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Location of Red Mountain City
By Gary Lewis

Part 1

Any discussion of Red Mountain Towns' history has to include much of the history of Red Mountain City because of the rivalry of the camps and such is the case here. Mark's narrative on Red Mountain Town is excellent. This page will attempt to clarify the confusion which exists today over the location of Red Mountain City.

David Smith is undoubtedly the foremost expert on the Red Mountain Mining District and his book, Mountains of Silver, details the history of the district. His position in the book is that Red Mountain City was located at the site of the Congress Mine, which was situated ¾ mile east of Red Mountain Pass. Red Mountain City, named Congress by the postal service, was actually located about ½ mile south of Red Mountain Pass on US Hwy 550. (If you want to cut through the chaff at this point, go directly to Part 2.) The problem arises when the author incorrectly assumes that Red Mountain City was abandoned because the main road bypassed the town. In doing so, this assumption created contradictions with other resources the author relied upon. The author's belief that the road bypassed Red Mountain City is expressed in the following passages from his book:
  • Pg. 60-"In 1883……….But within months it would be almost a ghost town at the same time Red Mountain Town flourished. The reason: The main highway through the district moved to another location."
  • Pg. 66-"In April 1883……..'The City' was faltering. There were two very logical causes for its decline. Most of the really large and valuable mines were now found on the Ouray side of the Red Mountain Divide, much closer to Red Mountain Town, and Red Mountain City was quite a distance off the newer and more efficient trail from Chattanooga to those mines."
  • Pg. 83-"The new road bypassed Red Mountain City by half a mile and sealed the fate of the new settlement."

Contradictions created in the book as a result of the incorrect assumption are as follows:
  • Pg. 57-"Silverton's La Plata Miner of January 6, 1883 reported that John L Haines (later called both "Hines" and "Harris" in the papers) had announced he would build a hotel in the Red Mountain district and that he would ship in four thousand pounds of freight a day from Silverton. His route would take him to Chattanooga and then up the steep divide. The paper also announced that a post office would soon be established at the same site. The very day that the Silverton paper was published, Haines's location was officially named Red Mountain City."
  • Pg. 96-"The June 23" 1883 "Red Mountain Pilot claimed that the wagon road had been completed that day from Chattanooga to Red Mountain City, although, as events were to prove, that road would not be passable to wagons for many months to come."

Sloan and Skowronski state on page 53 in The Rainbow Route "tracklaying progressed and by October 21, 1887, the rails reached as far as Burro Bridge….." Further down on this page, an excerpt from The Red Mountain Mining Journal states "The graders are between Chattanooga and Old Congress Town."

In the February 22, 1883, issue of the Red Mountain Pilot the following excerpt can be found "Dr. Lawrence, of Silverton, was up to the Turkois lode Tuesday and found the vein improving with every foot of depth. This is one of the producing mines south of Red Mountain City." The Turkois lode can be located from old mining maps as being just south of Red Mountain Pass and west of Mineral Creek in the immediate vicinity of Hwy 550. The March 3rd issue has a full column article with a heading "…The Silver Ledge, Just South of Red Mountain City…" "…a half a mile south of the Pilot Office..". The Silver Ledge Mine is located just north of Chattanooga between Mineral Creek and Hwy 550. The March 17, 1883, issue of the Red Mountain Pilot states: "…Alfred Iles has one of the finest prospects in the District, the Addie S. It is located at the southern limits of Red Mountain City, between the Blue Bird and the Turkios, on the same blow-out as the wonderful Silver Ledge. W. J. Shiek, of the Denver Fire Brick company, is interested with Mr. Iles in this valuable property."

While the newspapers cannot be relied upon as correct one hundred percent of the time, they are the best clues we have. From the above accounts of the newspapers, I believe that a rock solid case can be established for placing the location of Red Mountain City on today's main highway and not at the Congress Mine, which, according to the author, is the location of Red Mountain City. But wait, I'm on a roll and building up to the grand finale.

Part 2

Below is a copy of a lead engraving created by Emil Fischer who was a well-known cartographer in the area until his death in Silverton in 1892. I feel that this engraving was created around 1883 since Red Mountain Town appears to be placed in its original location and Rogersville which became Red Mountain Town shortly after 1883, is identified as Rogerville [sic.]. Please remember the original road through this area is currently a jeep road starting at the Longfellow Mine, going northeasterly and eventually winding back to the final location of Red Mountain Town at the National Belle Mine.

Notice the location of Red Mountain City (yellow) as being on the main road just below a sharp curve in the road and west of mineral creek. Also notice the location of the Congress Mine (also yellow), the divide and the relative location of Chattanooga. This is exactly the way it is today. Red Mountain City was on the old road, new road, railroad and US 550 (all being the same).

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Lead engraving by Emil Fischer - Taken from "Ouray, A Quick History" by P. David Smith.
(Click on map for larger version)
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Joseph Collier's 1883 photograph of Red Mountain City (Congress) and my 1997 photo taken approximately ½ mile south of Red Mountain Pass on US 550, looking south, are shown next. Please notice the alignment of the mountains in the background. These photos speak for themselves.

sCongress1.jpg - 7569 Bytes Red Mountain City - 1883
Photo by J. Collier, the Denver Public Library
Western History Collection


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sCongress1.jpg - 7569 Bytes Red Mountain City - 1883
Photo by J. Collier, the Denver Public Library
Western History Collection


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scongress2.jpg - 6972 Bytes 1997 photo of Congress town site
Gary Lewis

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Below is an enlargement of a distinctive rock formation from the left center of the 1883 photograph. It reminds me of the side view of a human face with a heavy brow and protruding eyeball. This formation is located just off US 550 on the east side of Mineral Creek and south of the house that is there today. The view is obstructed from the north by trees, but its features can be discerned from a southern approach as well as directly across Mineral Creek.

scongress3.jpg - 8296 Bytes Enlargement of rock formation from left center of 1883 photograph

Need More be said?

Part 3

These stone structures are up a draw to the west of US 550 in the area of Red Mountain City. Contact us if you have any guesses as to their origin.

scongress_relic_1997.jpg - 10329 Bytes Stone structures,summer 1997 photo.

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scongress_relic_1997_2.jpg - 11792 Bytes Stone structures,summer 1997 photo

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