Mining history of Frisco, CO (sponsored)
August 11, 2016
Nestled between the Tenmile and Gore mountain ranges is a small waterside town with unspoiled beauty and a rich history. Like most of Summit County, Frisco was developed from mining, but before that, the Ute Native Americans enjoyed the area for over a thousand years. They named it "Nah-oon-kara" — the land where the Blue River rises.
The mining boom
The first white settlers to explore Frisco were beaver trappers in the first half of the 19th century, but by the 1870s, mining was the big game in town, and new businesses started to pop up along Main Street with the rising population. The Ten Mile canyon was the site of the closest mining operation. The canyon was rich with silver and gold, producing over $7 million in profits, which equates to over $100 million by today's standards. The mining boom was greatly assisted by the opening of Loveland Pass in 1879, which made transporting materials much easier.
A year later, in 1880, Frisco was incorporated, boasting a growing population of around 100. The town got its name from a railroad developer named Henry Learned, who placed a sign that read "Frisco City" on the cabin of one of Frisco's earliest pioneers, Henry Recen. Learned wanted to send the "Frisco Line" — a train route from St. Louis to San Francisco — through the area. That plan never came to fruition, but by 1883, two other lines frequented the town. These trains brought the first tourists to Frisco, looking to explore the mountains, just like so many today.
"The people from Denver came up as much as they could just to get out of the city and to mine," explained Simone Belz of the Frisco Historic Park and Museum.
Recommended Stories For You
The native Utes were friendly with the early settlers and were even known to share food with them, but by the 1880s, with the incorporation of Frisco, this bond was tarnished. A number of land disputes and treaties forced the Utes to move to small, parceled reservations in southwest Colorado and northeast Utah.
With the mining boom in full force by 1882, the population of Frisco skyrocketed to 250. Mining continued to thrive until around 1918, but by the Great Depression, it was all but gone in Summit County. After this vital industry disappeared, electricity was shut off in town and Frisco's population diminished to as little as 18 by 1930.
After these dark times, the revival and saving of Frisco can largely be credited to the Thomas family, who attracted ranchers to the town by giving them free land. Thanks to their foresight, by the end of World War II, the town's population had already climbed back to 50. One of the Thomas sons, Bill, started a camp known as Bill's Ranch Camp for Boys, that helped draw attention to the area. In a pamphlet promoting the camp, Bill boasted "home cooking with an abundance of milk and cream." Bill's Ranch Trail which starts south of downtown Frisco, cuts through some of the areas used for this camp.
White gold & tourism
The opening of Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper Mountain resorts in the "White Gold Rush" of 1960s and '70s, as well as opening of the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels and the construction of Lake Dillon, brought even more new life to the town and ushered Frisco into its role as a vacation destination.
Over the last 50 years, Frisco has developed hand-in-hand with the growth of tourism and Colorado population, but still maintains the same charm of that little mining town from 100 years ago. With a lively Main Street and fantastic natural features like the lake, parks and trails, it's safe to say that Frisco's future will be just as bright as its colorful past.
For more information about Frisco's history, check out the Frisco Historic Park and Museum, located on 120 Main Street. The building itself, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in the late 1800s and is a former schoolhouse and saloon.
Town of Frisco
1 Main Street, Frisco,
Trending In: Explore Summit Magazine
- Prominent climate scientist predicts Summit County’s climate in 2050. It might not be what you expect
- Frisco residents resist ballot measure that would authorize workforce housing on “pocket park”
- New parking garage comes with plans to better manage traffic in downtown Breckenridge
- In Summit County, vacation rentals often, but not always, more profitable than long-term leasing
- High Country Crime: Pain drugs stolen from ski patrol shack atop Buttermilk