Jump to main content

COVID-19: News and Campus Updates | University Resources | COVID-19 County Status | Fall 2021 Plans

Families and Children

What do these photos tell you about how miners' families and children were like?

A Telluride Miners Family

The family in this photo lived in the mining town of Telluride. The photo probably was taken in the 1880s.

A Telluride Miners Family

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

More About This Topic

The gold seekers who came to Colorado during the Gold Rush were mostly young, single men. Some were married men, but most of them left their wives and families at home. They came hoping to strike it rich and then return home. Families like the one in this photo were rare in Colorado during the early years of mining.

Their Own Words

"There is quite a number of Ladies here now which make things look so much more comfortable. There is one family lives close to us that have a cow, chickens &c. Every morning my ears are Saluted by the crowing of a big Shanghai Rooster that they have."

Source: David F. Spain to his wife, Arapahoe City, April 30, 1859; in John D. Morrison, ed., " The Letters of David F. Spain," Colorado Magazine, 35 (April, 1958): 110.

Two Cripple Creek Children

The children in this photo lived in the mining town of Cripple Creek. They lived there probably in the early 1900s.

Two Cripple Creek Children

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

More About This Topic

Gold was discovered at Cripple Creek in 1898. Nearly all of the people who lived there during the next two or three years were adults. During the first years of a mining camp, miners gave children special treatment because they were so rare. This photo probably was taken a few years after 1900.

Their Own Words

"So, after a few months, we were again happily settled with our family and eating woman-cooked meals and sleeping in good beds. My wife used to curl May's hear and fix her up nice, and I would take her uptown on Sunday morning, and the miners would give her candy and gum and money to put in her purse so she would talk to them and dance a few steps.

Source: Frank W. Smith, "My Years in Colorado," San Luis Valley Historian, 4 (Spring 1972).

A Child With Burro

This photo was taken in the mining town of Creede, Colorado. The boy is holding the reins of a burro.

A Child With Burro

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

More About This Topic

Burros were quite common in the mining camps. Miners used them to ride, carry supplies, and haul ore. Children even had burros for pets.

Their Own Words

"Burros were plentiful, and practically every youngster had one, or part ownership in one. These patient little animals were used to carry the coal and kindling wood which their owners 'rustled' in the railroad yards and other places."

Source: Ivan Crawford, "School Days in Leadville," Colorado Magazine, 26 (July 1959): 224.

Children At Starkville School

This photo was taken in 1886 at a school in Starkville, a coal mining town in Las Animas County Colorado.

Children At Starkville School

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

More About This Topic

Mining regions that provided good jobs attracted men with families as well as single men. In time there were enough children in a mining camp to build a school. The children in this photo attended a one-room school in Starkville, a coal mining town south of Trinidad, Colorado.

Their Own Words

"The coal miners as a rule all had big families. The family of five was a small family. But they went from there, but I wouldn't say how high they went. I don't really know. I've heard of families of 12 and 15 children . . . There were no child labor laws in those days and the boys were taken into the mine, 11, 12, 13 years old. And the girls, just as soon as they were able to take care of a baby, were kept at home. They didn't get to go to school much."

Source: Martha Todd, in Eric Margolis, "Western Mining as a Way of Life," Journal of the West (July 1985): 54.

Children Playing In The Snow

This photo was taken in Gunnison, Colorado during the winter. The children are riding and being pulled in sleds by burros.

Children Playing In The Snow

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

More About This Topic

Burros also help children in mining regions have fun during the winter. Three of the children in this photo are riding sleds pulled by burros.

Their Own Words

“I like to think of the great toboggan parties, made up of men and women as well as children, coasting down Aspen Mountain from up near the Aspen mine, down across the Midland [Railroad] tracks and on through the town, ending up at Hallems Lake or continuing on down the Roaring Fork [River] when it was frozen over. The sleds, which held ten or more, were sometimes pulled back up the mountain by a horse or burro.”

Source: William W. Wardell, “Memories of Aspen, Colorado,” Colorado Magazine, 30 (January 1958): 118.