The year is 1877 Dave Stitzel, Daniel Dugan and Joe Yeankee
have just been assayed to reveal an amazingly rich lode. The
hills around the Percha Creek are touched by the magic of gold and
a boom town is born. The Black Range mining range is
about 125 miles long, and not more than twelve miles across
at its widest point. The range follows the east slope
of the Continental Divide and may be said to begin at Cook's
Peak, for it's lead mines. Running north from Cook's
Peak the great fault up at Tierra Blanca, and a little
further north on Percha Creeks, where it carries gold,
silver, and copper with a manganese base. Even though the magic of gold brought on the
population boom, the silver mining in Kingston,
Gold Dust, Hillsboro, Andrews, Terra Blanca, Lake Valley maintained the
boom in the Black Range until the demonetization of silver was the death of
these boom towns in the late 1890's.
of the Kingston group are the Grey Eagle mine on the
South Percha, the Virginia and the Comstock on the
North Percha, and the Bullion, the Superior, the
Comstock, the Brush Heap, and the Lady Franklin on Old
Kentuck Mountain. Eastward on an offshoot lies the
town of Hillsboro, with the placers of Animas Peak
near by, and nine miles southeast of the main range on
a volcanic butte is Lake Valley with the empty but once
celebrated Bridal Chamber of silver ore.
The Black Range mining district ends near Fairview and
Chloride. All these mines have brought millions to their
owners, and large sections of the Black Range may still
be developed. The booms in these districts came between
the years 1882 and 1896.
One of the wildest towns in the Wild West, Kingston once had 22 saloons,
14 groceries and general stores, gambling halls, a brewery, three newspapers
("The Clipper," "The Shaft" and "The Advocate"), restaurants, hotels and a
theater where actress Lillian Russell performed. Albert Fall, later infamous
in the Teapot Dome Scandal when he was secretary of the Interior, was once a
Kingston miner. Other famous visitors: Mark Twain, President Grover Cleveland,
Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid and Black Jack Ketchem. Sadie Orchard, a native
of London, operated a brothel in Kingston (on Virtue Street) and later in
Kingston declined when silver prices dropped and deposits ran out.
The post office closed in 1957. The Victorio Hotel, Percha Bank and other
old buildings still stand and there are today 32 permanent residents.
A brass bell cast in 1877 and used to call firemen and sound mail call is
still at the fire station on Main Street.
In Lake Valley, the year 1878, a blacksmith named John Leavitt took a lease
on a claim and two days later discovered the most fabulous lode of silver
the world has ever known. Called the "Bridal Chamber", it was a hollow in
the hillside with walls of solid horn silver. Before it was all over, a
spur from the railroad was extended into the "Bridal Chamber" and ore
deposited directly into the ore cars. Total production from the "Chamber"
was close to $2,775,000.
The walls of the subterranean mine were lined with silver so pure it
was shipped unsmelted to the mint. The strike produced 2.5 million ounces
of silver, including one chunk, featured at the 1882 Denver Exposition,
valued at $7,000 (when silver sold for $1.11 an ounce.) The mine manager
was killed by Apaches a few days after the discovery.
A stage stop and railhead, Lake Valley grew to 4,000, with 12 saloons,
three churches, two newspapers, a school, stores, hotels, stamp mills and
smelters. The 1893 silver panic wiped it out and a fire destroyed main street