The Griffith Family & the Founding of Georgetown

The Griffith Family & the Founding of Georgetown

The Griffith Family & the Founding of Georgetown

The Griffith Family & the Founding of Georgetown


The Griffith Family and the Founding of Georgetown describes two years (1859-1861) in the lives of the Griffiths and how they attempted to tame an isolated wilderness and harvest its mineral riches. A decade before Georgetown came to be known as Colorado's "Silver Queen", George F. Griffith struck gold along South Clear Creek, prompting his family to establish a gold mining settlement there that never yielded the expected bonanza.

No strangers to frontier conditions, the family used their expertise as miners, surveyors, land speculators, and lawyers to erect cabins, stake their claims, and survey and lay plans for a new town. From these experiences they prepared a set of laws -- included as an appendix in this book -- that covered nearly every aspect of contemporary mining. While the Griffiths eventually left the settlement because of low gold production and sibling conflict, their legacy lives on in Georgetown's name (after George F. Griffith) and in the early laws they established.


Over the last two decades I have studied nineteenthcentury Georgetown, Colorado. I have turned up many interesting little details and sidelights of the years between 1859 and 1870, some of which warrant being given to the public as separate bits of memorabilia.

Such is the case with Griffith Mining District’s earliest mining laws. I have looked at the old, handwritten codes several times; one thing that stood out as I read through them was that they were created by someone who was intimately acquainted with the legal and mining jargon of that period.

Historians and buffs who deal with Colorado’s past know that traditional accounts of the gold rush period report that the state’s early mining laws had their origins in those adopted in California a decade earlier. the “forty-niners” lifted their ordinances, in part, from earlier statutes used by the Spaniards, and later, the Mexicans. However, these endeavors were supplemented many times by English common law, which applied more directly to the unique problems encountered by separate camps. Many of the mining laws were set down by laymen who wanted swift justice unencumbered by legal technicalities and tricks. Several mining areas went so far as to bar lawyers from practicing or pleading in a lawsuit unless one of the opposing litigants was a legal practitioner. If one of the litigants was a lawyer, then the other side could use attorneys as well.

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