Willoughby: Difficult Creek lived up to its name

Winter storms disoriented those that traveled Aspen’s mountains, and brought on mistaken turns.
Willoughby assortment

My father handed on a narrative that could be true, about how Tough Creek obtained its title. The title dates again 140 years, and the valley lived as much as the selection.

Throughout the early 1940s, Jim Leahey returned from California to Aspen. He came around his brother Jack, the final resident of Ashcroft. The brothers had pioneered mining within the city, the place they owned and likewise labored the mines. Jack served the county as a justice of the peace for a few years and developed a repute as fairly a personality.

Jim informed my father about his first expedition to Ashcroft, in 1880. Throughout a snowstorm, he and a number of other different prospectors, with their pack animals, had tried to cross over Taylor Move. After they descended the mistaken gulch, they misplaced their method.

As soon as they found their mistake, they slowed down making an attempt to get out of the gulch. Therefore they named it Tough Creek.

In 1886, Andy McFarlane, a sheriff of Pitkin County, operated a sawmill with 18 employees there. Late at evening he found a hearth had damaged out. Though all arms labored to place out the flames, the conflagration worn out the entire operation. Cords of wooden, slabs of lumber and the mill itself was misplaced in smoke.

A homicide try marked Tough Creek that very same 12 months. Two companions had been engaged on a declare and had not been getting alongside effectively collectively. One man went to city and drank an excessive amount of. When he returned late at evening, his companion was sleeping. The person knew the place his companion saved his money, and he began to take it. However his companion awoke and caught him. The thief pulled a gun and tried to kill his companion. However one other miner intervened in time to cease the lack of life.

Tough Creek figured in a water scheme throughout 1893, when Aspen’s prospects felt ripped off. D.R.C. Brown and H.P. Cowenhoven owned the franchise for Aspen’s water, and prospects complained about costs set by the only supplier.

Newman had dammed Citadel Creek and transported water to his mine to make electrical energy. He proposed that metropolis council give him a competing franchise.

He deliberate to construct a dam on the decrease finish of Tough Creek and ship water by way of pipeline into city. He posited that the extra dependable system would decrease fireplace insurance coverage charges, and everybody would profit.

Unconvinced, the council delayed their choice for a few conferences. Ultimately, Newman eliminated his request, “since there was a lot dilly dallying.” An excessive amount of time had been misplaced on the entire dam thought.

Identical 12 months, identical place, lightning struck Henry Cunningham. Some thought it killed him. However Cunningham survived to inform his tough story.

4 years later, John Manning, a declare proprietor recognized in Aspen for his work alongside Tough Creek, set free that he had hit a bonanza. A narrative circulated that in 4 and a half days of sluicing, he had amassed 7 kilos of gold, price $144,000 at at this time’s gold worth. The Aspen Occasions reported that the story didn’t seem “to have any existence in truth — solely a hallucination indulged in by the reporter of an unreliable modern.”

However, prospectors and the Tough Creek Gold Mining Co. spent years looking and panning the creek for gold. However as historical past tells us, extra was misplaced than present in Tough Creek.

Tim Willoughby’s household story parallels Aspen’s. He started sharing folklore whereas educating Aspen Nation Day College and Colorado Mountain Faculty. Now a vacationer in his native city, he views it with historic perspective. Attain him at redmtn2@comcast.web.

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