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Gilpin observer. : (Central City, Colo.) 1897-1921
Place of publication:
Central City, Colo.
Geographic coverage:
  • Central City, Gilpin, Colorado  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
J.D. & H.C. Hurd
Dates of publication:
  • June 17, 1897-v. 35, no. 36 (Dec. 8, 1921).
  • English
  • Available on microfilm from the Colorado Historical Society.
sn 90051548
Preceding Titles:
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Gilpin observer. December 29, 1898 , Image 1


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Gilpin Observer

The "Little Kingdom of Gilpin" sprouted up in the early 1860s, 40 miles west of Denver, where John H. Gregory first discovered four dollars' worth of gold in a single pan of dirt in 1859. The area was quickly named Gregory Gulch, and, as the Gilpin Observer noted on March 9, 1911, the discovery "put the first mark of verity upon the tales of Pike's Peak gold treasure that thus far had proved more mythical than true." Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, even traveled to Gregory Gulch in 1859 to "ascertain the facts about the new land of gold" (Gilpin Observer, March 9, 1911). On that visit, the Observer speculated, Greeley would have seen saw 5,000 "keen, alert, steel muscled gold seekers swarming the deep, narrow gash in the hills."

A teeming camp, three miles long, filled the gulch. It was divided into three municipalities: Black Hawk, Central City, and Nevadaville. Black Hawk and Central City, in particular, thrived and prospered in the area that became Gilpin County in 1861. By 1867, in that county alone, miners had panned more than $240,000 in loose placer gold and extracted more than $9 million in lode gold from the hills, using dynamite and coal-powered drilling. In the 1870s the area became known as the "richest square mile on earth," as rich silver deposits were also discovered.

The Gilpin Observer began its life as the Black Hawk Times in July 1886, but by July 1887 it had been purchased from the estate of A. J. Crosson, moved to Central City, and renamed the Gilpin County Observer. The Gilpin County Observer's first offices were located in what later became the Glory Hole Saloon. In the ten years between 1888 and 1898, the Observer's management changed four times, from the original editor, Alex McLeod (1888–1892), to brothers C. G. and W. E. Pitschke (1894), and then A. S. Petterson (1894–1896). In August 1894, the Gilpin County Observer suspended publication, but the paper was up and running again in September 1894. W. F. Phelps was manager from 1896 to 1897, and H. C. Hurd leased theObserver in December 1897.

In January 1898, Fritz J. Altvater bought the Gilpin County Observer and changed its name to the Gilpin Observer. Altvater had previously worked for Denver's The Evening Post as a linotype operator and, in addition to owning the Observer, he was the manager of the storied Central City Opera House. A. B. Gray acted as editor for some years, but by 1904 he was hawking Gray's Hair Tonic for the Antiseptic Manufacturing Co., with the Silver Plume The Silver Standard noting "we knew him some six years ago and his head was as bare as a billiard ball. He evidently found a splendid hair tonic and had gone into that business" (March 12, 1904).

In November 1903, the Observer announced:

Now and then a newspaper man is rewarded for his efforts for the public good by being elected to an office with a good salary attached, and we are pleased to see that this is what happened to Bro. Fritz Alvater of the Gilpin County Observer [the paper's titles were sometimes used interchangeably], who was elected county clerk.

With Altvater's new position as county clerk, the paper came under new editorial control. William J. Stull, "formerly a well known newspaper man of Grand Junction, [is] now the editor of that bright and newsy, prosperous and up-to-date weekly, the Gilpin County Observer (The Daily Sentinel, September 26, 1904). Like Altvater, Stull had political aspirations; he served as mayor of Central City. In 1910 he, along with the editor of The Denver Democrat, was embroiled in a libel suit. "The joke of the hot season is the suit against W.J. Stull... by H.A. Hicks, representative in the legislature from that county, for $20,000 for defamation of character. The idea of suing a country editor for $20,000," The Boulder News stated on August 4, 1910, based on reporting in the Gilpin Observer.

During its lifetime, the Observer swung politically from Democrat to Silver Republican to Silver Democrat to Populist. The paper printed local society news items, serial content, and state and national reports, but mining news was the main feature of the paper. The Gilpin Observer ceased publication in 1921, when Stull discontinued operations in Central City and moved his plant to Greybull, Wyoming. On December 17, 1921, the Silverton Standard noted:

Mr. Stull is one of Colorado's most able mining writers, and the passing of the Observer will be keenly regretted by many more who have used it as a means of information concerning that section of the state.

Provided by: History Colorado