c 2022 by Jan MacKell Collins
This article is excerpted from Collins’ book, Lost Ghost Towns of Teller County, Colorado.
If nothing else, the road on which High Park City was located served as the first route for prospectors and other travelers to make their way between the Arkansas Valley and the Cripple Creek District—the latter being the last of Colorado’s great gold booms. Today, High Park Road is alternately known as Teller County Road 11 and eventually leads to Canon City. Passengers on this road enjoy a scenic drive through high country meadows dotted with both historic and modern homes.
The High Park City & Cripple Creek Toll Road was first incorporated by John K. Witcher, R.K. Potter and S.P. Maderia of Cripple Creek in 1896. An alternate route skirted around the base of Mt. Pisgah outside of Cripple Creek and through Box Canon, with an intersecting road leading to what would soon be High Park City. The area around High Park seemed lucrative enough. It was a good place to raise cattle. Area farmers could grow crops and sell their goods in the booming Cripple Creek District some twenty miles away, but also at Canon City. The area also proved good for prospecting. J.M. Kellogg was locating claims around High Park for the firm of Barbee, Bastian and Kellogg in January of 1896, and gold ore from the Red Oak Lode was assaying at $23.00 per ton. Within a few weeks, more prospectors were converging on the spot. The Cripple Creek Morning Times of February 6, 1896 reported that three other miners by the names of Grant, Wagner and Griffith were busy prospecting there.
Prospectors, ranchers and farmers would all benefit from the newly proposed High Park City, although mining was a primary focus. “Robert Boath was in yesterday from High Park and reports a flourishing condition of things, both as to mining prospects and as to High Park City,” said the Mining and Industry Review magazine in February. “The location of this new town is about one mile west of Four Mile and near the old Wicher [sic] sawmill. A number of buildings are now underway and a livery barn, hotels, restaurants and other enterprises will soon be open for accommodation to the public.”
As in the case of other towns which lay outside of the Cripple Creek District proper, everyone was hopeful that the already sizeable goldfield would expand as more gold was found. “A good deal of prospecting is being done in the neighborhood of High Park some ten miles west of Cripple Creek,” reported the Colorado Transcript newspaper in far-away Golden. “The district is constantly spreading out.” At the time, High Park City seemed destined for greatness. Even before it was platted, T.P. Rigney of Cripple Creek was already selling lots at the townsite.
High Park City was formally platted on March 5, 1896 by the Greatest Gold Belt Mining Company. Streets bore the names of local minerals including Trachyte, Porphry [sic], Granite and Phenolite, intersected by Doubleday and Rope Avenues. There was also a High Street and Main Street. Progress was quick, as reported in Leadville’s Herald Democrat a few weeks later. “High Park City, one of the new mining camps in El Paso County, now has a dozen buildings completed and as many more in process of construction.” Notable is that Teller County would not be formed for another three years.
The post office at High Park City opened in June of 1896. The population was guessed to be around one hundred people. But in spite of wagon and horse traffic flowing through High Park City regularly, there wasn’t much to report. In the end, mining prospects were not as good as expected, and the post office closed in June of 1899. The 1900 Cripple Creek District directory described High Park as a “small settlement between Cripple Creek and the Bare Hills. ” In fact, the Bare Hills post office, in Fremont County, was now serving citizens of High Park City. It is no wonder, since business had slowed down considerably. According to the directory only eleven men lived there, some with wives and children. Others, such as rancher Joseph Stinger and prospector Thomas Hilliard, were identified as living three or four miles from town.
The 1900 census is a bit more telling about the residents of High Park City. They consisted mostly of ranchers and farmers. In town, there were two boarding houses run by Mary Mitchell and Minnie Allen, respectively. The presence of a cook indicates there might have been a restaurant. The population also included a sawmills owned by Robert K. Potter and Nelson Hackett, a veterinarian, a bookkeeper, a school teacher and two wood choppers, but only six miners. Almost all of the residents were married and had children.
For a time, High Park City did experience a brief resurgence, and the post office reopened in 1902. When postal authorities closed it again in 1913, local residents rallied for a protest. The post office reopened once more in 1914. Finally, in 1917, as the Cripple Creek District mining operations continued closing and people left the area, the post office closed one last time. That was the end of High Park City, which today is no more than a wide spot in the road. No buildings remain.
Image: Famed photographer William Henry Jackson captured this photo of cowboys branding calves in High Park City. Courtesy Jan MacKell Collins.