This week’s story taken from: Mining Gold to Mining Wallets, Central City, Colorado 1859-1999 by Alan Granruth.
The early days in Central City didn’t lack for entertainment. Among the first provisions brought to mining country was a barrel of whiskey. The mining of miners was often a more profitable undertaking, and an easier one, than panning or digging for gold. Saloons began in tents, served whatever could pass for whiskey, and generally charged twenty-five cents (in gold dust) for a shot. Within a few months, gamblers, loose women, and saloons were all available to part a miner from his dust.
Near the end of 1859, Hadley Hall, a two-story log building, was erected near the intersection of Gregory and Lawrence streets in Mountain City. A grocery store operated on the first floor. The second floor was finished as a meeting room and doubled as a place for theatrical entertainment that could seat 300 to 400 people
The first theatrical performance ever given in this area was in Hadley Hall by three daughters of a couple named Wakely. Of the three daughters, only Rose had a real talent. She adopted the stage name of M’lle. Haydee. Not being familiar with the French word “mademoiselle” the miners called her Miss Millie. Although Miss Mille would not have been a star on Broadway, she was popular with the mountain men.
The Rocky Mountain News had this to say about her: “M’lle Haydee, the prettiest woman on the frontier, was the chief attraction, and next to draw poker, drew out the greatest piles of gold dust and black sand at $2.50 per head.”
One of their many trips to Mountain City was reported as follows:
M’lle Haydee and Sisters, with the talented troupe, have recently returned from Mountain City, where they played five nights to full houses. We are gratified to learn that their receipts were unexpectedly large. Such perseverance deserves success, and years hence the pioneer theatrical troupe of the Rocky Mountains will be remembered; and we doubt not that they will look back with pleasant recollections to their mid-winter trip, and the terrible snowstorm through which they returned.
In November 1860, Rose was supposedly abducted by a gambler named Thomas Evans. Sheriff Wynkoop, of Denver, was sent after them—and Wynkoop got his man. The trial was set for November 28, 1860, but was not held. The Rocky Mountain News reported:
It is generally believed that the matter will be settled without a public investigation. It is better for the credit of all parties that such should be the issue of this unpleasant affair.
Unbelievable as it may have seemed to the miners—Rose and Evans had eloped!
In the fall of 1860, M’lle Haydee’s troupe moved to the newly opened Olympic Theater in Central City and the “Criterion Minstrels” opened in Hadley Hall. John S. Langrishe and Michael Dougherty with their company opened the People’s Theater on the west side of Main Street in 1860. Of the troupes playing in Central City, Langrishe’s was the best, and circulated through the mining camps for many years.
In honor of the famous thespian, in 1992, as part of their casino, the Glory Hole Casino group erected a new building on the previous vacant lot referred to as the Glory Hole Garden and named it the Rose Haydee building.
Visitor’s to Central City can visit Millie’s Restaurant located on Main Street above the Easy Street Casino.
The National Theater
The National Theater—(site of Coyote Creek Casino)—built by George Harrison and later renamed The Montana—was Central City’s main theater until it was destroyed by fire in 1874.
Another theatrical incident, far more tragic than Rose’s ordeal, occurred at The National Theater. The following story is taken from History of Colorado by Frank Hall:
Soon after completing his theater, Harrison had a quarrel with a stalwart young prize fighter named Charley Switz, who kept a saloon and ran a variety show of a not very reputable character, in a building some distance below, on Lawrence Street. They parted after a fight, with a mutual understanding that the next time they met, the victory would lie with the one who should quickest draw and shoot.
Almost immediately Harrison went back East to bring a troupe of artists for his playhouse, and some months elapsed before his return. At length it became noised about that he and his troupe were coming up the gulch by stage. Switz put a brace of pistols in his belt, marched up to Barne’s & Jones Saloon, on one side of which stood the theater and on the other Ben Holladay’s stage office. Around him in front of the saloon was an excited group of men anxiously awaiting the expected collision.
When the stage dashed up the passengers were eagerly scrutinized, but the second part to the feud was not among them; he had left it some distance down the road, and secretly made his way on foot to the theater, where securing a double-barrel shotgun loaded with buckshot, and a revolver fully charged, he crept out unobserved to the balcony in front, which ran across the second story and commanded full view of the street and crowd.
Without being seen, he took deliberate aim at Switz with the gun and instantly lodged the contents of both barrels in his breast, following immediately with several discharges from his revolver. Switz reeled and fell dead, while the assassin, having finished his bloody work, coolly walked back into the house and began making preparations for his grand opening.
The murderer was arrested, but not confined, tried, but not convicted. The theater opened with a new troupe at the appointed time, and a series of plays was produced which has never been surpassed in that city.
If you have any interesting stories about family or acquaintances who have lived or still live in Gilpin County or the surrounding areas, please contact me. You can reach me at 303-881-3321. Email me at Maggie@Maggiempublications.com, or mail me at P.O. Box 746495, Arvada, Colorado 80006-6495.
Be sure to check out my website for past columns at www.MaggieMPublications.com.
The first two books in my Misadventures of the Cholua Brother’s Series are available on my website, on Amazon.com, Lulu.com and BarnesandNoble.com for $12.99 ea. + shipping. They can also be bought through the Gilpin Historical Museum and Mountain Menagerie in Central City. Watch for the release of the third and final book in the series Bonanza Beans, available Spring 2016
Cholua Brothers Mining Company specialty coffees can also be purchased at Mountain Menagerie in Central City or from their website at www.choluabros.com.