A brief history of Georgetown, Colorado.
by W:.Bro:. Emmett E. MacKenzie, P.M.
Georgetown valley is located, north to south at an elevation of 8500 feet above sea level. Surrounded by Democrat and Republican Mountains on the West, Saxon and Griffith Mountains on the East and Leavenworth to the South. All approximately 1500 to 2000 feet above the floor of the valley which was heavily covered with timber and bushes, with a fair size lake and beaver dams.
In October 1858, a group of immigrants from Missouri, Eastern Kansas and Southeastern Nebraska, arrived at Auraria, on the banks of Cherry Creek. Three of its members were brothers from Kentucky George, John and David Griffith. All were lured by tales of gold in Western Kansas Territory. In the spring of 1859, George, John and David headed for the diggings in Gregory Gulch, only to find all the claims staked out. George, not being discouraged, wandered over to Russell Gulch and upon finding the same situation, continued down Virginia Canyon to a place called Sacramento, where the conditions were the same.
George decided to head upstream along Clear Creek, past Mill Creek (Dumont) for nine miles further. He came to a fair size lake and he took the East mountain side. In this detour he located an outcropping of Auferous rock. This was the gold lode he had been seeking. This became the Griffith Lode. He quickly staked his claim and returned to Central City where his brother David stayed to practice his profession of law. Thanks to David the claim was properly recorded. Joined by his brothers they returned to the claim site where $500 in gold was recovered that summer.
The following summer (1860) they were joined by another brother William, John's wife, Elizabeth and their father Jefferson. Other prospectors came to this area and the settlement was named George's town. The boys staked out a homestead ranch for their father downstream from Georgetown. The Griffith Mining District was formally organized June 25, 1860, for a short period of time, the South end of town was named Elizabethtown, and was later consolidated in 1867 as Georgetown.
The Griffith family, during 1860, built a road from West of Central City to Georgetown, a distance of 20 miles. They also brought to Georgetown a six stamp mill. From 1861 to 1864, other mills were brought to Georgetown to keep up with the ever growing production of the mines. Gold ore in the Georgetown mine began diminishing and large silver deposits were discovered making Georgetown the second largest Colorado producer, Leadville being number one. Ore assaying as high as $1,000 a ton.
The Griffith family had a quarrel and the father Jefferson died. The other members moved away, never to return. Georgetown had two newspapers at this time, The Colorado Miner and The Courier.
In 1867, several happenings occurred. A newly hired school teacher, 22 year old Luene H. Lander was crossing Clear Creek on a log when she lost her balance and fell into the waters. She died and her body was recovered a mile below town, Grace Episcopal Church was built, followed by the Presbyterians and Catholics with hospital, operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and last the Methodists. Georgetown also had its parlor houses and saloons on the west side of Clear Creek.
The town charter was granted by the Colorado Territorial Legislature on January 10, 1888. Georgetown also became County Seat of Clear Creek County on the same day, replacing Idaho Springs, Silver Magnate William Hamill built his famous home. The Barton House (a hotel) was constructed and was host to General U.S. Grant, Gen, William T. Sherman and Gen. Philip H. Sheridan in 1869. A Masonic Lodge, Washington No. 12, was chartered October 7, 1867 without dispensation. Andrew Mason as Master, Jarius Hall as Senior Warden and Dubois Tucker as Junior Warden.
First Communication was October 22 in a room above Dagleish Photograph Gallery. Most Worshipful Henry M. Teller Grand Master dedicated the new lodge and presented a large Bible for use on the alter it is now in the archives of the lodge. In 1874 the Substantial and Beautiful School was built. Georgetown had four fire companies, all volunteers. Company No. 1, Old Missouri, Alpine Hose and Star Hook & Ladder. The town was never lost to fire, only individual buildings, Louis Dupuy opened his famous restaurant and hotel in 1875.
Georgetown was well established when the Colorado Central Railroad finally reached Black Hawk in 1872, and additional 3.3 miles was completed from Forks Creek to Floyd Hill March 1873. Georgetown did not receive railroad service until August 1877. A great celebration was caused upon its arrival.
The extension to Silver Plume West of Georgetown over the "Loop" was not completed until 1884, Seventeen Masons petitioned for dispensation to form a new lodge. The petition was granted after a second try, Georgetown Lodge No, 48 was chartered September 20, 1882. Several new downtown buildings were constructed during the 80's and 90's. The Cushman Block (Silver Queen), the only 3 story building in town, and 1890-1891 the Masonic Building, On January 24, 1891, Most Worshipful Grand Master Ernest Leneve Foster made his Official Visit and presented three gavels to the lodge with Ebony handles and Ivory heads.
Population was estimated at approximately 20,000 people in the Georgetown area at this time. Wages in the area were $3.00 to $3.50 per day for common laborers, miners received $3.50 per day and steady employment mechanics received $4.00 to $5.00 per day (blacksmiths, hoist operators, mill wrights, etc.). With the demonetization of silver in 1893, Georgetown declined, but stayed alive with the production of other metals.
On Tuesday evening July 18, 1899, a meeting was held at the home of Mrs. Mary M Collins attended by 16 persons desirous of forming an Eastern Star Chapter in Georgetown. $16.00 was collected, $10.00 was sent to the Grand Chapter for rituals and a Dispensation. On Saturday, July 22, 1899 a dispensation was granted by Worthy Grand Patron Newton D. Owen.
On Monday July 24, 1899 a called meeting was held at the Masonic Hall for the purpose of instituting the new chapter. Twenty petitioners were present, By W.G. Patron Owen, after a few remarks, he instituted Georgetown Silver Star Chapter No, 42, Initiation fee was set at $2.00, Worthy Grand Matron Mary Barry on Nov. 16, 1899 Constituted the Chapter, 15 members were present at this meeting, Mining continued at a modest rate of production through World War I into the 1920's.
The question of consolidating Washington Lodge No. 12 and Georgetown No. 48 came up due to decline in population in 1900 and again in 1912. It was not until March 1916 that both lodges agreed and the charters were sent to the Grand Master in Denver and the two lodges became Georgetown No. 12 and operated many years without a correct charter and in 1986 a new charter was issued by the Grand Lodge of Colorado.
Mining is almost non-existent today, although $200,000,000 was made from production to date, but Georgetown survives a second life as a tourist and ski attraction. The Georgetown Loop Railroad was completed in August 1984, 100 years to the date of the completion of the first loop. The railroad up Clear Creek Canyon to Georgetown Was abandoned and the rails taken up in 1939.