The History of Creede

I am publishing this post from Durango, Colorado, one of our favorite Colorado towns and site of my worst honeymoon … but that’s a story for another time.

We are here for a few days sans Airstream to enjoy our respective passions. For Scott, Durango is an attractive side trip as it’s less than two hours’ drive from the famed San Juan River and some of the best fly-fishing in the world. I am happy to be back in the land of decent wifi, Starbucks, a great bookstore (Maria’s Bookshop) and possibly a yarn store or two. Time for true confessions: I am most happy about the fact that I’ll be able to enjoy a nice, hot tub and shave my legs in a space larger than a phone booth.

While we’re here, I’m going to publish several posts I’ve written over the past couple of weeks. Then it’s back to Creede and most likely a “dark” period while I struggle to find wifi strong enough to check my email. Meanwhile, thanks so much for your comments and emails – we love hearing from you.

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CreedeMainStreet_webPrior to this visit, my only knowledge of Creede, Colorado was a mention on a book jacket by one of my favorite authors, Pam Houston. She lives there, at least part time, and wrote that she had found the region a source of inspiration for many of her short stories. Predictably, my favorite is one of her early collections, Cowboys are my Weakness. When I met her at a book signing decades ago in Phoenix, she blinked hard, then smiled wryly when I introduced myself. You see, a primary character in one of the Cowboys stories is a rascal by the name of Janie Coyote. Janie, as it turned out, had, in real life, “stolen” one of Pam’s lovers, thereby making Janie less than popular in Pam’s world. Pam confessed to me later in our conversation that she had thought I was messing with her when I said my name was Janie.

So, back to Creede. While doing research for this trip, I ran across an article about top-rated RV parks in Colorado, and Creede popped up again. Scott and I figured some time in a small mountain town with promising fishing nearby was worth the hassle of unreliable Internet, and made a reservation at the Mountain Views at the River’s Edge RV Park. Since arriving, we’ve become nigh on enchanted with this spot and have extended our original one-week stay to four. Hence, we’ll be here through the first week of August.

Scott and I both love learning about the West, and Creede offers a lot for the history buff. Its origin is similar to that of many a western town. When silver was discovered here in 1889, hotels, saloons, banks and brothels opened virtually overnight, usually in tents and other makeshift structures. By 1892, Creede’s population had skyrocketed to more than 12,000 and the town had become a collection of wood-framed buildings, more than 30 of which were saloons and dancehalls. At this time, more than $1 million in silver was shipped out of Creede every month.

In its heyday, the town was known as Colorado’s rowdiest mining camp as immortalized in a poem by local newspaper editor Cy Warman: “It’s day all day in daytime, and there is no night in Creede.” Bob Ford, who killed Jesse James, was himself gunned down here, and other notorious residents included Calamity Jane and Bat Masterson.

But the silver boom ended as quickly as it had begun. In 1893, Congress repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, and the price of silver plummeted. So did the population of Creede. Within mere months, only 900 people called Creede home.

We see similar population shifts even now. According to literature I’ve read, summer visitation swells Creede’s population to well more than 15,000. Yet when the seasons change, only about 400 souls remain through the winter. According to locals, the recent fires in the area have cut this year’s summer crowd in half. As much as we are enjoying the less-busy Creede, we are concerned for the regional economy and are open to the idea of spending an entire future summer here as many other RVers do.

Next up: Ride along with us on the Bachelor Historic Tour …

2 Comments

  1. Karen
    Jul 23, 2013

    Love getting a little history lesson with my morning coffee, Janie! So glad to hear that you are enjoying the area and are able to adjust your travel plans to spend more time there… I’ll have to remember the name of the area to tell my son – he is also an avid fly fisherman. (He’s having a blast with the streams by Penn State!)

  2. Torre
    Jul 23, 2013

    Sounds like a nice area! I downloaded a sample of Pam’s cowboy book to remember to get it – always looking for great authors!

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