Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Silver Queen and Silver Plume

Lyn Horner, author
 Silver Queen and Silver Plume
by Lyn Horner

Thank you, Jacquie, for having me here. In my interview with you I mentioned Georgetown, Colorado. Today, I’d like to tell you and your readers more about this lovely town and it’s quiet sister, Silver Plume. Their history is inextricably woven together, wealth and power lying in one, hard labor and danger in the other. They are now part of the Georgetown-Silver Plume National Landmark Historic District.

Georgetown Main Street
Silver Queen of the Rockies
Elevation: 8512 Population: 1080
Several years ago I accompanied my husband on a business trip to Denver. While he worked I spent my days in the Denver Library, going through books, maps and precious microfilm records from the 19th century mining days. Then hubby took a day off and we headed west along I-70 into the mountains. Our first stop was Georgetown. With its quaint store fronts and brightly painted Victorian homes, some the former abode of mine owners and managers, the town was a lovely surprise.

Quoting the official town website, “Since its beginning as a mining camp in 1859, Georgetown has attracted those who have sought something very special. First it was the magic of gold and silver ore, now it’s the beauty and ambiance of this picturesque town surrounded by the Rocky Mountains.” As you can see, that is no exaggeration.

Georgetown Saloon
 In 1867, Georgetown became the center of a great silver boom when the Anglo-Saxon mine was discovered, with silver ore assayed at $23,000 per ton. Soon the high mountain valley held thousands of prospectors and miners. Stages from Denver, traveling over new toll roads, regularly delivered more adventurers. Along with the miners came bankers, merchants, saloon keepers, ladies of the evening, and the occasional preacher. The flamboyant little city was incorporated in 1868.
By 1880, George-town had become the judicial seat of Clear Creek County.

Businesses included two banks, eight stamp mills, ore sampling and reduction works (for refining silver ore,) schools, churches, two weekly newspapers, and several hotels. Legendary among the latter was the Hotel de Paris, opened in 1875 by a Frenchman named Louis Dupuy. Now a museum, the hotel became known throughout the West. It had indoor plumbing and electric lighting by 1893. The dining room boasted fine china, glassware and imported table linens. Louis was a first class chef and did most of the cooking himself, serving steaks from cattle raised on his nearby ranch, and fancy delicacies.
The Hotel de Paris dining room was frequented not only by visiting travelers, but by wealthy mine owners and managers who made their home in Georgetown. In my novel, Dashing Druid, the hero and his lady spend a special night at the hotel.

Silver Plume

Silver Plume
Elevation: 9116 Population: 203*
*Population figure may include dogs, drop-ins, and ground squirrels (quote it with caution).

Leaving Georgetown, we continued up the road, and I do mean up, to Silver Plume. Love that name! This is where the silver miners – the hired help – once lived. Many were Cornishmen who came in search of work when the tin mining industry in their native Cornwall collapsed. One of the “Jacks” as they were nicknamed, plays a small but important part in Dashing Druid.

Silver mining declined in the 1890s, and Silver Plume lost most of its population. However, it continued to attract tourists who made the steep climb from Georgetown via the famous Georgetown Loop Railroad. This narrow gage marvel of engineering is still in operation during the warm months. If you’d like a taste of what it’s like to ride the Loop, there are lots of videos on YouTube. Be prepared to hold your breath as the engineer inches the train onto the Devil’s Gate Bridge.
Georgetown Railroad Loop
Nowadays known as a “sleeping town” because so few people live there year around, Silver Plume is built on the side of a mountain, with steep paths leading up to the tiny houses built virtually into the rock. Walking the one actual street that runs along Clear Creek through what’s left of the business district, we saw empty saloons and storefronts dating back to the boomtown days, as well as a stone jailhouse built in 1875. Boy, is it small!

Silver Plume: Original structures (left); Jail (right)
There’s nothing glamorous about Silver Plume. I wouldn’t even call the setting pretty, but the place breathes history. I could almost see tired miners gathering in the narrow, false-fronted saloons (there were nine) to cleanse the rock dust from their throats and ease their aches and pains. Then I imagined them climbing up rough steps carved out of the mountainside to their flimsy shacks, where they’d grab a few hours’ sleep before reporting back to the mines. Theirs was not an easy life but, oh my, what a brave bunch they were, and what an exciting page they wrote in the annals of the Old West.
Your Chance to Win!

Just leave Lyn a comment here on RTW, including your email address so she can contact you if you win. (Or, if you prefer, email it to her:
The entry period ends at 9:00 pm on Saturday, March 10th.
The prize is a Kindle copy of Dashing Druid.

Thanks, Lyn, for joing RTW this week! RTW readers, be sure to enter her contest by leaving a comment with your email address, and for two chances, leave a comment on her Monday interview as well. 


  1. Lyn, this is the exact research I needed for a book I plan to write down the line, after my cureent trilogy. I'm so excited to learn you know all about this area. So glad we reconnected as friends, too. See you Saturday.

    Jacquie, you know how I love your books and your blog. You hit a home run with this one.

  2. Caroline, what a happy coincidence. I love Colorado, Georgetown in particular. Anything I can do to help with your research, just let me know.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing those pictures. I think it's so neat to visit old towns and find out some of the history. We stopped at a ghost town in Wyoming several years ago and we had a great time. I loved seeing all the restored old buildings and reading about what each building was. I expected to see ghost gun fights in the streets at one point.
    luvfuzzzeeefaces at yahoo dot com

  4. Wow, What a lovely bit of history. I love the old West! Thanks for shareing Lyn. I esp. loved the pictures.

  5. Hey Ladies,
    I'm so glad you enjoyed the pictures! I enjoyed going through old photo albums, looking for them. They bring back good memories.

    Julianne, I visited Wyoming many years ago. It's an awesome place. I'd love to see some of those ghost towns. Once, on a trip to Arizona, my husband and I got to watch a staged gunfight. That was fun, but most of all I loved seeing the land itself. We live in such an amazing country, with so many different faces.

    Shar and MM, it's always good to hear from you gals! Happy trails to all!


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