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Golden Gate Canyon history

From those who were there

By Jaclyn Schrock

Living history walked and talked in Golden Gate Canyon’s Grange Community Center, Friday evening, January 19, 2018. The 6:30 pm start time was happily delayed for the History of Golden Gate Canyon meeting. The delay was to accommodate the crowd with more chairs, and a sound system to go with the video screen already in place. The audience quickly grew to of over 100 people scattered between four generations of locals. Two historical authors from the area were welcomed to share memories, conversation, and have their books available. The evening finished by allowing each row of folks telling about their heritage connection to the area, with interesting snips of stories revealed. First up was David Thomas, author of Of Miners and Beer!, as well as another book about brewing. He was followed by Mary Ramstetter bringing only one (of at least five) books published with her name on it. This one she edited with her husband Charles called John Gregory Country: Places Names and History of Ralston Buttes Quadrangle, Jefferson County, Colorado.

Just three miles from Golden coming up west on Golden Gate Canyon’s beautifully twisting road is where last Fridays meeting was held.

Dave Thomas introduced himself and remembers coming to the center over 40 years ago. Dave had worked for Coors most of his career, and continues brewing as Brew Master with Dostal Alley in Central City now. He found many of his details used in his book Of Miners and Beer! and in his presentation from newspaper articles found in Rocky Mountain News from 1859, Rocky Mountain News Weekly from 1870, Colorado Transcript from 1867, Golden Weekly Globe from 1873 and Western Mountaineer from 1860. He also obtained much of his data from Sanburn Fire Insurance Maps, because this company was notorious for having accurate information about old structures, including breweries. He said that where miners were, that is where the breweries also developed. He found there to be over 127 breweries in Colorado mining communities before mining began to decline. He also talked about the road we used to travel through Golden Gate Canyon to be able to bring in supplies for not just the mines, but also the breweries that the miners supported. Many of his slides showed portions of newspaper articles and maps of breweries. All these colorfully presented details of beer making, marketing, and road building for the miners kept the crowd thirsty for more.

Mary Ramstetter began her presentation with stories of the 1880’s homestead ranchers and settlers on this wagon trail that came into Guy Gulch. Her main point was to make clear the history of places, routes and people used to reach John Gregory’s site where gold was found which developed Central City area mines. To bring supplies and people into the area of Gregory’s Diggings in the late 1800s, a road was developed mostly along the water drainage systems to get from Thomas Gold’s city (land now used for the Jefferson County shops) at the current base of our Golden Gate Canyon Road to the top of Dory Hill, and to come down that drainage system into the rich gold field of John Gregory’s diggings. The old wagon road is able to be seen, often on the other side of the creek from the path we travel on Golden Gate Canyon Road from about miles markers 7-10. We drive near some parts of the original road which led toward John Gregory’s diggings, before the train went up Clear Creek Canyon. The old wagon road joins the Golden Gate Canyon Road near the Stone House just north of the Rolston Hill Road turn off to Centennial Cone. Mile marker 7 area is where a stage stop was often made at the Buckman Ranch, also called Michigan Hill Ranch (the home recently removed from across the road to their pond). Our road now goes over Michigan Mountain known as Golden Gate Canyon Road of Jefferson County to switch names as CO Hwy 46 of Gilpin County to continue through Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Many ranches have been donated so as to be included in Golden Gate Canyon State Park as far reaching as it is today. Traveling three miles beyond a founding ranch at Kriley Pond at an edge of GGS Park on Hwy 46, we currently come to Base Camp at Golden Gate. Some folks at the meeting remembered driving cattle to the somewhat level ground on Dory Hill near what is now Base Camp. One gal, possibly from the Jully family, told of her mom meeting them there to bring a meal as the cattle grazed on the drive, going as far as Apex to grow fat through the summer.

Mary gave verbal descriptions and provided visuals of Guy Gulch with photos, where Golden Gate Canyon Road most closely follows the old wagon trail. She explained origins of names in the area, including how Golden Gate was named for Thomas Gold’s base camp at the beginning of the wagon trail that went up Intermountain to follow the ridge line at the top before dropping into Dry Creek and then into Guy Gulch, through Ralston Creek over Michigan Hill to Dory Hill and down in to the riches of Gilpin County’s Central City. She passionately told of her family, the Acers, as well as her husband’s family the Ramstetters and Kochs.  Her husband, Charles Ramstetter, was born in the old Eight-mile House in Golden Gate Canyon. We can still see a silo erected on that property as we go over Guy Hill. Names of homesteaders become familiar as she spoke and the audience told their stories.

Some other ranching families in the area included the Booths, Dahlbergs, Grens, Jullys, Kolins, Nares, Nelsons, Pearces, Swishers, Termentozzis, Walkers, Whites, and Strangs. Members of the community bonded this January night as some of the families had representative at this meeting and shared tidbits of stories from generations back. Stan Swisher, one gentleman in his 70’s who had kept an old saw mill working for himself and neighbors, told of his young family living in a tiny cabin in Crawford Gulch along Ralston Creek, being surprised the first time they heard cattle passing by their home most of a day when open range grazing still occurred in these parts. Another slightly younger gentleman in his cowboy hat is still the Jefferson County school bus driver of 24 years. Fred is now driving former student passenger’s children up and down the mountain.

Mary’s words remain with me as I try to see remains of the old wagon road from the late 1800s as I traveled Golden Gate Canyon Road with snow decorating the pine branches this week. My local history buff husband pointed out details as we made the trip down the hill on the snow patched highway, taking about 40 minutes. Cattle may have made the trip from Golden to Central City in about two weeks with calves, and wagons in a couple days in good weather, since horses could travel about five miles a day loaded as a team. We can still see remnants of ranches and road houses. Some recognize the place where the toll booth foundation remains and the silo later erected where a body was found buried standing up in an area that had been a stage stop to rest passengers and change horses. All this with clear details about burial sites, caves, churches, cities, drainages, the Grange, heights, historical routes, mines, parks, prehistoric sites, railroads, schools, stage stops, tepee rings, toll gates, settlements, and other interesting tales are included in the John Gregory Country book.

An original purpose establishing this rural group in 1940, as Golden Gate Grange #451 (numbered as that many Grange groups in Colorado at the time) was to be able to help the rural community members where and when it was needed, along with group insurance such as health care with Blue Cross. State Grange groups still offer members Grange Fire/ Homeowners insurance and auto Insurance. During the struggles of America at war, the group also offered national support contributing to groups like USO and for gaining Rural Electric Association (REA) service. The Golden Gate Canyon Grange was a community center for the Golden Gate Canyon Community including Crawford Gulch, Guy Gulch, Tucker Gulch, and other areas. Halloween parties were remembered along with Bible Schools, Fire Department and community meetings. This building held its first meeting in January 1956, meeting in schools mostly prior to erecting this structure with much volunteer work, some donations of materials, and $6,000. Traveling on our modern paved highway near mile marker 14, we stopped in at the old place Bessie and Mary Jane Nare kept and donated land to the Grange #451, established in 1940. They are excited for the Valentine’s Day Party to be held there next month.

The Weekly Register-Call was established in 1862 serving Gilpin County, and in addition to current new, also publishes “today’s news” from archives in a section called Turning Back the Pages from 30, 60, 90, 120, and 146 years ago. History keeps its breath of life as we talk about it. So, let’s keep talking about the local history so it does not fade away.

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