Pen and ink drawing of Idaho Springs circa 1860
Being a mining town, Idaho Springs once ran with rivers of alcohol. Well – not really, but miners loved to drink and the accepted story is that at one point in time, there were more taverns in town than homes. On January 6, 1917, Colonel Buffalo Bill Cody, famous for his Wild West shows, made one of these taverns famous. On this day he shared a drink with local miners in the Duck Inn (now known as the Patten Building). He was extremely ill at this time and died several days later. This saloon went down in history as the place where Buffalo Bill had his last drink, a mixture of whiskey and cider called the Stone Fence.
Henry Plummer left his native Maine as a young man and came to the West, poor and alone, journeying from one place to another, seeking his fortune. He came to Idaho Springs during the Colorado gold rush of 1859 and and made a claim on Chicago Creek. With hard work, panning in the creek, Plummer extracted gold amounting to about $30,000, which became the foundation of his independent fortune. He served as the town’s first banker as well as one of the first City Council members. In the early 1880s, Plummer purchased and developed commercial properties along Miner Street such as his own business at 1518 Miner St., Henry Plummer & Co., Flour, Hay, Grain & Coal. This building is now occupied by Mainstreet Restaurant. Next time you come in for breakfast, take just a moment to read the historic marker on the Plummer Building. Rich history is all around in Idaho Springs.
After George Jackson discovered gold in Clear Creek, he returned to the site with a team of 22 men. Within seven days, they discovered $1,900 worth of gold – the equivalent of $1 million by today’s standards! The population of the site quickly grew, first known as Jackson’s Diggings, Sacramento City, and finally Idahoe. In June of 1859, the area was formally organized, the first recorded in Colorado history. 400 people lived in the settlement at that time. From 1860 until 1873, the city was surveyed three times with the last survey resulting in a town of 105 acres.
From the beginning, Idaho Springs attempted to display the best of culture. James A. Payne who was part of that original party of 22, brought his violin and performed for the residents of the city. Payne’s was the first recorded marriage in Idaho Springs. Married to Hulda Payne, in 1863 the couple gave birth to Wesley, the first baby boy born in the Idaho Springs settlement.