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Sesquicentennial Minute: Cripple Creek gold rush created 23 millionaires, Colorado Springs explosion

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Following its founding in 1871, Colorado Springs saw slow growth. Without a major developing industry, the city didn't seem bound to flourish. Everything changed in 1891.

It all started when Winfield Scott Stratton struck gold at Cripple Creek on July 4 of that year. His discovery would lead to an unprecedented gold rush that would create hundreds of mines and 23 millionaires in Colorado Springs. The gold coming out of Cripple Creek outpaced all the gold flowing out of California combined.

"By the late 1890s, Cripple Creek was the world's richest goldfield, the money was coming down mostly to Colorado Springs rather than Denver," said Richard Sauers, curator of the Western Museum of Mining and Industry.

And a lot of that money was reinvested into Colorado Springs. Cripple Creek gold pioneers like Stratton, who built the Myron Stratton Home, and Spencer Penrose built a lot of the local staples we love today.

"He [Penrose] and his wife lavishly spent money. They opened the Broadmoor, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, built the Pikes Peak Highway, started the International Hill Climb," said Sauers.

Because of the Cripple Creek gold rush, Cripple Creek became the second most populous city in Colorado for a short time. The population of Colorado Springs doubled from 1891 to 1901.

"Colorado Springs would not have the rich heritage it did without the millionaires from Cripple Creek," said Sauers.

Sesquicentennial Minute is a summer series produced by KRDO's Josh Helmuth leading up to Colorado Springs' 150th birthday this July 31, 2021.

Josh Helmuth

Josh is an anchor for Good Morning Colorado. Learn more about Josh here.

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