Monday, August 29, 2022—Pickleball and the Story of Creede, Colorado

Kay’s aching knee kept her from sleeping soundly last night, but I slept great. We were up relatively early, read emails and the paper, and viewed a bit of social media. Today was our last pickleball day in Creede. There were almost twenty people signed up to play, including several newcomers. We played off and on for almost three hours before calling it quits.

Robben, far left, 97 years old
Lou and Robben vs Joyce and Dixie

We took home a couple of “senior” meals from the Creede Recreation Center, aka the Virginia Christensen Multi Use Facility, the same place where we played pickleball. The senior meals consist of a meat and two vegetables, cost $3 each, and are quite good. The rest of the day was spent quietly enjoying the sunshine and cool temperatures.

Now, more about Creede, Colorado, from Wikipedia. Travelers to this area appeared in the early 19th century. Tom Boggs, a brother-in-law of Kit Carson farmed at Wagon Wheel Gap in the summer of 1840. The first silver discovery was made at the Alpha mine in 1869, but the silver could not be extracted at a profit from the complex ores. Ranchers and homesteaders moved in when stagecoach stations (linking the mining operations over the Divide with the east) were built in the 1870s, but the great “Boom Days” started with the discovery of rich minerals in Willow Creek Canyon in 1889.

Creede was the last silver boom town in Colorado in the 19th century. The town leapt from a population of 600 in 1889 to more than 10,000 people in December 1891. The Creede mines operated continuously from 1890 until 1985, and were served by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.

The original townsite of Creede was located on East Willow Creek just above its junction with West Willow Creek. Below Creede were Stringtown, Jimtown, and Amethyst. The Willow Creek site was soon renamed Creede after Nicholas C. Creede who discovered the Holy Moses Mine. Soon the entire town area from East Willow to Amethyst was called Creede.

Numerous owners of gambling houses in Denver relocated to Creede’s business district. One of these was confidence man Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith. Soapy became the uncrowned king of Creede’s criminal underworld, and opened the Orleans Club. Other famous people in Creede were Robert Ford (the man who killed outlaw Jesse James), Bat Masterson, Frank James, Martha Cannary (“Calamity Jane”) and her pal Poker Alice, and William Sidney “Cap’ Light (the first deputy sheriff in Creede, and brother-in-law of Soapy Smith), all of whom gave the town its reputation as one of the wildest camps in the state.

On June 5, 1892 a fire destroyed most of the business district. Three days later, on June 8, Ed O’Kelley walked into Robert Ford’s makeshift tent-saloon and shot him dead. The town of Creede was incorporated on June 13, 1892. The anti-gambling movement in Denver had ceased, and the Denver businessmen moved back to their former areas of operation.

Creede’s boom lasted until 1893, when the Silver Panic hit the silver mining towns in Colorado. The price of silver plummeted, and most of the silver mines were closed. Creede never became a ghost town, although the boom was over and its population declined. After 1900, Creede stayed alive by relying increasingly on lead and zinc in the ores. Total production through 1966 was 58,000,000 troy ounces of silver, 150,000 ounces of gold, 112,000 metric tons of lead, 34,000 metric tons of zinc, and 2,000,000 metric tons of copper.

Today, Creede is best known for the Creede Repertory Theater, summer home to wealthy Texans, fly fishing, and jeep trails.

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