A Brief History of Fairplay

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A Brief History of Fairplay
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A Brief History of Fairplay
Stewart, John
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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A Brief History of Fairplay | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:44:34 PM] Home A Brief History of FairplayA Brief History of FairplaySubmitted by nwharton on 11-16-2013 06:08 PMAuthor: Linda Bjorklund Publishing: Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2013. 143 pages. Black-andwhite-photographs, index, bibliography, maps. 6 x 9. $19.99 paperback. Reviewer: John Stewart Fairplay, Colorado, sits at an elevation of just under 10,000 feet on the westerly side of picturesque South Park. Today its population is listed at 464. At times in its history it has been larger, but never a metropolis. Even so, it is hard to believe that a brief history of the town could ever be contained in 124 pages. Nonetheless, Linda Bjorklund has masterfully done so. She even starts her tale 4.6 million years ago. Fairplays geological history is briefly described, yet well condensed and informative. Native Americans, early Spanish, and treaties receive the same good treatment. The last treaty, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, made the site of the future Fairplay a part of the United States. In 1806 explorer Zebulon Pike learned of gold to be found in South Park but did not follow up on the tip. Soon after the 1858 gold rush, prospectors crossed over Kenosha Pass into South Park. The early camps of Tarryall and Hamilton were none too welcoming, so some ventured west to the upper reaches of the South Platte River. Differing stories tell of the origin of the new camps name. Bjorklund recites a poem from a Pueblo newspaper, a colorful tale of a man avenging his sisters honor, challenging the wrongdoer to the fair play of a duel, and shooting him. The town later adopted the name South Park City, but the poet sought a return to Fairplay and was successful. The town promoted fairness, but it was still located on an unruly frontier. In 1863 the Espinosas, two brothers and a nephew avenging an alleged wrong to their family, murdered several innocent settlers. A tracker and a posse found and dispatched the killers, bringing back the heads of two Espinosas as proof the job was done. The following year, two of Fairplays founders, the Reynolds brothers, switched careers from mining to stagecoach robbery. They were soon apprehended, but not before supposedly stashing their gold somewhere in the county. A new legend was created, which lingers to this day. Then in 1880 Fairplay saw a case of harsh frontier justice. A man named Hoover, enraged when water from an overflowing ditch threatened his home, confronted the ditchdigger, Bennett, and shot him dead. A judge found Hoover guilty but allowed him to live. Enraged townspeople (none identified) invaded the jail and hanged Hoover from the second story of the courthouse. The following day, hearing threatening gossip, the judge left town before finishing his caseload. Meanwhile, Fairplay progressed as a community. Citizens founded churches, schools, and new businesses. The town was incorporated in 1880, and the railroad arrived in 1881. News reports now told of heady times. A visiting reporter from Pueblos Colorado Chieftain captured this spirit in 1878. He honored several EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanIn 1893, Colorado became the first state in the union to allow women the right to vote through popular election.


A Brief History of Fairplay | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:44:34 PM] Fairplay merchants, especially subscribers to his paper, with glowing terms: popular man in this vicinity, gentlemanly, offering genuine good fellowship, at the head of his business as a barkeeper, and one of the best boys in Park County (79-80). Gold mining, per the Pueblo reporter, was prosecuted with a great deal of vigor (80). Indeed, gold would maintain Fairplay for years to come. Early prospectors panned the gravel of the Platte before hydraulic mining took hold in the 1870s. Chinese laborers manned hoses, which blasted away gravel banks with sluices separating the heavier gold. Then in 1925 the first gold dredge arrived. The most famous of these monsters, the 2,300-ton South Park Dredge, commenced operations in 1940. Known to flicker all the lights in town when it revved up, the dredge kept going until 1951, interrupted only by the World War II gold mining ban. Tourists now come to Fairplay, especially to see South Park City, its collection of wonderfully restored historic buildings mostly donated from neighboring mining districts. Fairplay also celebrates its four-legged heroes. Main Street monuments honor Prunes, a faithful mining burro who died at sixty-three; also another burro, Shorty, and his friend Bum, a stray dog. All three roamed the town. These beasts also star in the annual Pack Burro Championship Race to the top of Mosquito Pass, which draws a crowd every July. As Colorado mountain towns go, Fairplay stands apart from the wealth of an Aspen or Vail, or the Victorian elegance of a Georgetown. However, many a mining town vanished when its flow of gold ran dry. Bjorklund closes with another poem, this one from a 1917 Fairplay newspaper entitled It isnt the Town, Its You (124). The poems last two stanzas sum up the message: Real towns are not made by men afraid Lest somebody else gets ahead; When everyone works and nobody shirks, You can raise a town from the dead. And if while you make your personal stake, Your neighbor can make one too, Your town will be what you want to see It isnt the town, its YOU. The towns citizens have concurred with the poet, and consequently we will enjoy this unassuming gem of a small town, and its tales, for years to comeboom or bust. Reviewer Info: John Stewart is a Denver attorney who has also written about Colorados mining history. He received an MA in history from the University of Colorado Denver in 2002. His thesis became his first book, Thomas F. Walsh: Progressive Businessman and Colorado Mining Tycoon published by the University Press of Colorado in 2007 and reprinted in paperback. Stewart is also the president of the Park County Mining Association.