A “tailing tale” of J. W. Fassett

A Colorado Pioneer

By Maggie Magoffin

Born, reared and educated in Bureau County, Illinois, at the early age of 23 years, in the spring of 1859, J.W. Fassett struck out for the gold fields of Colorado. Driving a covered wagon with three yoke of oxen he crossed the Mississippi at Rock Island, passed through Iowa City and Des Moines to reach Council Bluffs, Iowa. Following a brief visit there, he crossed the plains via the Platte route with a party of several other Argonauts.

Arriving in Denver on June 16th, two days later the party camped their wagons along Clear Creek, just below Golden City. There they left their property in charge of a guard while Fassett and his comrades packed their blankets and provisions on their backs and started on foot for the Gregory mines.

After spending a week securing claims in Russell Gulch, they returned to their camp in Golden to collect their wagons, stock and belongings. Meanwhile, a rough road had been cut across the mountains from the Gregory diggings to Golden Gate, which the troop traversed to make their return to the gold fields. In ascending some of the steeper slopes it became necessary to attach as many as 15 yoke of cattle to a single wagon. In going down the opposite side, they cut a large pine tree and attached it to the rear of the wagon to hold it back from rolling over the team. In this manner they succeeded in reaching the gold diggings, an experience common to all who passed that way at the time. The cattle were then returned to the valley and placed on a ranch where they grazed during the summer and in the fall were sold for beef.

Fassett worked his claims in Russell Gulch and earned a substantial sum which he subsequently invested in enterprises on Quartz Hill. For a time, he ran a stamp mill in that location.

In the spring of 1862, Fassett relocated to Denver where he purchased 160 acres of land two miles from the center of the city which he cultivated until 1889. He then sold 80 acres to Donald Fletcher for $1,000 an acre. The remainder of land he retained and occupied. In 1891 he platted 40 acres as an addition to the city.

From 1863 to 1866 he engaged in a freighting enterprise between Denver, the mountain towns and military posts.

For 15 years Fassett served has a member of the Villa Park School Board.

From the sale of his original land purchase and other profitable ventures he built a considerable fortune. He married Nannie Janes who was born in Indiana in 1856 and on March 10, 1907 he died as a result of injuries sustained in a carriage accident. Nannie later relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado.


  The Real Pioneers of Colorado, by Marla Davies McGrath. The Denver Museum, 1934

From Maggie

The first two books of my Misadventures of the Cholua Brothers series are available at Mountain Menagerie on Main Street in Central City, Colorado; at,, and

For past columns and other information on my speaking engagements, book releases, and events visit me at

I’m always looking for interesting stories about Colorado pioneers and local folk instrumental in the founding and/or development of Gilpin County. If you have stories about family members or friends to share, please contact me at or send snail mail to Maggie Magoffin, P.O. Box 746495, Arvada, Colorado 80003.

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