Jack Turner and the Little Colonel Mine

LittleColonelMine_JackTurner1949Was started as a tourist mine in Black Hawk

When Jack Turner of Black Hawk started opening up the Little Colonel Mine, he meant it to be a tourist attraction, a sort of hard rocker primer in which visitors could see what a gold mine looked like without endangering their lives. Unfortunately, the Little Colonel actually turned out to be a real mine.

After years of mining from Alaska to Bolivia, and after having an arm crushed under a drive belt and large assortment of bones broken in mine accidents and a Tolland Tunnel cave-in, Jack had given up mining for the less rigorous job of operating his Black Hawk Trading Post. Now he is back in the mining business again.

When the original tunnel was completed, a thin vein of gold showed at one corner. Jack decided to open a few feet of tunnel across the corner from this and make a fake vein of iron pyrite (fool’s gold) for comparison. When this was blasted out, there were indications that the gold vein was enlarging and mining operations were shifted to it. Another foot of rock was taken out along the vein, uncovering a foot-wide seam assaying from $100 to $125 a ton, with rich ore at each side assaying in the thousands.

Then Mrs. Turner suggested that he enlarge a room in another corner of the tunnel to make a wishing room for Laura, the mythical mule who is the underground sweetheart of miners.

According to the legend of the mines, Laura takes care of the miners who take care of her on her birthday, which is one day before the miner’s own. On this day the miners hide a small sack of oats, a silver spoon, or a coin in the mine for Laura, who rewards them by warning them of danger and bringing them good luck. That her warnings are really the sounds of internal crushing and carbon monoxide gas bubbling up through the water does not endanger the legend.

Apparently Laura liked the idea of a wishing room dedicated to her, for in the corner of this room a second rich vein was uncovered.

Jack tells some wonderful mining tales, tall and otherwise. Since he is a graduate mining engineer (Colorado School of Mines, 1914), he knows the geology of Colorado like a textbook, and just by coincidence started his mine on the rich La Crosse vein, it may or may not have been Laura who led him to the gold. We will give her the benefit of the doubt, for it makes a better story that way.

Originally published in the July, 1949 edition of the Rocky Mountain Life, provided courtesy of Eric Miller.

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