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The Early Days


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In the 1870’s during the economic depression following the Civil War, white miners and settlers in covered wagons, on horseback, and on foot, encouraged by the Homestead Act, and drawn by news of mineral wealth, again followed the long trails to gold in the Colorado mountains. By now the Union Pacific Railroad was completed and others were penetrating the Front Range of Colorado.
A flurry of activity around the Leadville region first led miners into the Red Cliff area in 1879. Rich finds of ore were discovered on the Battle and Horn Mountains and soon this was one of the largest camps in the area. Still, times were hard at first and the winters were long. One severe winter the local newspaper ran out of normal paper and they were forced to put out several issues printed on wallpaper.
But the townsfolk stuck it out and soon Red Cliff had five hotels, a post office and a school as well as numerous shops and saloons. Red Cliff soon became the Seat of Eagle County and was noted for its opera and brass band. The town was becoming a proper place indeed.
In fact, after setting up their new cemetery, the town planners were so careful they refused to accept the bodies of two men that killed each other in a shootout. The planners felt it would give their new cemetery a bad name to have murderers as their first customers. So, the bodies were buried along the side of the road to the graveyard instead.
The Denver and Rio Grande extended its railroad from Leadville to Redcliff in 1881. The town remained the railroad terminus until 1887 when the tracks were extended to Glenwood Springs.