Please describe the mining boom that swept the West in the late 1800s.

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lynnebh's profile pic

lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Mining played an important part in the development of the western U.S. especially during the 1800s. Gold was discovered in California in 1848 and in Colorado in 1858. The price for gold and silver was quite high, so thousands of people rushed to these areas to stake a claim and mine their land. Some of the mineral deposits were in placer mines, meaning that they had been deposited by silt and water and had to be sifted out to be collected. Although mining is often associated with gold and silver, coal was also a very important mineral because it was used in industry.

The Colorado “Gold Rush” is sometimes called “The Pike’s Peak Gold Rush”. Participants were called “The Fifty-Niners.” The Gold Rush in Colorado and in other western states created a host of what were called “Boom Towns.” Usually the Boom Towns were run by the mining companies and often were places of lawlessness. In some of the mining towns, the gold and silver veins were not very good and when they were depleted, the towns became “Ghost Towns”. Also, towards the end of the 1800s, the price of silver plummeted and many people who had become rich were soon bankrupt. Here in Colorado where I live, we have all sorts of colorful characters that were involved in the gold and silver mining business such as silver baron Horace Tabor and his infamous wife Baby Doe Tabor who lived in Leadville, Colorado. Creede, Colorado is also a famous former mining town.

Mining is a dangerous endeavor and in order to find good mineral deposits (for gold, silver, coal or whatever) mines often must be dug deep into the ground. This creates a lot of danger for the miners and the west is fraught with stories of miners revolting over dangerous conditions and then being massacred by the mine owners. If you do some research, you can find out a lot more about this interesting subject.

dano7744's profile pic

dano7744 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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" Go west young man "was a saying back in those days. Go west to get rich mining for gold. Droves of people flocked to the area of California and surrounding areas to claim their stake in becoming wealthy. Whole towns were created by the massive increases in population. Thousands of poor, destitute, dreamers were attracted by the hope of striking it rich and more than a few did find fortune in the hills and rivers. People traveled from hundreds of miles to take a chance, they literally left everything behind some brought their families, some came alone, but all came with stars in their eyes. Whole new industries and streams of commerce were created by the wealth it produced. Along with the influx of people came the normal societal ills of civilized people. All types of crime increased, prostitution became common place because men had money to spend on women and drink. It was an exceptionally exciting time to live in.

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