|USGS 7.5' Map:||Alma|
|Managed by:||Pike Nat. Forest,
South Park Ranger District
|320 Hwy 285, P.O. Box 219
Fairplay, CO 80440
|Summary:||Tabor passes the Buckskin Joe Mine and ties into the Narrow Guage, FR449, road north of Park City.|
|Natural - Closed by heavy snows.|
June - Early, may still be snowed in
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
October - Early snows may close road
|Camping:||There are no dispersed campsites along the road.|
|Base Camp:||This would be a good area to base camp and explore the Buckskin Joe area.|
|Fall Colors:||Poor - Only the west end of the road has aspen.|
|Navigation:||From Fairplay, CO. head west on CO-9 N/Main Street toward 9th Street. Continue to follow CO-9 N for 6.0 miles. Turn left onto County Road 8/Buckskin Street and go 1.7 miles. Turn left onto the Tabor road.
From Breckenridge, CO. head southeast on South Park Avenue for 0.1 miles. At the traffic circle, continue straight to stay on South Park Avenue and go 0.4 miles. Continue onto CO-9 S/S Main Street and continue to follow CO-9 S for 15.6 miles. Turn right onto County Road 8/Buckskin Street and go 1.7 miles. Turn left onto the Tabor road.
|History:||The town of Buckskin Joe, besides its interesting name, is the site of the story of Silver Heels.
In the 1860s miners were exploring all the gulches around Terryall and Fairplay looking for the next big strike. Joseph Higgenbottom (Higginbotham in the 1926 mining report), known as 'Buckskin Joe' because of the leather clothes he wore, was one of the early prospectors in the gulch west of the future site of Alma. The original strike was made by Griff Harris. Harris was hunting deer in 1860. He spotted a deer, took aim, and fired. He though he had hit his mark, but the deer scampered off. When Harris went to look for signs of blood he found that the spot where the bullet had hit the ground was rich placer gold. Legend has it that the name Phillips is attributed to an earlier prospector that had stacked a claim here, leaving before winter set in. He never returned, some thinking he was murdered. Harris worked the mine by himself and tried to keep it secret. He hid the gold all around his simple cabin. But, the secret got out and the boom was on. Buckskin Joe staked his claim not far from the Phillips Lode. Buckskin was an eccentric, but popular man, lending to the use of his name for the town.
After the news got out other prospectors swarmed into the gulch, including Griff Harris, J.P. Stancell, and N.J. Bond. These prospectors organized a mining district and named the small camp Buckskin Joe. When news of this got to the disappointed miners from California Gulch, on the west side of the continental divide south of where Leadville would grow, they headed over Mosquito Pass. They came at a rate of up to a hundred a day so that by September of 1861 there were a thousand inhabitants in town. The miners reorganized the mining district setting up new laws. Old man Dodge was an influential man-about-town that tried to get the town renamed Laurette, after his wife and daughter, Mrs. Laura Dodge and Mrs. Jeannette Dodge. The post office carried this name for a while, but Buckskin Joe was the name of the town to the original inhabitants.
The Phillips Lode was a vein of quartz that was twenty-five to sixty feet wide with free milling ore (the ore could be crushed releasing the gold) that was just below the surface. By 1862 the open pit Phillips had produced $500,000 of gold, and over three million by 1864. Stancell and Harris developed the mine and reaped the rewards of its rich deposit. The ore was almost at grass roots level and was easily mined and milled in arastras and sluices along Buckskin Creek. Stamp mills were soon build to process the ore which was being pulled from the vein. The miners followed the quartz down to a depth of thirty feet when the ore changed to sulhides, which the stamp mills could not break down to release the gold. In 1864 mining slowed and the town started to fade. In the late 1870s another boom started around Buckskin, this time the mines were high up at timberline instead of down by the creek. This boom lasted until 1881, afterwhich the town became deserted once again.
The first courthouse in the district was in Buckskin Joe, it was at Buckskin's cabin. In 1964 and election for the county seat was heald and the town of Buckskin Joe beat out Montgomery, Mosquito, and Fairply. Over a year later the vote went to Fairplay and Buckskin's cabin was moved there to serve as the courthouse until the stone courthouse was built across the street from the cabin.
H. A. W. Tabor also had a grocery store in Buckskin. He prospected while his wife, Augusta, kept boarders and ran the store. The town had a newspaper, stage office, post office, theaters, billard halls, and of course saloons. The town also boasted the Grand Hotel and the Bank of Stancell, Bond, and Harris. Stancell, one of the original owners of the Phillips Lode, became the richest man in town within a year of leaving Oro City in California Gulch, where he had been a door-keeper at one of the theaters.
Silver Heels was the nick name of one of the Buckskin Joe dance hall girls, no one knows here real name, though a rumor exists that she was Girda Bechtel who came west to help a widow and her children, later quiting to start a theatrical career. She was an extraordinary beauty that stepped from the stage coach, wearing silver heeled slippers, capturing everyones attention. The miners all fought for a chance to dance with her and the other young women envied her. She quickly got a job at Billy Buck,s saloon. Late in 1861 a small pox epidemic, which left its victims pitted and scarred, swept the mining camps. Many in Buckskin Joe became infected. Each day the dead were carried to the Buckskin Joe cemetary and buried among the aspens. A frantic message was sent to Denver for medical help, but only a few nurses responded. During this terrible time Silver Heels went from cabin to cabin caring for the sick and dying miners. Finally, she too was infected with the terrible desease and the surviving citizens cared for her. The epidemic passed and the miners went back to their prospecting. Newcomers were told the story of Silver Heels and her heroism, willingly risking her health and looks to tend to the miners, eventually becoming stricken herself. In gratitude the miners put together $5,000 and took it to her cabin, but no one answered. They searched for Silver Heels, but never found her. The story is told of a heavily veiled woman seen weeping over the graves in the small cemetery, but she slipped away before she could be approached. Some say it was Silver Heels whose beauty was sacrificed during the epidemic and thereafter shunned contact with her former admirers. The money was returned to the donors, but the citizens of Buckskin Joe and the surrounding communities named a mountain in her honor. Mount Silverheels rises behind Fairplay, a monument to the mysterious selfless girl whose beauty intoxicated Buckskin Joe, and nursing saved so many lives.
Father Dyer, the Methodist preacher, also frequented the town of Buckskin, as well as Mosquito, Montgomery, Quartzville and Fairplay. On Sundays he would preach to the miners in cabins, at campfires, even in saloons. Through the week he would carry the mail over Mosquito Pass, even in the winter when he would use snowshoes, long norwegian skiis, to make the trip.
Today nothing is left of the town in the long meadow, except the cemetery in the aspens.
Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns Colorado Style, Volumn 2, 1st ed. Loveland, Colorado: J.V. Publications, 1999. Print.
Wolle, Muriel Sibell Stampede to Timberline Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 1949. Print.
Eberhart, Perry Guide to the Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 1959. Print.
Henderson, Charles W Mining in Colorado, USGS Washington: Government Printing Office, 1926. Print.
|The Tabor 4WD road begins off of County Road 8 in the valley that the town of Buckskin Joe once stood. The road is graded and drops down to cross Buckskin Creek. Just past the creek crossing will be a spur road on the left that goes to a private home. At just over a quarter of a mile from the start you will come to a hairpin turn. A spur road off to the right at the hairpin goes to the Buckskin Joe Mine.
After coming around the hairpin turn you will pass below the Buckskin Joe Mine tailings and head east. At a second hairpin turn there will be another spur road to the left that goes to another private home. Continue around the turn and head back west. You will pass above the Buckskin Joe Mine and come around a third hairpin turn.
Past the third hairpin turn you will pass another spur on your right that is not on the Forest Service MVUM, that goes back west toward some small mine tailings. Continue on the main road and you will climb up to a small opening with a view of Mount Bross over your shoulder.
The road will be a two track as it heads into the pines. You will pass a few small open areas before climbing close to treeline and entering an open area.
You will come to another intersection. The road on the right is Loveland, FR450, road that heads above treeline along the south east ridge of Loveland Mountain. A little further you will come to another intersection. The road to the right, or straight ahead, goes to two different mine tailings, one having a partial building on it. Take the left to continue on Tabor.
The road will head down through the pines making a wide curve before crossing Cooper Creek. You will come into aspen trees and then make two switchbacks dropping toward Park City. After the second switchback you will intersect with the Narrow Gauge, FR449, road.
|Data updated - January 15, 2022 4WD Road driven - September 7, 2021 Copyright 4X4Explore - 2000-2022|