Pueblo County, Colorado
Charles L. Hall

Contributed by Jean Griesan.

Hall, Charles L. (arrived in Colorado in 1859)

Charles L. Hall was born November 22, 1835, in Sherman, New York, and died August 15, 1907, in Denver, Colorado. He was the son of Asahel and Betsy Wood (Ripley) Hall. Charles L. Hall was a descendant of John Arnold, who, as one of the Minute Men, fought in the battle of Bunker Hill and rose to the rank of ensign.

When Charles L. was a lad of 9 years, his parents moved from New York State to Magusketa [probably, Maquoketa], Jackson County, Iowa, and there he received his primary schooling, finally entering Iowa College at Davenport, where he remained until 1859, studying law. He also pursued various courses of study designed to fit him for the ministry. When 20 years of age, young Hall left school for a time and started in the flouring business at Magusketa [sic], Iowa, but found this occupation unprofitable. The stories he heard concerning the wonderful Pikes Peak country had made a profound impression upon his imagination and he ultimately decided to make his fortune in Colorado. Accordingly, he left Iowa and came overland to the Rockies, locating on Ralston Creek where he started a cattle ranch.

For a few months he operated this property, then sold and, on December 14, 1859, left Denver for California Gulch, now Leadville, where strikes were being made and hundreds of prospectors were settling. Here he was moderately successful in prospecting and mining and, in the following winter, visited the San Juan district. As early as 1860 vague rumors of wonderfully rich leads of ore in the southwestern part of Colorado reached the miners then operating at Clear Creek, on Tarryall Creek, and in California Gulch.

Early in 1861 a large party of experienced prospectors, including Mr. Hall was formed to explore a region then totally unfamiliar to them. The start was made by Hall with two companions--Harris and O'Neill--with no incident of unusual character occurring until the party began the ascent of the mountains from the south bank of the Animas Canyon, about 20 miles above where the town of Durango is now situated. This was in the latter part of February 1861. It was during this trip that Mr. Hall had an experience, which for hardship, peril, and threatened starvation, is without equal in the annals of the Rocky Mountain region. With his two companions, Mr. Hall reached the Uncompahgre [River], passed the site of Ouray and came to Cow Creek, where their quest for gold was unsuccessful. They made camp at Baker's Park and here decided to return. Next they came upon the Lake Fork of the Gunnison [River]. A man named Nate Hurd had a camp on the Uncompahgre, where Mr. Hall knew that some hides were cached and upon which they could satisfy their growing hunger. Their small stock of rations had been exhausted and the three men were unable to obtain more, as they hurried their foot steps with the hope of reaching Hurd's camp across the mountain before starvation overpowered them.

On the sixth day, as they toiled toward the summit of the mountain they boiled the flour sacks they carried and drank the broth, then they ate their buckskin breeches, their boot tops, and finally a buffalo robe, which they had used for a bed.

In relating the details of the desperate situation, Mr. Hall afterwards described how they relished a colony of ants which they found under a decaying log. But the three men persisted even without food, staggering along the banks of precipices where a slip meant a fall of hundreds of feet, clambering painfully over inclined planes of frozen snow, stumbling with weakness, where any sudden concussion might have started an avalanche, falling down from sheer exhaustion when life seemed hardly worth the effort to rise. Mr. Hall finally realized that his two companions were plotting against him--scheming to murder him and use his body for food. This desperate intention becoming known to him, he warned them that he would travel no further with them nor sleep in their presence. He made his bed in a hidden nook of the rocks but did not remain there, which was all that saved his life, as he found evidence the next morning that the two others had crept to his bed at night bent upon taking his life, as he found evidences.

O'Neill and Harris soon after left him, but before many hours [passed] Harris returned, saying that he feared for his own life with O'Neill and preferred to remain with Hall. The men weakened rapidly to such an extent that they could scarcely regain their feet after resting. Toward the last they were obliged to travel mostly on their hands and knees, making about a mile each day. Then one fortunate day the report of Hall's pistol was heard by Ben Eaton, later State governor [Benjamin H. Eaton, 1885-87], and his party, who were prospecting in the vicinity. The two sufferers were quickly rescued and transported to Baker's Park, given a little food and started on the road to recovery.

During the 14-and-a-half days upon this trip, Mr. Hall was reduced in weight to just 48 pounds. [Note: It's more likely that he had lost 48 pounds during his adventures.] Mr. Hall returned to California Gulch and continued prospecting. In the spring of 1862, he located at Salt Springs, about 20 miles from Fairplay. Mr. Hall established the Colorado Salt Works, these salt works were always managed by the Hall family. At this place the Indians received their annuities and, upon order from the territory government, could also receive salt.

Mr. Hall was twice elected to the territorial legislature from Park County [and] in later years was elected from Lake County for one term. He was county commissioner of Park County for three terms. He erected his home in Park County in 1872.

In the winter of 1878 he removed to Leadville. His first work there was in contracting for the grading of streets, laying of pipes, etc., all of which was done under his personal supervision. With William Bush and H. W. Tabor he organized a company to light Leadville with gas. He was afterward one of the promoters of the same utility at Pueblo, being one of the directors of the Pueblo Gas and Electric Co.

He was one of the firm of Brush, Tabor and Hall, which opened the Windsor Hotel in Denver in June 1880, then the largest and most popular hostelry in this part of the West. He afterward sold his interest in the hotel to Mr. Tabor. His mining success began in 1881 when, with Dennis Sullivan and two others, he purchased the Mylo group of mines in the Tenmile* district. He also brought an interest in the famous Sixth Street shaft in Leadville and in the Rose group at Ouray. In 1892 he went to Arizona and there discovered the noted Mammoth Mine out of which he took minerals worth $800,000. At the time of his death, Mr. Hall was the owner of about 40 mines in Colorado and Arizona. He represented Arizona Territory at the metallic convention held in St. Louis, Missouri, in October 1893.

During the War of the Rebellion, he was a lieutenant in the 2nd Colorado Cavalry and participated in the various campaigns of that regiment.

He was in the hunt for the guerrilla bands which came into this territory from the south and also was at Sand Creek** when the troops under Colonel Chivington so decisively defeated the Indians under Black Kettle.

In the year 1862 Mr. Hall was married to Mary Melissa Hill Nye, a native of New York State.

*Ormes, Robert T., 1955, p. 81 and 135: Probably the mining district along The Tenmile Range in Summit County but there is also a Tenmile Creek near Silverton.
**Bright, William, 1993, p. 129: Sand Creek...in Kiowa County is where a party of Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians was slaughtered in 1864 by Colorado troops under Colonel John M. Chivington. The incident is known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

Extracted from "The Real Pioneers of Colorado," by Maria Davies McGrath, published in 1934 by The Denver Museum, retyped with added notes by Jane P. Ohl, in October 2001.

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