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Cripple Creek Days, A Nostalgic Reminiscence…
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Cripple Creek Days, A Nostalgic Reminiscence of the Last of the Great Gold…

by Mabel Barbee Lee

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"Cripple Creek, by 1902, had produced a total of $111,361,633 and between thirty-five or forty bonanza kings. But many who had stumbled into fortunes, in spite of themselves, had a faculty for shedding them."

This is a memoir of social life and culture of the rising gold mining industry in the Pikes Peak region. It is complete with accounts of train wrecks, strikes, and even street fighting. The quality of detail and style of writing makes it a popular read often cited in history books on the topic over 50 years later.
  AmronGravett | Apr 11, 2013 |
When I was growing up, my grandparents lived in Denver and we spent 2 weeks in Colorado every summer visiting them. One of my favorite things was when Grandpa would take us up into the mountains. The narrow winding roads that hugged the mountain on one side and opened onto a sheer cliff on the other made my mother cringe but delighted me. We had favorite places that we visited year after year, and Cripple Creek was one of them. It was the late 1960's and early 1970's when we were going there and, while the town wasn't quite dead, it certainly had little more than shadows of its former glory. We drove past the old gold mines, with their mountainous waste heaps, and into a town where small wooden houses clung to the slopes and the business district was spread out in the valley with wide, straight streets and the grand old buldings, paint peeling, presided over empty sidewalks. I could never imagine what it must have been like in its heyday, but it fascinated me endlessly.

I was excited when I found this book that was first published in 1958 - the memoir of a girl who grew up in Cripple Creek during its boom time. The Cripple Creek she describes was dirty, poor, and hardscrabble. Nearly everyone who struck it rich ended up moving away and, usually - eventually, going bankrupt. She remembers when the railroad first came to town and the excitement that caused - women dressing in their best clothes and the drinking and dancing lasting late into the night. And the shock the next day when the train derailed on its return trip. The celebrations when Teller County was established with Cripple Creek as the County seat. The visits of Teddy Roosevelt to the area. The devestation and lawlessness that broke out during the several labor strikes and disputes between mine workers and mine owners.

And it is a fascinating history - covering a period from 1892 when the author moved to the mining camp with her mother to join her father as a young girl, until about 1905 when she went away to college. She includes 3 short chapters at the end. One about when she returned to the area after graduation to serve as a teacher in nearby Victor, CO. The next as a young wife of a mining engineer until the flu epidemic of 1918. The final chapter tells of her return to Cripple Creek in 1951, where she makes the poignant observation that "the cemetery had spread out fantastically, as the town shrank closer in the basin". ( )
1 vote sjmccreary | Jul 1, 2010 |
While attending the Air Force Academy, I used to "decompress" by driving up Gold Camp road to old gold mining town of Cripple Creek. Lee was a native and her book is not only the town's biography, but it also is an entertaing memoir. Over the years, I have returned several times, and notwithstanding attempts to "revitalize" the town with casinos and a faux ghost town veneer, the place still exudes charm and has a special place in my heart. ( )
  nemoman | Mar 8, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mabel Barbee Leeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Thomas, LowellForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0803279124, Paperback)

Mabel Barbee Lee has written a rousing tale of early days in Cripple Creek, Colorado. She speaks with authority because she arrived there as a child in 1892, and with wide-eyed wonder saw the whole place turn to gold.

With his divining rod, Mabel's father tapped gold ore on Beacon Hill but missed becoming a millionaire by selling his claim short. Nonetheless, life was rich for young Mabel in a booming town with points of interest like Poverty Gulch, the Continental Hotel, and a fantastic house called Finn's Folly; with characters around like the promoter Windy Joe and (seen from a distance) the madam Pearl De Vere; with something always going on, whether a celebration or a disastrous fire or train wreck or a no-nonsense miners' strike.

Mabel Lee's book brings back a time and place with affection. The foreword is by Lowell Thomas, who was her pupil when she was a young schoolmarm in Cripple Creek.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:45 -0400)

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