The School at Crooked Creek
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    Gold in the Hills

    Colorado residents found gold in the area in the middle 1800s and again in 1880 around the Cripple Creek area. Cripple Creek and the Victor area had the highest community population in all of Colorado during the Gold Rush days; 80,000 people used to dig holes in the area at 9,500 ft. from about 1860 to 1905. A train went up Ute Pass to accommodate the hordes of people as well as to take down the gold laden ore to a processing plant between Manitou and Colorado Springs. The last trains ran up to Cripple Creek in 1947. Visitors to the area can still see the miriad of pot holes on the hill sides made by the greedy prospectors or the many bullet holes in the olde taverns. Burials were cheaper on weekends because there were so many of them. Information around the 1880s gold rush location can be pieced together from several online web sites. Denver, for example, Colorado's capitol city (Colorado had become the 38th state in 1876), experienced it's first great boom. Denver's population propelled by mining and railroads, grew to 106,713 in 1890.

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Ask/Discuss these questions about Gold in the Hills

  • Why do you think Pa's cousin, Tirzah, agreed to take in the children -- and then treat them so badly? How did Pug Ryan and "Old Judge" help or contribute to the poor treatment they were given?

  • Why do you think "Old Judge" decided to help Hattie and Pheme? How did he help them?
  • Those who moved to the West (in the United States) had to have a special kind of courage. How did the children in Gold in the Hills show that special courage? Why do you think made their father feel brave enough to move his family West?

  • Many who read about the West feel that life then was very adventurous. Do you think that life was more adventurous and interesting in the 1880s as compared to now? What parts of the life would you have liked? What parts would you have disliked?

  • Pioneers who moved West had to select a very few of their possessions to take with them as space was very limited. If you were moving West what possessions would you want to take with you?

  • Colorado was once "the Wild West." Do you feel that the country now is "wild?" Why or why not? Be specific. What do you think made the state "wild" in the 1880s?

    Gold in the Hills. (1995) Walker. ISBN: 0802783716; (1997) paperback Pocket Books ISBN: 0671568337. 146 pg. HIstorical Fiction.

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