It’s our last evening in Estes Park, and the cloudless sunshine has given way to clouds and scattered sprinkles. But who cares?!? The weather’s been gorgeous, with lovely temperatures, light breezes, and skies as blue as blue can be. And this morning, the warm temps and lack of snow meant that we were able to drive up the Fall River Road for the first time, where the bright sunshine permitted some breathtaking views. Coming up Trail Ridge Road is impressive in its own right, but Fall River Road is even better.
I suppose it’s fitting that we finish our stay in Colorado with an historical event that’s indigenous to the state. And even if it isn’t fitting, I’m doing it anyways.
The population of Creede, Colorado is (as of a 2007 count) 422. Exactly half the population is male, with the better half making up the other half. It’s not very big, but then again, all of Mineral County (of which Creede is the county seat) is home to just 830 people. Located in southwestern Colorado, this small town of just six-tenths of a square mile is near the headwaters of the Rio Grande.
But it wasn’t always small. Creede wasn’t always home to just 400 people. In fact, at one time, it was a bustling late 19th-century city of more than 10,000. And all of those people had Nicholas Creede to thank.
Nicholas Creede was born in Indiana as William Harvey in 1843. His family was dirt-poor and, desirous of fewer mouths to feed, pushed William from the nest at just 18 years old. Harvey headed west, making his way as a lumberjack and scout. Eventually he found himself in Colorado’s mining camps.
Harvey changed his name to Creede after a “Billy Harvey” committed a murder in Denver. I’m not sure it was ever determined whether “Billy” and our “William” were one and the same, or if he just wanted to avoid confusion, but regardless, fame came to the new name. He enjoyed success as a prospector in places such as Del Norte and Leadville. But his greatest success occurred on this day.
On October 2, 1889, Creede discovered a large vein of silver that came to be known as the Amethyst Vein. It’s told that when Creede made his discovery, he exclaimed, “Holy Moses!” And that would become the name of the mine. The mining camp that sprouted up around Holy Moses would bear Nicholas’ name, and Creede was born. Actually, it exploded onto the map as the last major “silver rush” of the west brought thousands of treasure seekers to Creede. The first baby born was named Creede Amethyst.
Nicholas Creede would make a fortune, but like many before and since, his wealth would ultimately be his undoing, leading to all kinds of problems and eventual suicide. But on this day, Creede had struck it rich.
Recommended Reading: Nicholas Creede and the Amethyst Vein