Montezuma: mines and myths
Tenacious best describes the spirit of the town of Montezuma.
In 1865, a group of prospectors braved the rugged passes of the Continental Divide to find a tent commune in a high valley along the Snake River. They came in search of fabled veins of silver. One of the prospectors, D.C. Collier, branded the name “Montezuma” on a tree, naming the tent village for the golden treasures of the Aztecs’ last emperor.
It didn’t take long for the miners to make strikes. When Loveland Pass opened in 1868, more prospectors clambered through to stake their claims. By 1881, when the town officially incorporated, the population had grown to 800.
Montezuma’s earliest residents were tough, to say the least. They mined and milled at more than 10,000 feet above sea level. Access to the small valley nestled between 12,000- and 13,000-foot peaks was limited at best. Bitter winters challenged the residents, who lived in an area unserved by railroads or a post office. Obtaining food was also a challenge.
Today, Montezuma is home to about 60 residents. The population has not changed much since the 1920s, when mining began to wind down. The area is a popular recreation spot for hikers, campers, fishermen and four-wheelers. The town is home to only a few businesses: Hood Landscaping and “Old Granny’s,” formerly a bed and breakfast that continues to offer winter sleigh rides.
Montezuma has waxed and waned in activity throughout the years. Recently, the town has united to become more active as a government and community.
Montezuma re-established its town charter in the 1980s. In the November 1999 election, Montezuma residents approved a 2 percent sales tax to fund town activities.
In the spring of 1999, Montezuma began renovations on a historic cabin that now serves as a town hall. The cabin, built in the 1940s, was part of an original camp in Old Dillon, other parts of which are presently the Arapahoe Cafe in Dillon. The town also received a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado to construct a park outside the hall.
Montezuma’s featured event is Montezuma’s Revenge. The grueling 24-hour bicycle endurance race, held each summer, leads racers across the surrounding peaks and through the town. Spectators enjoy food, beverage and music while cheering on the competitors.
The ghost town of St. Johns is nearby and serves people brave enough to drive the roads to find it.
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