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Early Days on the Eagle

It is fortunate for me that Early Days on the Eagle, prepared and published by MacDonald Knight and Leonard Hammock, 1965, was written.  Based on extensive research done by MacDonald Knight as foundation for his master’s thesis, Early Days documents the history of Eagle County from before 1879 to the mid-20th century.  I have answered many reference questions using this resource and have been fortunate to learn a little about the man who did the research. Knight1 MacDonald “Don” Knight was born in August 1918 to Sophie (Hamrick) and Thomas Knight.  The family lived in Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Colorado over the years. Tom worked at Gilman beginning in 1929 and then, after the Depression, again worked at Gilman until his retirement in 1949.  Sophie operated a restaurant in Minturn during World War II.  In 1953, at the age of 60, she graduated from Western State College and taught school in Eagle County until age 68.
Sophie Hamrick Knight, on the divide between Cross Creek and West Cross Creek.  She is posed with the dog, "Hound," and burros Lucky and The Kid.  She and Tom Knight were prospecting at the time. Sophie Hamrick Knight, on the divide between Cross Creek and West Cross Creek. She is posed with the dog, "Hound," and burros Lucky and The Kid. She and Tom Knight were prospecting at the time.

MacDonald graduated from high school while the family was in Missouri in 1937 and served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II.  He married Micheline Azoulay on Dec. 8, 1945, outside Charlesville, France.  They returned to the U.S. and made their first home in the mining camp, Holy Cross City, near Red Cliff.
From back left, MacDonald Knight, Perlita Knight, Tom and Sophie Knight.  In front are Betty Jo Knight Schmidt and Glenn Schmidt.  Minturn, M&R Café, 1944 From back left, MacDonald Knight, Perlita Knight, Tom and Sophie Knight. In front are Betty Jo Knight Schmidt and Glenn Schmidt. Minturn, M&R Café, 1944

MacDonald returned to school at Western State College, graduating with a teaching certificate in 1953, like his mother.  He was then named a Fulbright scholar and studied in Bordeau, France, for a year.  He taught in Basalt, Carbondale, Eagle, Minturn and Paonia over the years and received a master’s degree from Western State College.  This left his summers free to continue with his other passion—prospecting.
Harold Stoner in Treasure Vault Valley, Holy Cross Mining District, late 1930s.  Lots of individual prospectors continued to look for various minerals long after the hey-day of  the Colorado mining rush. Harold Stoner in Treasure Vault Valley, Holy Cross Mining District, late 1930s. Lots of individual prospectors continued to look for various minerals long after the hey-day of the Colorado mining rush.

Beginning in the late thirties, he and his friends (Buster Beck, Harold Stoner, Pete Mann, Charles Eichaker, Ralph Fridley, etc.) and father made trips into the old Holy Cross Mining District. That area is between the headwaters of Cross and Homestake Creeks and all the intervening county.  Gold Park and Holy Cross City were the major mining camps here with their own mills.  What was left from the mining boom of the late 1800s has been documented in Don’s photos, some of which follow below. 2013.006.013 "When placer gold was found in the banks of Homestake Creek, history repeated itself with a rush of people seeking quick wealth from precious metals.  Although the Mount of the Holy Cross was some distance away from those points where gold had been discovered, it was still the best know, and the closest landmark of any consequence and, therefore, its name was adopted.  The Holy Cross Mining District became a reality in 1880.  Most Colorado mining districts were small; and necessarily so in that era of limited transportation facilities." -- Robert Brown, Holy Cross--the Mountain and the City, p.105 2013.006.012 The Glengarry Mine site at 11,414 ft., Holy Cross Mining District.  Middle Mountain has an elevation of 12,336 feet [GNIS added an “r” to Glengarry]   From the Eagle County Assessment Roll 1891-92 p.8:  "Glengary #4354, 5.166 acres, value $60; Hidden Treasure #4353, 4.596 acres, value $50."   From the Eagle County Assessment Roll 1922.  Transit Gold Mining Co. [Red Cliff School District 1 Holy Cross Mines] owned Glengary, Hidden Treasure and the Transit mines.  Glengary then was valued at $150. 2013.006.015 Gold Park and Holy Cross City were the major mining camps in the Holy Cross Mining District.  Man with shovel at center foreground.   "Apparently, there were two mills at Holy Cross City.  The first, located just below the town, on the west side of the road, was called simply the Holy Cross Mill.  It was owned by the Gold Park Mining and Milling Co. which also maintained a similar installation down below. ... Both mills were connected by a direct 2 1/2 mile long flume that bypassed the road and went directly down the mountain to Gold Park."   The Treasure Vault Mill was the second mill at Holy Cross City.  "The mill promptly folded within three weeks after it began operation.  One account claims that there were three ten-stamp mills and two crushers in operation at Holy Cross City.  If so, they must have been very short lived, since diligent research has failed to provide any further clues to their identity or locations." -- Robert Brown, Holy Cross--The Mountain and the City, p. 124, 128 2013.006.018     Fancy Pass in the Holy Cross Mining District.  The Mt. of the Holy Cross is marked with an x. "Beyond the first hill, the Fancy Pass trail climbs up the hillside above Fancy Lake. On the top, the rocky cut is Fancy Pass, a nineteenth-century crossing that was named for Joseph Fancy, a prospector active in the Holy Cross country in the early 1880's.  Originally, Fancy Pass was a knifelike ridge. Dynamite blased the cut in the ridge, thus making a crossing possible.  Incredible as it may seem, the Treasure Vault mill was hauled to Holy Cross City across this remote pass." --Robert Brown, Holy Cross--the Mountain and the City, p. 146 MacDonald Knight’s love of prospecting and of Eagle County provided us with a legacy of information and photographs that form the basis for any additional research.  Thanks to Trish Knight Hoffman and Betty Jo Knight Schmidt for being so generous in sharing their family history.    

Comments

I definitely learn a lot. Thanks!

Great write up Jaci, sure enjoy your articles, knowing all the background work and follow up you take the time to do to save local history.. Len.

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