Colorado Springs, Colorado
by Tom Stockman
Benefactor of Colorado Springs
Colorado's gold rush started in 1859 with a modest discovery of nuggets at Cherry Creek (now in downtown Denver). Major strikes in Central City, Leadville, Tarryall & Fairplay over the next few years led to a large influx of settlers and opportunists for the "Pikes Peak or Bust" Colorado gold rush.
William Scott Stratton was born in Indiana in 1848, and went west to Colorado Springs to work as a carpenter in those exciting times. Colorado Springs was not very close to the gold fields of the South Park, but was instead a very famous & popular international resort town, founded by General William Palmer.
Hoaxes during these times ran rampant. Sharp operators planted false placer gold on the side of Pikes Peak and solicited investor money in the Mount Pisgah Fiasco, but no natural gold was found there.
Meanwhile Stratton built houses. He took pride in his work and built well. He used the money he made to fund prospecting trips in the summer.
In 1891, a major gold strike was made on the south side of Pikes Peak. Stratton headed for the hills to see what he could find.
He found one of the richest gold lodes in the world--a plume of gold ore from ancient volcanic action sticking out of the side of Pikes Peak. And he didn't just settle for "placer gold" (gold found on the surface), he initiated "hard rock mining", meaning, digging into the bedrock for the good stuff.
His Independence Mine (and he bought other nearby mining claims to maintain it) delivered Stratton one of the greatest fortunes of his time.
Stratton was the first millionaire to emerge from the Cripple Creek district. He would eventually own one-fifth of the mining land in Cripple Creek and Victor.
He was extremely generous, he bought bicycles for the local washer-women to use on their rounds, and when Cripple Creek burned in an all-too-common fire, he helped the town rebuild in brick.
Stratton eventually sold his Independence Mine for the astronomical amount in 1899 of 10 million dollars, although he stayed actively involved with his other mining interests.
He also continued his generous ways.
Disdaining the common practice of building a mansion, Stratton lived in one of the houses he previously had built as a carpenter. His many charitable acts actually drew public disapproval. He eventually attracted so many false applicants for aid that he withdrew from society, becoming a heavy-drinking eccentric recluse.
Stratton donated land for the Colorado Springs City Hall, Post Office, a major park, and the Courthouse (which now houses the Pioneer Museum). He greatly expanded the trolley streetcar system in Colorado Springs to help the citizens of the town, and when he died, he left his money with directions to found a home for itinerant children and the elderly.
That last act was regarded as so outgrageous that his will was contested by many, and several millions of dollars dwindled away in legal action--yet, in the end, six million was left to found the Myron Stratton Home.
Winfield Scott Stratton died in 1902, leaving his indelible stamp on Colorado Springs as the most generous man in Colorado Springs' history.
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