A tailing tale

Sponsored by Cholua Brothers Mining Co & Old Time Coffee Store in Black Hawk

By Maggie Magoffin

We hit the jackpot this week folks with two wonderful tales from the 1860’s.

The Flood

Our first story is told by Betty Hershwig of Wheatridge of her great-great-great-grandparents, Emma and Will Russell. Emma and Will homesteaded a small plot of land in Clear Creek Canyon where they built a cabin and several small out buildings. Probably an outhouse and a few sheds. They had a cow and some chickens and Will had done pretty well for himself trapping in the winter and panning in the summer in Clear Creek. He never found a lot of gold, but enough to buy what they needed.

Emma’s pride and joy was her vegetable garden. Most folks in those parts hadn’t had much luck with growing things, but Emma seemed to have a green thumb. She was usually able to put up enough canned vegetables to get them through the long mountain winters. Will had dug her out a root cellar to keep things like potatoes, carrots, and onions cool in the summer.

Well, this one year, a flash flood roared through the canyon late in the summer and took most of Emma’s garden with it, leaving most everything under piles of rock and mud. Emma and Will were able to get to high ground and save their cow. And they found the chickens on the roof of the cabin. So they didn’t lose any of them. But Emma’s garden was destroyed.

Once the water was gone, Emma and Will started digging. They hoped at least they could save the root vegetables. Well, they did find some potatoes beneath all the muck and though they weren’t all that big, they figured they could at least make a meal of them.

Then they found it. Beneath all the mess and destruction, Emma and Will found about a half-dozen nuggets of gold. It wasn’t enough to make them rich, but it was at least enough to buy food and supplies for the winter.

The Fancy Lady

This next story is told by Thomas McKelvey, formerly of Rollinsville, of a great-great-great-uncle.

This uncle drove a stagecoach on the Coal Creek & Black Hawk Wagon Road. Well, one day one of the uncle’s passengers was a Fancy Lady who was on her way to Black Hawk and the gold fields to claim her own treasure plying her trade.

As the story goes, the lady started complaining about the bumpy ride and ruining her pretty clothes shortly into the journey and the woman continued her lament for several hours.

As the stagecoach passed through the Bare Mountain canyon trails, it bounced over a large rock, tipping on its side and sending coach and passengers sliding down a muddy hillside.

The uncle survived the crash with only some bumps and bruises, and when checking his passengers he found them to be in pretty much the same condition – just a little banged, bruised, and shook up.

The Fancy Lady, now covered in mud and shaken, stood and proclaimed she was going to write a very strong letter to the stage line and she would have the uncle’s job for being so careless.

With the help of several male passengers, the uncle was able to get the wagon turned upright, eventually hook up his team, and prepare to get on their way. The lady swore she’d not get back in the coach and told the uncle to send someone to fetch her when he reached Black Hawk. Not wanting to aggravate the woman any further and probably happy he wouldn’t have to listen to her nagging, the uncle proceeded on to Black Hawk. Whether or not he ever sent anyone to fetch the lady, no one really knows. What would you have done?

Please send me your tales. If you prefer to remain anonymous, I will not use your name. However, if you do not mind, I would like to tell the readers who sent the story and share any other information you may have.

Mail your handwritten or typed stories with your contact information to Maggie M, P.O. Box 6571, Westminster, CO 80021 or email them to me at If you prefer to tell me your story orally and have me write it for you, please feel free to call me at 303-881-3321. I look forward to hearing from you and sharing your stories in the coming months.

The Cholua Brothers Mining Co & Old Time Coffee Store is located at 470 Gregory Street, Black Hawk, CO.

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