Leadville History: 1878-1893

The years 1878 and 1879 marked the arrival of two more future millionaires. David May opened his auction house and clothing store, later buying out his biggest competitor. The company eventually became the nationwide May D&F. Charles Boettcher opened a thriving hardware business, later moving to Denver where he became one of its most successful businessmen and benefactors. Many other brilliant financial careers began in Leadville. The Guggenheims, Marshall Fields, W.B. Daniels, and James V. Dexter owe much to their Leadville beginnings.

The Unsinkable Molly BrownMolly Brown arrived as a teenager in the early 1880s, working as a seamstress in a dry goods store. She eventually married J.J. Brown, and became the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown. Texas Jack, Buffalo Bill, "Chicken Bill" Lovell, "Broken Nose" Scotty and Soapy Smith are all part of Leadville's colorful past. Teddy Roosevelt also paid visits to Leadville.

Of course, Doc Holliday's stay in Leadville is one of the most infamous. It was marked by ill health, tuberculosis and drinking. Conflicting accounts of his story abound, but the records do indicate that he shot and wounded Bill Allen in August 1884. Supposedly penniless, he was nonetheless released on a total bail of $8,000, which was raised by his wealthy friends, and in March 1885, he was acquitted and released. Allen was the last man on record shot by Holliday.

Among the many groups of people attracted to the minefields in the high Rockies was an eclectic sample of then-recent Jewish immigrants. From mine owners and merchants to laborers and tradespeople, they made new lives for themselves and their families. It is to their memory that the Temple Israel Foundation is dedicated.


Mining was not the only interest that the nation had in Leadville. In 1889, Congress established a National Fish Hatchery on the east side of Mt. Massive. It's now the oldest fish hatchery west of the Mississippi River.

In 1893, the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act spelled ruin for Horace Tabor and many others. Baby Doe froze to death almost 40 years later in her one room shack at the Matchless Mine. Mining for other minerals continued, but the silver boom was over. Next...

Learn more about the history of Leadville and Twin Lakes:

Leadville History Introduction Leadville History 1895 - Today
Frequently Asked Questions about Mining
Camp Hale and the 10th Mountain Division Twin Lakes, Colorado

Bringing the kids or grandkids to Leadville and Twin Lakes? Get them ready to explore our history by downloading and printing this coloring page!