Telluride, Colorado, wasn’t always a famous ski resort and summer vacation spot. This small town in the San Juan Mountains started out as a mining camp. Whether it’s local geology or the Native American Ute, the preserved town core built during the gold rush or the surrounding ghost towns, these stories have been chronicled by the Telluride Historical Museum.
The Colorado gold rush began in 1858, about ten years after the California gold rush started. Immigrants set out for the Rocky Mountains in hopes of striking it rich. “Pike’s Peak or Bust” described the determination of prospectors. Mining camps and towns sprang up as the miners sought their fortunes. Whether they came from Scandinavia, Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, Cornwall, or China, they were there for one purpose—gold.
Not all prospectors were headed for Pike’s Peak. Many of them went to the San Juan Mountains in the southwestern part of Colorado. The first claim near Telluride was made in 1875 and registered as the Sheridan Mine. It proved to be rich not only in gold, but zinc, lead, copper, iron, and silver. The town was established in 1878, first under the name of Columbia, but changed to Telluride after the U.S. Post Office informed them Columbia was the name of another mining camp.