Teller County History
Midland Railroad Terminal - Divide CO 1896
Teller County is on the western slopes of the Front
Range (Pikes Peak area) in central Colorado. Named for
US Senator Henry M.
Teller, Teller County contains 557 square miles of land and 2 square miles
of water. The county seat is
Teller County begins 20 miles West of Colorado Springs and
is accessed via State Highway 24 West. It is almost directly in the
center of the State of Colorado at elevations ranging from 8,000 feet in
Woodland Park to over 14,000 on the back side of
Teller County was
formed on March 23, 1899. Land to form the County was given by
and Fremont Counties. Teller County encompasses an area of 559
Gold was discovered in Cripple Creek, which is the Teller County seat, in
1890 by cowboy and part time prospector, Bob Womack. This discovery
forever changed the area which was to become Teller County. By
1900 more than 50,000 people called "the district" home. "The
district" refers to the entire gold mining area (approximately 3 square
miles) and includes Victor, Cripple Creek, Goldfield, and many towns which
have disappeared. The value of the gold mined in Teller County is greater
than all other gold mining operations ever conducted in the United States
Today Teller County and its cities are home to over 20,000 people. It
faces the very real challenges brought about by rapid growth and the demand
to preserve the natural habitat which drew folks to the area in the first
Teller County was formed from the
western portion of El Paso and the northern portion of Fremont counties and
officially became a County on March 23rd, 1899. Before 1890 most of
what is now Teller County was uninhabited, was an area that people traveled
through to get somewhere else. This area was known mostly for the old
Ute Pass Trail which was an important route because it offered passage
through the front range of the Rockies for Native American tribes, buffalo,
explorers, prospectors, cowboys and their cattle.
The first permanent settlement in Teller County occurred
around 1870 and was at the summit of the Ute Trail in what is now
After having many names, like Rhyolite, Belleview and Theodore, Divide stuck
because the Arkansas and South Platte watershed divide in this area.
As the tracks of the Colorado Midland Railroad neared Divide
in 1887 boarding houses, saloons and restaurants sprang up to meet the
demand of railroad workers.
The Colorado Midland Railroad was incorporated
in 1883 and built by John J. Hagerman. It was the first standard gauge
railroad built over the Continental Divide in Colorado. It ran from Colorado
Springs to Leadville and through the divide at Bush Tunnel to Aspen and
Grand Junction. Later the line was extended eleven miles west of Grand
Junction to New Castle. For a short time the railroad was consolidated with
the Aspen Short Line (1893-1897) and with the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad
owned by the Rio Grande Junction Railway. After the company was sold through
the bankruptcy court on May 4, 1897, a new company known as the Colorado
Midland Railway took over operation of the railroad. The Colorado Midland
Railway, which came, first, under the control of the Atchison, Topeka &
Santa Fe Railway, and later, of the Colorado & Southern Railway and the
Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, again declared bankruptcy April 21, 1917. The
Colorado Midland Railway ceased operations in 1918. Segments of the road
were then sold to the Midland Terminal Railroad; the balance of the line,
mostly west of the Midland Terminal connection at Divide, was abandoned. The
line was scrapped in the early 1920s.
Woodland Park, originally called Manitou Park, was laid out
along the Midland Railroad tracks and was quickly discovered by tuberculosis
patients looking for a place to recover. The town became a popular
spot for pleasure seekers and train passengers when the new Harvey House was
opened in 1890. At that time there were 120 residents in Woodland
During that same year, 1890, Teller County was
changed forever by a cowboy and part-time prospect named Bob Womack.
Bob owned a cattle ranch, bisected by a small stream known as Cripple Creek,
on the remote south slope of Pikes Peak. It was here he
discovered a rich vein of gold ore which changed the character of the entire
Pikes Peak Region, and some say, the United States.
At this time there were less than two dozen people living in the four-mile
wide by six-mile long area that was known as the Cripple Creek Mining
District. By 1900 more than 50,000 people lived in "the District."
Within a few short years there were 12 towns in the area ranging from the
larger population centers of Cripple Creek and Victor to several other towns
which grew up around mining centers. These were named Goldfield,
Elkton, Altman, Independence, Anaconda, Gillette, Cameron, Beaver Park,
Arequa and Lawrence. Goldfield and Gillette are the only two which
The gold mining operations required a great deal of outside support and
several areas came to the rescue. Woodland Park had 5 saw mills
producing millions of feet of lumber per year, much of which was timber for
the mines. 200,000 railroad ties were shipped out annually.
Divide was also an important lumber and supply town, but also became known
for its high-quality, disease-free potatoes and for its fine crops of
lettuce. Each fall, produce was crated and shipped to Cripple Creek
and other locations around the United States. Ice to keep lettuce
fresh while being transported was cut from ponds in and around the area.
No other town in the Pikes Peak
region benefited from Cripple Creek mining like Colorado Springs.
Stratton, Burns, Tutt and Penrose all made their fortunes in Cripple Creek
and then made their homes in Colorado Springs. The Myron Stratton Home
(named for Winfield Scott Stratton's father), the
Broadmoor Hotel, built by
Spencer Penrose, and many of the mansions in Colorado Springs' north end
were all built with Cripple Creek gold.
Five reduction mills were constructed in Colorado City during
the turn of the century and began processing the bulk of Cripple Creek ore.
Colorado City offered water, coal and convenient rail access.
Tension escalated between Cripple Creek and Colorado Springs
in the 1890's. Mine owners, miners and residents in "the District:
grew tired of watching tax revenue from their mines go to Colorado Springs,
which was (and is) the seat of government for El Paso County. They
wanted a Courthouse closer to mining operations because of the number of
county transactions that needed to be carried out. And so, after
much arguing on both sides, the Colorado Legislature created Teller County,
named for Senator Henry M. Teller, one of Colorado's first senators.