Tag: Douglas County

Douglas County Rocks! Rhyolite Quarrying in Douglas County

Men worked with rhyolite in the Santa Fe Quarry. 1997-011-0004, Santa Fe Quarry, circa 1890-1910.

Gold and silver usually come to mind when thinking about mining in Colorado. However, Douglas County made a name for itself with another geologic industry: quarrying rhyolite stone.

Colorado is renowned for its astounding variety of geological resources. Its geologic history includes supervolcanic eruptions, millennia of tropical sea sedimentary deposits, and the uplift and erosion of ancient mountain ranges. This constantly changing geologic landscape resulted in rich mineral and ore deposits like gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, gypsum, lime and clay. Sandstone, quartz and granite abound in the state, as well as gemstones.

The famous gold and silver booms of the 19th century brought miners to Colorado’s mountain towns, with activity especially concentrated around Leadville, Cripple Creek, Steamboat Springs, and southwestern Colorado.

 

Littleton Independent, June 21, 1907.
Douglas County’s Geologic Industries

Unlike in mountain towns, though, gold and silver industries were limited in Douglas County. Gold mining took place from about the 1860s to 1880s in Russellville (near the head of Cherry Creek), but it did not produce large quantities. Other local profitable deposits included coal, lime and gypsum. Local clay was used to make bricks at brickyards and plants that operated near Castle Rock at the turn of the 20th century. The Silicated Brick Company, whose plant was located at the north end of Roxborough Park, created highly durable bricks by steaming and compressing silica sand and lime.

The Quarry Story

The major geologic industry in the county was the quarrying of rhyolite, a pink or gray volcanic rock formed from ultra-thick magma ejected in violent volcanic explosions. Castle Rock in particular is known for its rich rhyolite veins due to the Wall Mountain Tuff ash flow that occurred when Mount Princeton violently erupted 36 million years ago. Hot ash and pumice compressed to form tuff (a soft material not useful for building), but some formed thick deposits of rhyolite.

Detail of rhyolite stone work on the First National Bank of Douglas County building, founded 1901. 2006-050-0022, Castle Rock Merchants Association Tour Proposal Images.

Rhyolite stone was hand-quarried and cut at quarry sites across the county, including the Santa Fe Quarry, the Madge (Douglas) Quarry, and the O’Brien Quarry. The work was astoundingly difficult, and in addition to the quarrying itself, it included the transport of water to the quarry sites and the construction of roads and rail tracks.

Silas Madge is credited with operating the first rhyolite quarry in Douglas County, beginning in 1872. In fact, the needs of its workmen spurred the construction of the historic town of Douglas, which was located a few miles south of Castle Rock. The Madge Quarry is described in detail in this article in the December 10,1948, issue of the Record Journal of Douglas County. The full article is also available in Archives & Local History’s reference serial collections, along with the Industry clippings binder, located in the Reading Room at DCL’s Castle Rock, Philip S. Miller, location. You can also browse the Archives & Local History website for more resources, including this oral history in which Douglas County residents speak about their memories of quarries.

Rhyolite Buildings in Downtown Castle Rock

See for yourself!

Other Rhyolite Buildings in Douglas County

 

Stop by Archives & Local History in Castle Rock to check out our fall 2020 exhibit about quarries in Douglas County!

 

View the exhibit now in the Archives & Local History Reading Room at the Castle Rock, Philip S. Miller, library.

 

* This article has been updated to reflect a correction in Other Rhyolite Buildings in Douglas County.

Citations

“Castle Rock Rhyolite,” Masonryofdenver.com, June 26, 2014, http://www.masonryofdenver.com/tag/castle-rock-rhyolite/

Helmenstine, Anne Marie, “Rhyolite Rock Facts: Geology and Uses,” Thoughtco.com, March 19, 2019, https://www.thoughtco.com/rhyolite-rock-facts-geology-uses-4589452

Industry Clippings Binder, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History, Castle Rock, CO

Natural Resources Clippings Binder, Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History, Castle Rock, CO

Activities From the Archives

Douglas County Libraries Archives & Local History (ALH) has put together the following activity packages to encourage learning about what archives do and how you can use these types of collections, even from home. Each topic contains a downloadable link to instructions and resource guides, along with fun activities you can do safely at home or in your backyard. Click the links to download the activity packages, then follow the instructions for a fun learning experience!

Educational Activities to Do From Home

Image courtesy Castle Pines Connection. Page from ALH’s Sarah Bennett Walker Collections.

Flower Pressing with Douglas County’s Sarah Bennett Walker

ALH preserves some of the beautiful pressed flower herbariums from Sarah Bennett Walker, a local 19th-century botanist. Learn how to press and preserve your own flowers and get familiar with some of Colorado’s most magnificent wildflowers. Download or print this file to get started.
Site of bridge debris north of Castle Rock. 1994.001, Meacham Family Photographs.

Learn to Use Primary Sources: Douglas County’s 1965 Plum Creek Flood

In this activity, learn to use common primary sources found in archives in order to understand the past. Douglas County’s infamous 1965 Plum Creek flood is used as the theme. Then, play a fun PBS game to learn how different cities protect themselves from floods using engineering and natural resources. Download this file to get started.
Image courtesy Wild Food Girl.

Historical Recipes: Douglas County’s Wild Plum Jelly

ALH has a large collection of local, historical cookbooks. Recreate this homesteaders’ recipe for wild plum jelly using plums found in Douglas County and learn about local edible plants and what cooking in the past was like. Download this file to get started.

ALH Coloring Pages

Download and print these coloring pages from ALH’s photographs collection, and use your imagination to add color to images from Douglas County’s history. When you’re finished, show us your creations at localhistory@dclibraries.org!

Volunteer From Home With Colorado Historic Newspapers

Volunteer From Home, Help Historical Research

Front page of the Castle Rock Journal, 1881.

Are you feeling cooped up during your self-isolation? Museums, libraries and archives around the world are putting out the call for remote volunteers. DCL’s own Archives & Local History department (ALH) has opportunities to volunteer from home for those who want to stay busy with a project while giving back to the local community.

The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection (CHNC) makes Colorado’s historic newspapers accessible digitally, using optical character recognition (OCR) technology to make the digital newspapers searchable by keyword. However, the technology is not perfect, especially on the oldest newspaper issues. Sometimes, words appear misspelled or nonsensical. Volunteers can review OCR text for these errors. Every correction makes the newspapers that much more useful for historical research! Volunteers who correct the most lines of text even have a chance to win prizes.

Learn how to get started here. You can also download and print these instructions.

If you need further help, watch CHNC’s instructional video below. ALH would like to keep track of the DCL community’s participation, so please email us at LocalHistory@DCL.org and provide your username once you’ve registered.