Cherry Creek Gold

The discovery of gold in 1858 at Cherry Creek, near what is now Denver, Colorado, attracted miners in large numbers. Nearly 100,000 people went to the region, but more than half returned home when they didn’t quickly find gold. J. Sterling Morton, in a January 2, 1886, letter to George E. Howard, wrote that in “looking over a daily journal for 1859, I find recorded on the 5th day of January of that year the advent to Omaha from the Rocky mountains, of Al. Steinberger and Colonel Wynkoop, bringing the first gold from Cherry creek placers, where Denver now stands.

“The precious metal was in goose quills. The feather end had been cut off below the pith, right where the hollow trunk begins, and into this delicate, translucent receptacle the scale gold had been poured. There were not to exceed six quills full altogether, but there were enough to energize, organize, and enthuse a cavalcade of fortune hunters the succeeding spring which reached from the Missouri river to Pike’s Peak.”

However, after learning of Morton’s statement, A. G. Barnes of Lincoln claimed the honor of bringing the first gold from Cherry Creek to the Missouri River. In a letter published in the Nebraska State Journal on January 15, 1886, Barnes wrote: “The coming of these men [Steinberger and Wynkoop] is true-I knew them well and both were from St. Joe, Missouri-but they were not the first to return from Pike’s Peak to the [Missouri] river with gold dust. On the 25th day of December, 1858, I landed at Plattsmouth, and in a quill from a mountain eagle I carried about fifty cents worth of gold dust which I had found and panned myself at what was called the Mexican diggings, three miles above the mouth of Cherry creek . . . .

“Moses Stocking, Milo Fellows, and myself, leaving part of our company, started about November 20, 1858, for Plattsmouth, 600 miles distant, with cattle. In about twenty days we got to Fort Kearney. There, the cattle being foot-sore, I left Stocking and Fellows to come in at their leisure, and started for the river alone.” After meeting Ben Holladay and traveling part of the way with him, Barnes reached Plattsmouth, claiming “first blood in getting gold from Pike’s Peak, as it then was known, to the Missouri river.”


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