Drawing of a mine
Picture by Joey Fedel

Ouray is only here because of mining. Before 1875, Utes lived here. Settlers were afraid of Utes. In 1875 two men discovered minerals while fishing. In 1876 lots of miners and prospectors came to strike it rich. In 1876 there were enough people to make the town of Ouray. A school opened for the children. Churches opened too. Early mines in Ouray were small because these miners weren’t rich enough to make the mines bigger. They had to use mules and horses to haul the ore all the way to Alamosa, Colorado, 200 miles away. In 1881, the Utes were forced to move to Utah. In 1886, the Beaumont Hotel was built to bring rich people here to invest in the mines. It brought tourists too. In 1888 trains came. Now, trains could ship ore faster and cheaper. Investors came to Ouray easier on the trains. Mining in Ouray was really going strong. In 1893 the silver panic caused the price of silver to drop. Many mines closed and people lost their jobs. In 1895, the Bachelor Mine was successful enough to keep Ouray going.


Miners in a mine
Picture courtesy of the Ouray County Historical Society
In 1896, Tom Walsh discovered gold in Camp Bird Mine. He became the richest man in the world! Around 1940, the Idarado mine reopened many mines on Red Mountain pass. The U.S. Government needed minerals to make metal for tanks, airplanes and weapons for World War II. Mining was still strong. In 1978 the last large mines closed in Ouray because of the price of silver and gold went down and it became expensive to repair the damage caused by mining. Mining is the most important part of Ouray history!

by Shannon Kinne, Joey Fedel, Mackenzie Webb, and Becky Harmon

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