Information which follows is primarily from the book PITKIN PAST TIMES (1879-1884), by Freeda Brown, copyright 1981 (out of print).
an elevation of 9,242 feet, twenty eight miles northeast of Gunnison
on the Quartz Creek, lies Pitkin, Colorado.
is located on the old D & S P Railroad line in Gunnison County.
The scenic Quartz Creek is formed by the junction of the North, South,
and Middle Fox Creeks and winds its way through this peaceful town.
was founded by Frank Curtiss, George P. Chiles and Wayne Scott in
early 1879. Pitkin, originally named Quartzville, was Colorado's
first mining camp west of the Continental Divide. By March
1, 1879, Curtiss, Chiles and Scott, along with Zeb Watson and W.
W. Wolfe began laying the foundation for the first building ever
to be erected in this camp. The little log cabin was located
on Main Street opposite where, In July 1880, the Pitkin Independent,
the local newspaper, was established.
town, which is situated on an alpine meadow one
mile long and one quarter mile wide, was incorporated on August
11, 1879, when it was renamed Pitkin after Governor Frederick W.
Pitkin. Governor Pitkin was a native of Connecticut who became
a prominent attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before ill health
forced him to seek a new climate. After going to Europe in
1873, he became so ill that his friends believed that he would die,
but he had a heroic wife who had the courage to insist that he try
the remedy of the West. So the Pitkin family settled in Colorado
where they roughed it among mining camps, as well as won the good
fellowship of the mountaineers. Soon his good health would
return. F. W. Pitkin became a man of prominence and was elected
to two terms as Governor of the State of Colorado.
December 13, 1879, the first recorded lots were bought by J. M.
Hill. In 1882, during the month of July, lots owned by the
town went up at public auction and were sold for from $1 to $5 each.
A total of 59 lots were sold for $149.65. F. W. Pitkin bought
lots 7, 8, 9 and 10, Block 41, at $5 each.
first school was established in 1880 and was a private school with
39 students in 8 grades. The students met in a two-story building
at the present school site.
late 1880, notice was given that the title for the town site had
been received and all parties holding guarantees for warranty deeds
could receive them by applying at the Recorder's Office. The
prices for the deeds were $3.00 for one lot and $1.00 for each and
every other lot embodied in the deed. Those deeds, many of
which still exist today, were written on scraps of paper, signed
by the landowner with the lot and block numbers clearly stated.
discovery of mines in the vicinity brought Pitkin to life and sustained
it for many years. The mineral of importance were mainly iron,
lead, gold, silver, and copper, and were of such richness that as
a whole they averaged higher than any camp in Colorado. Among
the regular producers were the Cleopatra, Fairview, Tycoon, Nest
Egg, Swiss Bill and Silver Islet mines, from which some specimens
assayed $18,000 per ton. Over thirty mines operated during
the winter of 1880 compared to six the year before.
first covered stage to enter Pitkin from Gunnison was on November
17, 1880. In July 1880, a toll road was being constructed
from Alpine to Pitkin and would be kept open all winter.
first church service was held in December of 1880 when the Episcopal
Mission held services in the City Hall. By 1881, churches
included Presbyterian, Union Sabbath and Congregational Churches.
first telegraph was put into operation in September 1880 and was
housed in the Pitkin House Hotel. C. W.
started a sawmill six miles above Pitkin in March 1881 where he
reportedly had over 500,000 logs ready to be cut into lumber.
Many social events and organizations cropped up in Pitkin due to
Pitkin's growing population.
March 1, 1881, "J. L. Sanderson & Company" began running
their stage lines along the toll road from Gunnison through Pitkin,
up Middle Quartz to Woodstock, over Williams Pass to Hancock and
beyond. Sanderson & Co. also added to their lines two
new six-horse Concord coaches to handle the immense travel to Pitkin.
Sleighs were then put on runs between Alpine and Gunnison during
the winter months.
July 1881 newcomers were pouring into Pitkin at the rate of 25 per
day. Then a complaint was lodged against the stage company
because passengers arriving by stage were not allowed to stop where
they would like to. Company officials changed the schedule
to accommodate the new pioneers. The stage began leaving for
Alpine at nine o'clock instead of at three in the morning, arriving
about four in the afternoon along with he Eastern mail. This
stage stopped at the Post Office on the corner of 5th and Main.
A stage fare from Gunnison to Pitkin, a distance of 28 miles, was
1881 Governor Pitkin, along with his wife and two children, Robert
and Florence, arrived in this camp by stage via Woodstock.
They were guests at the "Pitkin House" for a week before
traveling on to Ouray.
June of 1882 there were over 60 business houses and 300-400 residences,
with fewer than a dozen of them empty. It had a population
of over 1,000 and the surrounding hills were bursting.
a result of the rapid growth, property values rose accordingly.
One early settler purchased 10 lots for $10 in 1879 and sold them
in 1880 for a profit of $5,0-00, a considerable sum for that time.
The early promise began to fade by the summer of 1882. Mineral
veins that were rich near the surface began to play out at over
75-100 feet in depth, and didn't justify further development.
By the spring of 1883, Pitkin had lost half its population.
During the late 1880's three major fires and three epidemics also
contributed to Pitkin's decline. A short revival in silver
mining took place in 1891 and 1892, but ended with the silver panic
of 1893. The Roosevelt Mine three miles below Pitkin opened
in 1907 with a great deal of promise, and operated into the 1930's.
But low grade ore and controversy stopped its operation.
In the 1920's and 30's the timber industry and the fish hatchery
helped to keep Pitkin alive. The depression of the 1930's
caused further reductions in population to below 100, where it has
remained. During the Winter of 1997-1998 Pitkin had 80 year-round
residents, but summertime brings the count up to between 200 and
300 residents. Enjoy Pitkin!
for more Pitkin history.