Mining at Summitville

We have been writing for some time about Summitville, now a ghost town, but formerly a gold mining camp high in the mountains between Pagosa Springs and Del Norte.

Summitville’s best gold producing years were between 1870 and 1900, but the old camp reared up its head from time to time until quite recently.

The following item is from the Del Norte Prospector of June 24, 1927.

“Wade Warr with a helper and a large bunch of pack horses left Monday for his mining claim up above Summitville. He plans to work the claim and is outfitted and will stay a long time.” (Motter’s note. Wade was the father of Bill Warr, still living in Pagosa Springs, a man who taught me much about the history of Pagosa Springs and especially about the East Fork of the San Juan and Summitville).

“Sam Houser, Utah prospector and miner, arrived in Del Norte the first of the week., He came over Wolf Creek Pass with a wagon and team from Pagosa Springs, and had to wait two days before the bridge at Decker Creek was finished so he could cross. He spent the winter in Pagosa, and is on his way to Summitville to look things over and do a little prospecting.”

From the March 16, 1928, Pagosa Springs SUN, we read:

“Ore shipments from the Little Annie mine at Summitville, Colo., since the first of this year have brought net returns of over $600,000 in checks from the Golden Cycle Mill to Jack Pickens and Judge J.C. Wiley of Del Norte, who made the phenomenal strike in September of 1926, according to official information received from the Golden Cycle mill, says the Denver Post.

“The ore has been brought down from the mine on sledges and by trucks to the railroad. One allotment of five tons last week brought $28,000 net returns. The western slope has been remarkably free from storms since Christmas and this has enabled Pickens, who is in charge of the work, to keep the sledge road open with little difficulty. Judge Wiley, who is now a millionaire, is now wintering in California.

“The lease on which Wiley and Pickens operate was obtained from the Reynolds estate in April, 1926, for five years, and therefore has over three years to run. It is on a royalty of 15 percent to the estate, which is considered very favorable to the lessees. The gigantic ore shoot shows no signs of exhaustion at low levels and in the next three years the lessees ought to extract several millions. The Golden Cycle Company has been negotiating with Wiley and Pickens for a contract by which the company will install a cyanide mill close to the mine and treat the ore on a 50-50 basis, but the negotiations have not been closed.

“The Little Annie ore shoot has been explored to a depth of 800 feet from the famous pinnacle where it stuck out like a sore thumb and at the lowest level has been found to contain 200 ounces in gold with a high percentage of copper. This is the first point at which the copper intrusion has been located. An official of the Golden Cycle, who inspected the mine, declared it to be the greatest gold mine in the United States.”

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
While buying some horse feed last week in Pagosa, I ran into Jake Montroy. He told me his grandfather, among other things, ran a boarding house at Summitville. That reminded me of this picture taken at Summitville showing the French boarding house in the background to the left, behind ruins of a commissary. Since Jake’s grandfather, Leon, was known as “Frenchy,” could this have been the boarding house Jake remembers hearing about?