Map of the Principal Mining Districts of Colorado. Richard Irwin, surveyor and platter.

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Map of the Principal Mining Districts of Colorado

Chicago: Western Engraving Co., 1866. Lithograph printed in black and red, 19.5” x 25”plus margins, hand-colored in blue; reinforced on verso with Japanese tissue. CONDITION: Very good, old folds with some wear along folds, expert repairs to margins.

An unrecorded Colorado mining district map compiled by the industrious pioneer silver miner Richard Irwin. Being otherwise unknown, the map serves as additional evidence of Irwin’s activities in the region.

The territory depicted here extends from Griffith District in the bottom-left to Grays Peak at top-left, and from Middle Park in the top-right to Queens Peak at bottom-right. The five mining districts shown are Peru, Argentine, Griffith, Snake River, and Middle Park. A trail named “Snowy Range” cuts diagonally across the map, while “Prospectors Pass” and “Sonocks Pass” are shown cutting across mountain ranges. Mining claims and lodes are labeled in black and red, and bear some of the following names, many echoing social and political themes of the 1850s and '60s: John Brown, H.W. Beecher, Cotton Plant, Little Memphis, Stonewall, Junieta, Wild Horse, Border Ruffian, Quebec, United States Coin, Pia Mater, and Kate Harris. Some of the towns and villages depicted include Peru, Silverpolis, Pineville, Georgetown, and Montezuma. Creeks, gulches, rivers, and lakes are colored blue, while trails and roads are printed in red, and red X-marks denote trails. Elevations are given for many mountains. The map is oriented with south at the top.

Two details on this map, Irwin’s Peak and the Irwin claim on Honor Mountain are named for the map’s compiler, Richard “Dick” Irwin, a noted Canadian born prospector, mountaineer, and mining correspondent. Irwin is believed to have arrived in Colorado in the early 1860s. In 1865, he, along with fellow-prospectors John Baker and William Fletcher Kelso, discovered the Baker lode of silver ore on a mountain they named Kelso Mountain (just northeast of Grays and Torreys Peaks). In 1865 Irwin established the Grays Peak Trail: a horse trail shown here in red extending from Elizabeth to the region of Grays Peak. The combination of mining and tourism made Grays Peak a popular destination. The Grays Peak Trail saw more traffic after the Baker Silver Mining Co. bought the Baker Mine on Kelso Mountain in 1866 and built a wagon road to the mine, which was completed in 1867.

The (now-extinct) town of Irwin (in Gunnison County) was named after Richard Irwin, who was one of the first arrivals to the Irwin mining camp (formerly known as Ruby Camp). The town of Irwin (along with the town of Ruby) developed after ruby silver—a silver-arsenic sulfide mineral—was discovered by Irwin in 1879 along Ruby Gulch (which he owned stakes in). The town of Irwin eventually absorbed Ruby. The ore gave out quickly and by 1885 the town of Irwin was nearly deserted. Irwin is known to have been active in Rosita, Colorado, Mexico, and the Black Hills (where he was connected with the Jenney mining district) during the 1870s and '80s.

No copies recorded in WorldCat, nor any other maps credited to Irwin.

A rare Colorado mining map reflecting the activities of a noted miner.

REFERENCES: Triggs, J. H. History of Cheyenne and Northern Wyoming (University of Minnesota, 1876); Grays Peak National Recreation Trail at; The Gunnison Daily News-Democrat, Vol. I, No. 308 (June 7, 1882); Ruby-Irwin Cemetery at; The Colorado Magazine Vol. XLVI, No. 3 (1969).

Item #7089


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