The Evolution of Mining

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1860s through the turn of the Century

The early 1860s saw the introduction of large-scale hydraulic placer mining to the area, and Breckenridge was engrossed in a new mining phase. Hydraulic mining occurred in Lomax, Iowa, Georgia, and other gulches and brought a change in the character of the local mining industry. Individual miners and mining companies consolidated their holdings. The days of the lone prospector were gone.

In 1879, Breckenridge found itself an important hard-rock mining location and prominent supply center. The discovery of rich silver and lead carbonates in the hills nearby put the Breckenridge district on the map, and fortune hunters invaded. Breckenridge had plenty of "elbow room" to grow, and the community was formally incorporated in 1880.

An ambitious grid was eventually platted for the 320-acre town site. Breckenridge's wide Main Street allowed for ease in turning around freight wagons and became the center of social and athletic activities. During the mining heyday, the town provided the miners with a variety of attractions. Without diversions, life in the mining camp would have been an endless cycle of routine work.

Soon, more substantial architecture appeared. Comfortable homes, churches, and a school were built on the hillside east of Main Street. Saloons and other false-fronted commercial ventures were confined to the downtown. Main Street became the business thoroughfare, and, by June of 1880, Breckenridge's population of about 3000 people enjoyed two dancehalls, ten hotels, and eighteen saloons. In addition, Ridge Street, which paralleled Main, boasted a grocery store, hotel, post office, dry goods store, bank, assay office, and drug store.

In 1882, a depot site for the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad was secured, bringing rail service to town. Consequently, Breckenridge doomed a half dozen rival mining camps in the process, including Swan City, Preston, and Lincoln City. By 1882, the town added three newspapers and a cemetery. The population of Breckenridge was 2000 residents, and it reigned as queen of the Summit County mining towns. The Town also managed to organize three fire companies to protect the vulnerable wooden structures. Nevertheless, a major fire in 1884 destroyed a number of buildings along Main Street and Ridge Street. Despite the fire danger, local carpenters continued to build with wood because of the availability of materials and the reduced time, effort, and cost of construction. As a result, few masonry buildings ever appeared in Breckenridge.