Photos by Dean Krakel - Rocky Mountain News


Ken Taylor, above, is the worshipful master of the Masonic Lodge No.4 in Nevadaville, below, a hamlet about a mile from Central City. Nevadaville, a gold-mining town founded in 1859, reached its peak in 1876 with 2,705 people and rivaled Central City for selection as the Gilpin County seat.


Up in Nevadaville, the folks now mine golden solitude

By Deborah Frazler, Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer (1992)


Fate gave gold town the shaft, but die-hard contingent of mountain dwellers keeps the memories alive<


NEVADAVILLE - The town comes alive on weekends - literally - when dozens of nonresident property owners and a few shopkeepers arrive to bask in the former mining camp's isolation and history.


With three year-round residents, mostly former miners who qualify as hermits, Nevadaville is a semi-ghost town a mile from Central City.


A few musicians from the Central City Opera stay in Nevadaville homes during the summer. The Masonic Lodge, the second oldest in Colorado, holds meetings twice amonth. But there's no mayor, post office or police officer.


"It ins't completely dead. It's different than it was 100 years ago, but it's a living example of the mining era," said Diane Peterson, who runs the Bald Mountain Trading Post on weekends with her husband.


The weekenders, like the Petersons, keep the town alive - seeing beauty in the abandoned mine shafts, heritage in the tailings piles and solitude in the surrounding hills.


Although there's a spring nearby, the weekend pilgrims bring there own water because mine pollution fouls streams and wells. The lack of water has prevented development, which the preservation-minded view as a blessing.


"We don't want it to change. We enjoy feeling we are part of the history," said Diane Peterson.


The Bald Mountain Trading Post, offering maps, books, antiques, snacks and mining paraphernalia, hasn't changed in years. Neither has the Kramer Saloon, the, only other business in town.


After gold, was discovered in 1859, the population climbed to 2,705 in 1876, while Denver had 2,603, Pe1terson said.


With ho bank for miles, gold dust was accepted currency In Nevadaville shops, saloons and boarding houses.


Schools, churches and a jail kept pace with the growing population and their inclinations. The town's Welsh miners also left their mark in the distinctive stonework.


The Masonic Lodge, the only other building in Nevadaville still in use, has 100 members, mostly from Denver, said Ken Taylor.


Now, as then, the Masons work for community improvement and brotherhood, although the scope has narrowed.


"It's a way of life, not just a club. When the miners came, so did the Masons. They wanted to make their fortune, too," said Taylor, the lodge's worshipful master. Unlike local businesses, the lodge has never closed.


In Nevadaville, conversation inevitably turns to Central City, gambling, the changes and whether it's all good or bad.


"A lot of it's great, restoration of the buildings and the updating of the plumbing," said Peterson, who wonders if Central City will annex Nevadaville to build housing and grocery stores.


The boom in Central City hasn't brought more visitors to Nevadaville or the Bald Mountain Trading Post. "Gamblers come up here to gamble, and they're not really interested in history, and they don't venture up that much. The ones that do come up are surprised there is anything here," Peterson said.


The Nevadaville Masons used to meet in Central City during the winter but were ousted by gambling, Taylor said. He said gambling hasn't changed much else.


"The only thing gambling has changed is that Nevadaville is harder to get to because of the traffic," he said.