Cripple Creek got the glory, but it was Victor that had the gold. Indeed, if it weren’t for the hundreds of mines within a stone’s throw of that city, Cripple Creek never would have grown to be the first-class city it aspired to be over a century ago. It is not surprising then, that in those early days the very first town to be platted in the District was Lawrence, which eventually evolved into a Victor suburb.
Lawrence was carved from a portion of Victor C. Adams’ cattle ranch, which had been formed back in 1888. Born in Kentucky in 1853, Adams had lived in Missouri before coming to Colorado. In 1880 he was working as a surveyor in Silver Cliff, in southern Colorado, but soon moved to his new homestead on the southeast slope of Squaw Mountain. By the time of the gold boom in the Cripple Creek District in 1891, Adams was very familiar with the old Cheyenne & Beaver Toll Road over today’s Gold Camp Road from Colorado Springs.
In 1891 Magdalene S. Raynolds, the wife of a prominent banker in Canon City to the south, took an interest in Adams’ ranch as a prime spot for a new town in the Cripple Creek District. Raynolds’ husband, Frank, had founded the Fremont County National Bank at Canon City back in 1874. Mrs. Raynolds, along with her husband’s business partner Dana Lawrence, decided to visit the area. A good portion of Adams’ ranch was on a large, flat meadow and skirted by Wilson Creek. The area was indeed ideal.
On January 4, 1892, Mrs. Raynolds purchased thirty acres of the Adams homestead. The town of Lawrence was platted on January 5, and named for Dana Lawrence. This early date confirms that Lawrence was the first official town in the Cripple Creek District. Shortly afterwards, a stage stop was constructed at the new town so travelers could easily reach the town from Canon City and Cripple Creek. Lawrence was laid out on a grid that was, not so ironically, “L” shaped. The main streets included such presidential names as Lincoln and Cleveland, but also Wilson Avenue for Wilson Creek and of course Raynolds Avenue for the Raynolds family.
It was no surprise that Dana Lawrence’s name was bestowed upon the new town, for he appears to have been more than a business partner to the Raynolds family. As early as 1887, Lawrence was secretary of the Raynolds Cattle Company. Frank Raynolds was president. When Magdalene Raynolds gave birth to a son just six months after the Lawrence plat was filed, the baby was named Dana Lawrence. The last reference to Dana Lawrence the partner, however, appears in some 1894 court documents filed in Fremont County. The documents concerned some water rights and confirmed that Lawrence still owned a portion of the Raynolds Cattle Company.
As of the 1900 census the Raynolds were still in Canon City with their five children. As they graduated high school, each child was sent to prestigious Colorado College in Colorado Springs. At least one of them, an adopted daughter named Pansy, also attended Columbia University. Following the death of Frank Raynolds in 1906, Magdalene took over as president of the Fremont County National Bank.
There is nothing to suggest that the wealthy Raynolds family, nor Dana Lawrence, ever lived at Lawrence in the Cripple Creek District. Rather, some of the earliest settlers were the McCormack family, who settled near the town in 1891 and soon formed a colony numbering over 100 Scotsmen. Upon arriving in the Cripple Creek District, the McCormacks changed the spelling of their name to McCormick in order to pass themselves off as Irishmen. Why? Because in those early days, the people of the District quickly established racial class among its communities. Scotsmen were viewed as foreigners. The Irish were not.
Lawrence’s post office opened on February 3. Other businesses included Bert Cave’s general merchandise store, a laundry and a restaurant. The short-lived Lawrence Miner newspaper reported the news. Two early roads led straight to Lawrence: the Canon City Road along Wilson Creek, and the Florence Road, a.k.a. Phantom Canyon Road. Promoters of both roads also proposed building separate railroads: the Canon City & Lawrence and the Florence Railroad. Preliminary reports for the Canon City & Lawrence Railroad resulted in three studies; in all three cases, surveyors of the hair-raising, narrow trail concluded that building a railroad along Wilson Creek would be impossible. The Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad, however, was built up Phantom Canyon and flourished for a few years before flooding shut it down for good.
Initially, Lawrence proved an ideal place to live. Early mines around the town included the Florence E., the Gloriana, the Home Run, the London, the Lone Pine, the Lulu, the May Belle, the Monte Cristo, the St. Patrick, the Southern and the Tom Bigbee. In time, however, larger mines like the Portland, the Cresson, the Independence and many others were staked up the hill on the other side of Victor. For miners living in Lawrence, walking to work at the latter mines was a job in itself, and many of them moved to Victor. They did, however, make social visits to Lawrence, gathering at The Eureka saloon to chat and drink. The saloon proved especially popular on Saturday nights.
By 1893, Lawrence did not even merit mention in the Cripple Creek District Directory. There was, however, an experimental chlorination plant for processing gold ore. The plant was the brain-child of Joseph R. DeLamar, a Utah mining man who partnered with mill expert Ed Holden to build the plant in 1893. By February of 1894, ads for DeLamar’s mill promised the highest market price for Cripple Creek ores. For a time, even Winfield Scott Stratton brought ore from his famous Independence Mine to Lawrence for processing. By the middle of the year Lawrence had two stamp mills and was described as being “ribbed with gold bearing mineral veins.” But although the Florence & Cripple Creek railroad tracks crossed the southeastern section of town on their way to Victor, they were deemed too far from the town proper to merit a depot.
Even so, the 1894 District Directory had much to say about the quality of life at Lawrence: “The numerous springs and flowing wells which came to the surface on the Lawrence townsite, together with its lively mountain brook, make it one of the most desirable residence spots of the entire district.” But Lawrence was just not destined to last. Victor’s Sunnyside addition eventually crossed into Lawrence, and Lawrence Avenue was actually located in Victor’s original plat map. The new addition was the first sign that Victor would soon gobble up Lawrence.
When the chlorination plant burned during the winter of 1895-1896, Lawrence’s economy took a dive. Even so, the population stayed steady at 250 through 1896. A church and a school were present. Postmaster Walter Baldwin ran a grocery. There was also a meat market, two livery stables, a hotel and two saloons, including one run by Daniel Quinn. Lawrence also provided an attorney, a cobbler, two bakeries, a barbershop, a blacksmith, a grocery, a laundry, and, at last, a small F. & C.C. railroad depot.
But even with its business district intact, Lawrence was declining. By 1897 people were referring to it as “Oldtown.” As the city of Victor continued growing down the hill towards town, those light in the wallet could still rent one of the rundown residences at Lawrence, but could only access their mail at Victor after the post office closed in April of 1898. Even so, those who loved little Lawrence just didn’t want to give it up. Property transactions also remained steady through 1899, including business with the Cripple Creek Gold Exploration Company. In fact, an amended plat for Lawrence was filed on July 3, 1899. Avenues within the town boundaries at that time included Dewey, Harrison, Logan, Allison, Cleveland, Wilson, Lincoln, Lewis, Raynolds and Independence.
By the following year, businesses in Lawrence included shoemaker Michael Brown, several teamsters, a jeweler, contractor N.A. Chester, butchers Fred Kasaner, Mark Lewman and David Wathan, physician Charles Thornburg, carpenters Henry Levett and Fred Schanuel, tailor Donald McKenzie, cemetery sexton W. R. Brush, the May Belle hotel and Morris Klein’s Lawrence Saloon. George Demorre ran a vegetable wagon. Mrs. W. H. Diggs offered laundry services. There was still a school too, overseen by principal Miss C.E.S. Crosse who made the trek on schooldays from her home in Cripple Creek. Outside of the business district proper, the wide meadows comprising the town were accommodating to larger businesses such as Amos and F.H. Aspey’s brickyard, a slaughterhouse and Edward Richard’s dairy. Most of the 300 residents were miners who lived in Lawrence or the nearby hamlet of Reigerville. But an old electric plant had been abandoned.
Although city marshal George Cooper kept the peace at Lawrence during its twilight years, the town did see its fair share of lawlessness—mostly petty thievery but also shootings over mining wages and claims. In September of 1899, local papers reported on Henry Nelson who fired two shots at former miner Alec Carlson from the Pittsburgh claim. One of the bullets grazed Carlson’s head just above the left eye. Carlson survived, and Nelson was arrested. Then in February of 1900, H.C. Rhien was found hiding at a Lawrence boarding house after bilking several merchants around Colorado out of $8,000 in general merchandise.
In 1901, Victor C. Adams platted more land in Lawrence with partners John C. Adams and John Wilson, but it was too late. By 1902, Lawrence had been officially absorbed by Victor. For many more years, Lawrence survived as a suburb of Victor. As of the 1920 census, ninety five people were left in Lawrence proper. Ten years later, however, residents of Lawrence were counted as citizens of Victor in the census. Although a handful of residents continued living there over the years, the town of Lawrence has settled back into the meadow today, with only one private home from the old days left to prove it was there to begin with.