History: Tour through old-time Summit | SummitDaily.com

History: Tour through old-time Summit

Mary Ellen Gilliland
special to the daily
Summit County, CO Colorado

Resuming our tour of Ten Mile Canyon along the bike path west from Frisco, at four miles comes the Admiral Mine, one of the lower canyon’s most productive.

Beyond here, across from Officers Gulch, the Monroe Mine stood high on the east wall. During Prohibition, a still in one of the Monroe cabins produced moonshine.

At Copper Mountain, an 1880’s town named for Judge John S. Wheeler earned its reputation as the county’s most fun community. Wheeler, on the site of today’s Copper Mountain Village, began when the judge built a much-needed sawmill on his hayfields at the base of today’s Vail Pass.

Providing ties for the coming railroad and timber for the bustling mine camps above Ten Mile Canyon, the first sawmill prompted several more, establishing a mid-canyon logging industry.

Soon saloons, a billiard hall, blacksmith shop, wagon shop, post office and notary office, hotel and Judge Wheeler’s general store emerged to serve a peak population of 225.

Frisco-Dillon-Keystone along the bike path

Begin biking through 1879-founded Frisco, where area silver strikes solidified the town’s economic future. Unlike the bawdy mine camps spawned by news of gold, Frisco began as a planned community laid out by capitalists who knew the railroad was coming.

Past Frisco on the route to Dillon, you’ll pass former ranchlands that stretched to the 1870’s trading post of Dillon, its townsite now submerged by Dillon Reservoir.

The Giberson ranch once spread where Safeway and the Holiday Inn stand. The Ballif ranch (Adolphus Ballif was Dillon’s 1880’s blacksmith) lay serenely in the basin where three rivers ” the Snake, Ten Mile and Blue ” joined.

Old Dillon sprang up on the site of LaBonte’s Hole, an early 1800s fur-trapper’s rendezvous. When two railroads arrived in the early 1880s, Dillon put down roots. The town, however, quickly uprooted itself and managed to move three times.

Before its final move, Dillon had always been a supply town. For decades beginning in the 1880’s, the town supplied ranchers down the Blue who stocked up on groceries and implements there. Later as a junction point for Colorado Hwy. 9 and U.S. 6, it served as a gas stop for travelers.

Dillon also slaked the thirst of local rowdies, providing eight licensed liquor establishments for a population of 80 in the 1950’s”one for each 10 residents.

In 1956, the Denver Water Board announced plans to raze Old Dillon and build a dam to create today’s reservoir.

You’ll pedal past the dam’s glory hole. Above, where dam builders cut Lake Hill, eons of geologic history appear in the layered sedimentary rock seen from the bikeway.

On Lake Hill in 1918, Norwegian ski jumper Peter Prestrud constructed the Dillon Jump, a world-record site. The ride to Keystone also passes the historic Rice Ranch at today’s Summit Cove residential neighborhood.

Old Keystone played its biggest role as a freighting station for Montezuma Mining District ore. Hundreds of silver lodes near towns like Decatur, Chihuahua, Sts. John and Montezuma produced ore that came down steep mine trails on “jacks” (burros). The ore went onto wagons at today’s Ski Tip Lodge, then at Keystone it was transferred to ore freight cars, which carried the lucrative load to Denver markets.

Now the rustic buildings lining the road provide a home to the Keystone Science School. In days gone by, loggers working the Keystone sawmill and other villagers occupied them.

The three tiny cabins across from the old depot housed three Old Keystone had a Chinese resident, called a “Celestial” by early day neighbors, who reputedly smoked an opium pipe and grew

strange-looking vegetables such as Chinese cabbage in his yard. Keystone may have had its own shady lady. Property gravitated into the hands of a single woman”perhaps in lieu of cash payment for illicit services.

Keystone earned historic status as the last stop on “Colorado’s most colorful narrow gauge,” the Denver, South Park.

Old Keystone has the only remaining rail depot on its original site in Summit County. The present stable building was the rail depot and terminus of the South Park line.


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