Category Archives: Mining in Colorado

1877-78: The Demise of George West

These letters were written by George West (1857-1877), the son of Francis (“Frank”) Henry West (1825-1896) and Emma Rittenhouse (1829-1896). Those who follow Spared & Shared will likely recognize George’s father as the author of numerous letters I have transcribed and which can be found posted elsewhere on this website at:

1859-60: Francis Henry West to Emma (Rittenhouse) West
1863-64: The Civil War Letters of Francis Henry West, 31st Wisconsin Infantry
1864-65: The Civil War Letters of Francis Henry West, 31st Wisconsin Infantry

It seems that young George West was a chip off the old block, perhaps inheriting his father’s restless spirit but not his physical prowess. He was described as a “handsome, intelligent boy,” whose father had no doubt impressed upon him that to be a successful, self-made man, one had to take risks. “The bigger the risk, the greater the reward,” he told himself. Despite his mother’s objections, 21 year-old George joined a party of men from Milwaukee going to the mining fields in the rugged Red Mountains of southwest Colorado. This area was only recently settled as described in the following brief summary of the early history of Ouray, Colorado:

The first mines were discovered at the Ouray site in 1875, and an initial settlement and mining district named “Uncompahgre” were established. The box canyon at Ouray was deemed an ideal town site, being spectacularly beautiful, relatively flat, sheltered from the worst of the winter weather, and warmed by numerous hot springs. The initial settlement was small and only a few men stayed for the winter of 1875-76. Transportation routes were not established at this time and the poorly-equipped miners almost starved before supplies arrived during the spring of 1876. 

By early 1876, the town name was changed to Ouray and a permanent town started to take shape. Numerous businesses were started like hotels, stores, a blacksmith, and of course the center of every mining town – saloons. Many of these early businesses operated out of tents and log cabins and only lasted that first summer. Ouray was incorporated in October of 1876. In January of 1877, Ouray County was carved out of existing San Juan County, and Ouray became the county seat.

Early in 1877 the population of Ouray was reported to be over 400 residents. The town contained over 200 structures including log cabins, two blacksmiths, a school, a post office, a bank, two hotels, and too many saloons to count. The first newspaper in town, the Ouray Times, was published in June of this year. The population of Ouray had doubled to around 800 by early 1878. The 1880 census reported a population of 864. At this time the town boasted a water works, street lights, plank sidewalks, and graded roads.

The tragic tale of George’s adventure and of his demise is captured in this series of letters—four of them written by George himself, and the last five by others who lived in the area during the winter of 1877-78.

Ouray as it looked in 1877 (Ted Kierscey Collection)

Letter 1

Denver, Colorado
April 13 [1877]

Dear Mother,

We arrived here last night after being on the road 60 hours—3 days and 2 nights. We put up at the Merchant’s Hotel where we shall remain until tomorrow morning when we take the train for LaVeta. We are getting a part of our outfit here but we shall get our provisions and mining tools at Del Norte or Saguache.

We do not know as yet whether we shall have too buy burros or go through with the freighters but we shall do the latter if possible. I enjoyed the trip across the plains immensely. They exceed in vastness anything a person ca conceive who has not seen them. The fences end about 100 miles west of Kansas City and after that there is nothing but an immense treeless plain, almost destitute of water. There is no one living along the line of the railway except a few herders who look after the large droves of cattle who roam over the vast country.

We had immense [fun] shooting at antelope from the car windows when we reached their range about 400 miles west of Kansas City. We saw them continually in herds from 5 or 6 to 40 or more. They would start up alarmed at the sight of the train and seemingly become confused and would [run] along parallel with the train, sometimes as near as 150 yards but usually ay from a quarter to a half mile distant. They ran with tremendous speed, easily keeping up with the train going about 30 miles per hour. I shot away about 60 cartridges from my rifle with a gross result of none killed as the distance and jolting prevented an accurate aim. I made some very close shots, however, and could have shot several had the train been stationary. I succeeded in shooting, however, a jack rabbit on the dead run before he reached his hole. We also saw a large colony of prairie dogs and several prairie wolves and deer. I will write again probably from Del Norte before we go into the mountains.

Your affectionate son, — George West

Letter 2

Ouray, Colorado
May 14, 1877

My Dear Mother,

We arrived here last Thursday night after having been 19 days on the way from Del Norte and just one month out from Milwaukie. Our journey was one which for the latter part I have no desire to repeat. We left Del Norte on Saturday noon and reached Saguache the next day from which place I wrote home. From there out it was almost a continual pull over roads of whose badness you can form no conception unless you can imagine hills so bad that the horses could not pull the empty wagon more than 15 or 20 feet at once and so so muddy that we frequently had to dig out the horses to prevent them from miring in the mud out of sight. It was a constant state of unloading the wagon, and packing everything on our backs up steep hills and over muddy roads, often for a mile or more at a time. As we had about 2800 lb. on the wagon altogether, you may imagine what kind of a time we had, sometimes not making over one mile per day, making during one week over the worst roads only 7 miles.

When the wagon got stuck we would all get hold of the wheels and if we could not start the wagon and keep her agoing in that way, we would have to unload and carry everything on our backs and come back to help the empty wagon along until we struck better roads. We were twice snow bound by severe storms—once for a day and a half at the old Indian Agency at Los Pinos Creek near Cachetope Pass, and again for the same length of time at what is known as the Middle Cabin. During the latter stoppage we had a very exciting hunt after a panther or mountain lion as they are called here. The beast had killed an ox belonging to a freighter and the following morning we started on his trail through the deep snow coming twice in sight of him but were unable to get close enough to kill him as the snow—in many places 4 or 5 feet deep—made walking, much less running, nearly impossible. As it was, however, he exceeded anything I have ever seen in the shape of a wild beast.

We have walked about 300 miles since we left La Veta and have travelled about 700 miles in all. A person could easily have gone from Milwaukie to any prominent city in Europe and returned during the time it has taken us to get here. The weather with the exceptions of the snow storms has been very fine and although freezing hard every night, we have experienced no inconvenience in sleeping under our light tents or in the open air. It has been my province to do the cooking for our mess and I have done very well, the menu being of the simplest order—coffee, bacon & bread being the staple articles of diet with an occasional variation of beans. We have an iron bake oven resembling a flat kettle in which I bake the bread for which we use baking powder, setting the oven down on hot coals and covering the lid with the same.

We passed through the new Agency coming through the Indian Reservation and saw the Ute Indians. They are the finest looking aborigines I have ever seen, dressed in gaudy blankets and beads and painted with gay vermillion, passing their time in hunting and horse racing and in drawing their supplies from the Indian Agent. We passed the large mineral spring a short distance below here on the Reservation and had a refreshing bath. 

I went to the Post Office as soon as I arrived here and found letters from both you and Father to my great delight. They had got here the same day as our arrival, and nearly all our party found letters awaiting them. There is only one mail per week here now but we shall have a tri-weekly or daily mail during the summer. This letter which I am writing will go out tomorrow morning (Tuesday).

I find Ouray the [most] beautifully located little town it is possible to  imagine, shut in on every side by lofty cliffs and mountains that almost keep out the  sun. With the Uncompahgre river rushing through the town, it seems a perfect  paradise after our long journey. We have camped at the upper end of the town in a beautiful little grove of trees near the river and are about as pleasantly located  as it is possible for me to imagine. Everything is animation here and the town is building up rapidly although the houses are all small frame or log structures as yet.

I enclose a letter to Father by this mail which will probably reach you at the same time this will. I have not got his letter directed to Lake City as we did not pass there but have written to the postmaster for it and I shall probably get it in a few days. I am delighted with the country so far as I have seen it and I have no doubt but what I shall so well from the beginning. I have much better prospects before me than I expected to find so soon as you will see by my letter to Father. I have enjoyed excellent health thus far and think we have the finest climate in age United States for invalids.

I shall expect to hear from you every week. Also from the girls. Tell Bennie and Grace to write to me and I will answer the letters. I want R to tell me how he is getting on at school and I will tell him an adventure one of our men had with a cinnamon bear. I shall write again next mail. Your affectionate son, — George West

P. S. Our writing facilities are very limited at present. I shall write in ink as soon as there is a bottle to be bought in town.

Letter 3

Ouray, Colorado
May 14, 1877

Dear Father,

I found your very welcome letter here on my arrival last Thursday and have very impatient to send you a letter before this but there is only one mail at present per week which leaves tomorrow morning.

I have found Mr. Gooding to whom I had the letter of introduction and have nearly closed with him for the purchase of a half interest in 3 mining lodes he owns here and in a ranch on Cañon Creek 3 miles above the town. The mining lodes are without exception the best or among the best located claims in the district, being entirely within the town limits of Ouray on the Uncompahgre river within 200 yards of the proposed mill site for lixiviation works to be put in by an English company immediately. They have already begun making brick for their works in a brickyard below the town. The lodes are respectively, the Goodfro, the C. H. Weston, and the John Bull, for which he asks for one half interest $1,000.

The Goodfro he has been tunneling during the past winter and has taken out some fine pieces of ore. The vein is about 3 feet in width and seems  from all indications to be a true fissure vein. He has just taken 8 tons of ore from this lode down to the smelter for a mill assay and will know in a few days how it runs. A small lot of the best ore, a few hundred pounds which he sold at the mill, ran 148 ounces to the ton. They are offering to buy 40 ounce ore at the smelter this summer. This he thinks can be readily taken out with a very little selection.  The C. H. Weston is a large vein of about 6 feet in width. He has 2 men at work on it all along, running a tunnel to where it intersects the John Bull. The tunnel is already driven about 40 feet and there are very good indications of a  paying ore in 15 or 20 feet more work when they strike the union of the two veins. The John Bull he has worked from the surface sinking a shaft a few feet but will work it from the tunnel below when they strike the intersection. These 3  lodes are close beside the well known mines—the Trout and the Fisherman. For these two lodes $30,000 was refused last summer. They are ranked among the best mines in the district and have been worked to a good profit from the beginning.

The ranch is located 3 miles above the town half way between Ouray  and Mineral City. This M. Gooding wants to put under cultivation this summer for vegetables for the mines, with the exception of one other ranch which adjoins it below, it is the only tillable land between Ouray and Mineral. He has 4 men at work now clearing the ground and getting ready to put in the seed. I think we can get 15 acres under cultivation without a dollar of expense save for labour and provisions for the men. We need no machinery nor implements of any kind and with a force  of about 6 or 7 men to clear the land, 2 men after that would be all the help needed. I think $800 or $1000 would be a large estimate for the expense of breaking in 15 acres.

Letter 4

Red Mountain Valley
Sunday, June 24, 1877

My Dear Mother,

I received your very kind letter last Thursday and hasten to reply. I was very glad indeed to hear from you as I have received so few letters from home. We are very pleasantly located in a very beautiful little park known as Red Mountain Valley. It is about six miles south of Ouray on Red Mountain Creek and takes its name from a long mountain at the head of a valley which is of a dark reddish color caused by the stains of iron ore of which the mountain is largely composed. The valley is about a mile and a half long and a little over an eighth of a mile in width and is surrounded and whose tops are covered with snow, forming a strange contrast to the brilliant green of the vegetation in the valley below. We have embarked as you will have seen in my letter to Father last week in the agricultural line having agreed to occupy, build a cabin, and fence a portion of the valley which has been staked for a hay ranch by a man from Lake City who is unable to occupy it himself. We are to have a half interest in the ranch for making it our headquarters and cutting the hay this summer which e shall pack to Ouray in bales upon burros. We have got a very good thing and I believe we can make quite a little stake out of it as hay is in very good demand here and is selling at very high prices. We have also preempted a ranch of 160 acres adjoining the hay ranch which is about one half timber and half a perfectly clear and nearly level portion of the valley. Our ranch and the hay ranch comprise about all of the valley, as above us and nearer Silverton the valley becomes narrow again and ends in a very deep cañon.

The burros trail from our valley down to Ouray is at present very bad but will be much improved during the summer by the miners of this district who will use the trail and the travel from Ouray to Silverton which comes through the valley.

The weather is very clear and bright during the day but sharp and cold at night, ice forming to a thickness of about a quarter of an inch very often. It does not affect the vegetation, however, as the air is so dry that the cold is not felt when sleeping here in the open air every night. Our cabin which we have nearly completed, we shall move into in a few days. At present we are camped in our tent which we have pitched in a little grove of spruce and evergreens beside the creek.

We have the burros which we have got the use of for the keeping of them. One a lank, long-lipped and vicious Texan burro and the others shaggy, long-haired, and docile Mexican animals. One of them is a little fellow about two months old. The funniest and sweetest looking little burro I have ever seen. The very sigh of him makes me laugh.

We have been here about two weeks now and as soon as we have finished and moved into our present cabin on the hay ranch, we shall build another on the opposite side of the creek upon our own ranch as it is necessary to build and occupy a cabin upon preempted government land in order to hold it.

I have had some little experience already in San Juan life, having been twice without food for 24 hours in the past fortnight. the first time Cope and I had came up to look at the valley and staying until nearly dark, we lost the trail when about 4 miles from Ouray and were compelled to camp under a rock. Cope being nearly exhausted from hard climbing in the morning and being unable to walk a step further. It was then about 10 o’clock and we prepared to pass the night as comfortably as possible, cutting a pile of pine boughs to sleep on and building a large fire. During the night it began to rain which turned to a drizzling snow towards morning which completed our misery compelling us to crowd around the fire to keep dry and warm. As the first streak of dawn, about half past three, we gathered ourselves together and were rejoiced to find that we had camped within ten feet of the trail but were unable to see it in account of darkness the night before. We struck out for Ouray which we reached about 5 o’clock after twenty-four hours fast.

On the other occasion I had been down to Ouray with the burros for the remainder of our camp effects and had started for the valley about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the burros were heavily packed and were unable to reach camp that night. As I unpacked them and lying down upon the burros blankets before a large fire, I passed a very comfortable night. In the morning I packed up and proceeded on my journey. After I had gone about one mile, one of the burros, in going up a steep side of the mountain, slipped and fell upon her knees. In trying to recover herself, the tail gave way and she went plunging over the cliff down a steep incline for about 150 feet, bounding over rock and trees and bringing up against the side of a large rock. I hurried down by a round about way expecting to find her dashed to pieces, but was surprised to find her alive and to all appearances unhurt. I assisted her to rise and found she had sustained no serious injuries although pretty well cut up about the head. Her pack alone had saved her life.

After a considerable delay, I got him upon the trail again and reached camp about 2 o’clock in the afternoon after another 24 hour fast. I shall expect to hear from you oftener hereafter. Also from the girls and Ben too whom I shall soon write. Tell Grace that I have not yet received a letter from her which I have been long expecting.

From your affectionate son, — George West

Letter 5

This letter was written by Perry Lamb Hubbard (1841-1912), the son of Chester Lymon Hubbard (1801-1859) and Emily M. Dasiley (1811-1882) of Atchison, Kansas. He married Ellen Rosaline Smith on 13 April 1865. He died in Denver, Colorado, in 1912 at age 70. During the Civil War, Perry served as a lieutenant in Co. C, 1st Michigan Infantry. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill in June 1862 and exchanged in August 1862 for William Fields, 1st North Carolina Cavalry. He mustered out of the service in November 1862. He was an attorney by profession.

Ouray, Colorado
December 29, 1877

Lyndon Redwood Hubbard 
My very dear little son,

I wanted to write to my little Paul boy today but as I cannot do so I thought I would write to my Lime boy. I am well and hard at work and hope soon I shall make money enough so I can come and see my little family for there is no one that thinks as much of his home as your Father does, ad if I could only step in and spend even one day, it would be to me a day of great rejoicing for when I am not engaged I think of nobody else by my family.

For a mining camp, this far outstrips any in the West for refinement and good society and I attend all the dances, balls, parties, &c., and anyone would think by my appearance that I was a gay young man of 21 like your uncle Did, but it is quite a mistake for such places have no charms for me. We are still getting things up to the Virginians and hope soon to commence work on this wonderful mine and hope some day it will make us so well off that we can all live together. But mining is a hazardous business and we must watch and wait. The Virginians is up about 12, 000 feet and when you get up there in very cold weather, you can hardly hold your eyes open. You will want to go to sleep so bad and many people who go up there fall asleep and freeze to death.

I have a sad story to tell you of a little boy who would not mind  his Mother, and last spring left a good home in Wisconsin, and came to Ouray  in search of Gold & Silver. His name was George West and was about 20 years old. His Father was a rich grain merchant in Chicago and his parents did everything they could to have him stay at home, but when he determined to come, then his folks thought they would not send their only son any money and he would get  sick of the country and would come home. But he was not made of that kind of  material. He was a splendid, bright-looking boy and had been brought up as tenderly as a house plant. Your Grandfather knows him well and can tell you about him better than I can write.

He found mining a hard occupation so he with two other young boys went up to Red Mountain Park which is almost up to timber line and (where your Father has a quarter section of land) and they took them up a  ranch, built them a nice, snug little cabin, and commenced cutting hay which is  worth up there about $100 per ton. They succeeded in getting about 70 tons of hay and when others saw that they were succeeding well, they tried to take away from them their little farm, and at the same time they had no money and were badly in debt and they commenced attacking their hay. The poor boys did not know  what to do so they came to me and wanted I should help them out of their trouble but said they had no money to pay me. I told them it made no difference, and I took  hold of their case and helped them all out of their trouble, but before we could sell all of the hay, the snow came and they were still in debt, but had hay enough  to more than pay all they owed, and had their ranch left. This was in the last of  August and before your Grandfather left for home.

George was to small to work and was only about as large as Cliff Holbert so he did the errands and had a little burro which had a small colt, and came down here almost every day and would get what few things they needed and would pack them on her back and then she would  climb up the frightful mountains where you could not possible go. George was a good boy and worked all summer as hard as he could although he [had] never done a day’s work in his life. I thought everything of him and I can’t help crying when I tell this terrible story.

So about the time your Grandfather left, one of the larger boys went  home to get some money so they could pay their debts and thought when spring opened, they could sell the balance of their hay, and then they would cut some more, and then  expected soon to be as rich as their fathers, and could say that they made all of it themselves. George, however, would not go home. He was a little spunky because his folks would not send him some money to relieve him from his present embarrassment so George came down to Ouray to spend the winter while his companions went East. But his rapacious creditors still continued to dun him for thier pay, until they  drove the poor boy almost crazy.

Finally last Sunday, Mr. Peterson—Mr. Alling’s  clerk—told the little fellow that if they had the steel yards they sold to him, they could sell them again. This was more than he could stand as they told him they  must have the money or the steel-yards. Sunday was a warm, pleasant day down here, so he started on foot and alone for Red Mountain Park. When men start for the  mountains, they can’t wade in the snow with an overcoat on, but take blankets. The snow is dry and runs just like quick sand, and you go in up to your neck every step. George, however, had neither overcoats or blankets. Night came and we could hear the wind howl and roar on the mountains, which was more terrible than I can describe, but poor George had not returned, and no man on earth could  get up there in the night. So we waited until morning half hoping he might have found his way to some cabin. Then four of the best mountaineers in this country started, each with a blanket and a shovel, to find this good boy.

They found his track  about 1.5 miles this side of his cabin where these valuable steel-yards were.  There he seemed to have given up his journey and started back and came about  100 rods and sat down on a log where they thought he found out that his feet were freezing and had tried to pull off his boots but could not do so. He continued along a little farther and then took his knife and cut his boots so he could get them off. Here he left his boots—also his socks. This will seem strange to you but this  was the only way the little fellow could save his life as old travelers always take off their boots when their feet are in danger of freezing, but the case is very desperate when they will take off their socks and he must have heard some person say so or he would not have thought of it.

He then went down to the  Uncompahgre River. This frightful stream jumps down the mountain from two to three hundred feet at a bound and there are chunks of ice, from two to ten times as large as our house by the thousand. In getting down to the stream he went over a steep bluff of one hundred and fifty feet where it seemed almost impossible  for any human being to go. Here the hunters could not tell whether he had become bewildered and lost his mind or whether it was in the night and he could not find his way on account of the darkness as on either side he could have gone down to the creek without much difficulty. Here they found where he had sit on the bank of the stream and soaked his feet in this icy stream as his last desperate chance for an existence. They then followed him down the steam about 300 rods and came to an immense snow drift more than a 100 feet deep. No human being could get through  or over it. They could not trace him any farther. The hunters, weary and exhausted, on the 2nd day came back to Ouray where they found a thousand hearts beating with hope and fear.

The next day nine of the best men that could be found went again to this place and last night returned, having found nothing but poor George’s boots and socks, so poor George—a handsome and intelligent boy, sleeps beneath that  mountain of snow. He suffered, he was crucified and is dead and buried, but is now, I trust, happier than the Shilock who so unnecessarily caused his destruction. Mr. Peterson is a ruined man in this Bailiwick.

I enclose a New York Draft for twenty dollars for your Mother. I know all of you children will be good to your mother as she will have a pretty hard time to get along without me. I hope the disagreement between you and your Grandmother will soon be arranged.

Your affectionate father,  P[erry] L. Hubbard

Mr. Fogg says you look like Frank P. Blair

Direct to Mrs. P. L. Hubbard, Atchison, Kansas

Letter 6

Ouray [Colorado]
December 30, 1877

My Dear Brother,

I left L. City last Thursday ,morning, came across the range on snow shoes, arriving here yesterday at 4 p.m. The first news I heard was of the lost of George West. He left town a week ago this morning to go to his cabin in Red Mountain Valley to get some scales which he had got off a Hardware firm here and had been made to pay for. The firm agreed to take them back if he would bring them back. He expected to get back the same day but did not and nothing has been seen of him since by anyone in town.

Wednesday morning, Will G., Martin Shultis, John Merrie and James Mair (men who came from Milwaukee with George last spring) started to hunt him up. They followed his tracks from where he left the Mineral trail to within a mile of his cabin where he had evidently made up his mind that he could not get through, having no snow shoes and the snow was about two feet deep, he turned back for one half mile and then turned off down to the creek bottom and went down the cañon 100 yards and there all trace was lost.

There was another party went out Friday on the search and Will went again yesterday. They went to every cabin in the vicinity whether occupied or not but no trace of him could be found. When he went down to the creek, he left one of his boots (which he had cut some to get off) and Will thinks he had nothing inside his boots but cotton socks and had nothing over them.

The probabilities are that he froze his feet and becoming stupid, laid down and died and was buried by the drifting snow as there was quite a storm on Tuesday last. I understand that another party gone on the search today. They may find his body and that is about all the hope there is left. Will thinks he did not even have a match when he left town. No blankets or overcoats, so it is not at all likely that he lived through Sunday night. It will be a hard blow on his parents and I leave it with you, Edwin & Amanda to apprise them of it as you think best. Mr. Singer will write to his father about it today but we think it would be best for you to inform them yourselves.

I do not know that Amanda is acquainted with Mrs. West but if she is, it would be advisable for her to see her so that it may not come upon her to sudden.

I came here for several reasons. I wanted to find something to do which I could not in L. and the prospects are slim here. I am going to try to get some of our goods (which are here) over to L.

Much love to all from your affectionate brother, — N. S[inger]

Letter 7

I was not able to identify the authors of the following letters in the Singer family though I believe they have a connection to Milwaukee.

Ouray, Colorado
December 30th 1877

Dear Father & Mother,

This old year is dying out very fast now and we will soon welcome  the new one of 1878. The time passes away rapidly and in writing 1878, it brings to my mind that I was born in 1838 so that I will be forty years old this coming  year. Why, I am getting to be quite an old man. But the time seems very short when I look back to when I was a boy and we were all together in the old home and we are scattered almost from one end of the country to the other and we do not know whether we will ever meet together under the old roof again or not. I hope we shall but fortune seems to have played sad havoc with most of us the fast few years, and still holds us so that we cannot always do as we would like. But Have great hopes of doing better soon.

Last spring the were quite a party of men came to this place from Milwaukee. Among the number, a young man by the name of John Lawrie. About three weeks ago, he started from this place to go about twelve miles. It was very cold, he lost his way, and wandered about most of the night, finally found a cabin of some settlers that he got into. His  feet were badly frozen so that he has had to have all the toes of one foot amputated. He is now doing pretty well.

Another one of the party that came with him in the spring, a young man by the name of George West has been working most of the fall about six miles from here up in the mountains in a place called Red Mountain Park cutting hay. One week ago today, Dec. 23rd, he started from here to go up there to bring down a pair of scales he had been using, expecting to return the same day. He did not get back the next day. Monday and Tuesday passed away and he did not return. On Wednesday, a party of four men went to look for him but during the time it had snowed a little and his tracks were almost filled. The snow up there is about four feet deep. They found one of his boots that he had evidently cut off and  traced him from that down to the creek, then down the creek about a hundred yards where a snow slide had come down and there his tracks were lost.

On Friday, a  party of five went up again and searched all day but could find no farther trace of him. His Father’s name, as near as I can find is F. H. West, and has an office at  No. 15 Chamber of Commerce, Milwaukee. There is very little hope of his ever being found alive unless he might have got bewildered and wandered off up the river farther and got to some cabin, but it is a week today since he went out and we would most  likely have heard of him if still living. I wish you would go and see his father and tell him what I have written. The snow is very deep up in the mountains and at the place where  the last trace was found very dangerous on account of the steep canyon and heavy snow slides and it is very doubtful about the body being found until spring and is liable to be washed away then if near the creek. I have understood that his father was president of the Board of Trade in Milwaukee a year or two back so you will have no difficulty in finding him if you do not know him. I have been requested by parties here that  have been searching for him to write this so that his father might know of it and I thought it best to send it through you than direct to his father. Tell Mr. West he can write me and I will give him all the information I possibly can.

Wife has been home now about ten days. She came through very nicely. Caught cold the last day and was a little sick but all right now and we are both happy in being together again. We both send kind love to you all, Mother, Ella Lin, and yourself.   Your affectionate son, — A. L. Singer

Letter 8

Ouray, Colorado
January 6th 1878

Dear Father,

I wrote you last week about George West and his disappearance. Will  now give further particulars which I hope you will communicate to his Father. He started from here on Sunday, Dec. 23rd, to go up Red Mountain Creek about seven  miles where he had been living during the summer to bring down a set of scales he had been using to weigh hay with. He had bought them here but had not  been able to pay for them. The party of whom he got them told him if he would return them, he would give him credit for them, so that was the object of the journey.

In going up there the first four miles is up the Uncompahgre River over what is called the Mineral Point trail which was well broken. From that point he had to leave this trail to go up Red Mountain Creek where the trail had not been passed over since the snow came and there was about four feet of snow and the crust not being  hard enough to bear a person, it was very hard traveling. He not returning in three days, a party went out to look for him and followed his trail as far as they could. They found he got within about a mile of his cabin, then turned and came back  following his tracks. Still they found, after coming back about a half mile, where he had sat down and cut off one of his boots which was found there. From there he  went down to the creek as if to bathe his feet which probably were frozen. The  tracks then went down the creek for about two hundred yards where all trace was lost in a snow slide so they came back.

Then another party started but with no better success. On Tuesday, January the 1st, another party went out and followed up the creek. They found the body near the foot of a fall in the creek which is about sixty feet high. In coming down the creek he must have been out of his mind for he must have known the trail well having passed over it so often and must have  known that the creek was a succession of falls and cataracts, and the trail kept away from the creek on that account. He evidently lived after going over the falls as it looked as if he had attempted to crawl still farther but there he was found buried in the ice and water.

The body was brought down and an inquest held. The jury returned a verdict of death from going over the falls and exposure. The body was thawed out, dressed, a very good coffin made, the body put in and  carried to the church where the Episcopal minister read the burial services and made some very good remarks. It was thenn taken about three miles below town and buried. I have written out all these particulars thinking his parents would  feel an interest in knowing that all was done for the remains of their son that  could be and that he had a christian burial. Should they wish anything further  down they can write me.

We have had the coldest weather here the past two weeks that I  have known since being here. The thermometer has been down to zero every  night and most nights two or three below. During the day it was clear and bright and about twenty to twenty-five above zero. It is not bad weather for work here in town but too cold to go into the mountains. Wife and I are both well and have  nothing to do but try and make ourselves as comfortable as we can. The party who are working my mine are getting on pretty well and it looks well. About March, if the weather is mild enough, I shall get out and do some prospecting. There is too much snow now. We both unite in sending love to all at home.  Your affectionate son, — A. L. Singer

Letter 9

Ouray, Colorado
January 16th, 1878

F. H. West
Dear Sir,

Your telegram of the 8th reached me today. I wrote you through my Father two weeks ago the full particulars of the search for and finding of the body of your son. The verdict of the coroner’s jury, also the care and attention given to the remains, the funeral services being conducted at the church, and the proper christian burial.

Now I would like you to understand the position we are in here. Then give your wishes to us and we will cheerfully comply with them as far as practicable. We are about two hundred and fifty miles from the end of the railroad  across the main range of the Rocky Mountains. The roads are very poor at the  best [and] at this season almost blocked with snow. Although there are a few teams passing each way, it is difficult to get anything carried except by paying high prices for it. It would be necessary to enclose the body in some kind of metallic coffin—a regular burial case cannot be had here. We have a tinsmith here. I have been to him to see what he could do. He said he could line an outside box to put the coffin in with tin or zinc at a cost of about thirty dollars.  Then we would have to wait until some freighter that was going out would take it to Garland or Cañon City. It would take about twenty days to either of the above places. The cost of this I cannot tell now. It would depend upon what bargain we could make.

Your son at his death had no money. In fact, for some time has been in  very straightened circumstances—much more so than even his acquaintances knew of. He led a very isolated life up in the mountain all the fall, only coming to town occasionally for his mail so I did not see him often and did not know how he was situated and he never spoke of his circumstances to me. There has been some expense accrued already and the taking up of the body, the metallic coffin, and sending to Garland I think would cost from one hundred to one hundred and fifty dollars. In compliance to your request to send the body, you see we will have to wait until we can get some person to take it and the means  for doing so. Whatever I can do for you, command me.

Kindly yours, — A. L. Singer  Ouray, Colo.

George’s death announced in the Denver Times Weekly on January 16, 1878, among some of the more unusual news.
The Rocky Mountain News, 23 January 1878