Cal Carter

Cal Carter, Masonville's Last Gold Miner.
from the Loveland Reporter-Herald, October 21, 2002
By Ken Jessen

 

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Uncle Cal Carter, Masonville's last gold miner, lived in this home along the Masonville Road.

In 1931, Cal and Daisy Carter moved to their home along the Masonville Road to care for their aging Uncle Calvin S. Carter.In the process of taking care of the old man, they learned the remarkable story of his life's devotion to the search of gold.

Old Uncle Cal was born in 1844 and homesteaded along the Buckhorn in the late 1870s. He found flecks of gold in the creek that led him to believe that somewhere in the hills was the mother lode.After some years of prospecting he did strike gold ore on the ridge north of Masonville.

In the mid-1890s, Uncle Cal's mine started shipping a limited amount of ore, and consequently, he received much publicity in the local papers. Soon, the citizens of Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley were immersed in a miniature gold rush.Claims were staked out all over the hills and the tent camp that sprung up was named Camp Carter. The area soon became known as the Carter Mining District, and Uncle Cal was looked upon for his advice and experience.

A more permanent town was needed to act as a supply point for the mines, and Masonville was founded on 80 acres of land donated by James R. Mason. The town company was originally going to call it "Carterville" but they wanted $150 from Uncle Cal for this "privilege." Being a practical man, Uncle Cal knew that it was the mines that supported the town and not visa versa. He reasoned that if the mines paid off he could easily set up his own town in the hills.

Many people claimed that thousands of dollars in gold were removed from the mines in the Carter district, but this simply was not true. The ore receipts from Denver smelters showed that Uncle Cal collected only a few hundred dollars at a time over a period of many years. This forced him to quit mining from time to time and sell some of his cattle or work for a few dollars a day in the stone quarries. As soon as he collected, enough money, he would return to his mine.

As the years past, the mining activity faded but Uncle Cal hung on, leading his mule from his home on the Masonville Road to his mine several miles away. He used to tell the story of a Swede, who did a lot of work developing a mine then sold it. The fellow that bought it went 1 foot farther and struck it rich. Uncle Cal was not about to repeat this same mistake and believed that if he too went that last foot, he would strike it rich. That last foot stretched out to over a thousand feet of hand drilled shaft and tunnel.

 

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Lacking any modern mining equipment Uncle Cal removed loose rock from his tunnel in a wheelbarrow rather than in the traditional mining car on a track. When Uncle Cal worked his shaft, all of the ore and waste rock was hauled to the surface by a crude, hand-operated winch with a drum made from a log. Once he loaded the bucket at the bottom of the shaft, he would climb up on ladders to the winch and hoist the load to the surface.

When in his 80s, Uncle Cal fell into one of the nearby rock quarries and broke his hip. He spent the night in the rocks until a neighbor found him the next morning. Due to his age, the doctor told him that he would never walk again. To that, Uncle Cal replied that not only would he walk again, but that he would come back to the office and kick the doctor in the hind end. It is not known if he kicked the doctor, but Uncle Cal did walk again with the use of a cane.

When Uncle Cal first moved to Colorado, the doctors said he was dying of 'consumption' and had at most, a year to live. He proved them wrong by living to the age of 91. He is buried up on a hillside above the Masonville Road overlooking the Buckhorn valley.

The remnants of Uncle Cal's mine along with many others can be found scattered in the hill above Masonville to remind us of our local gold rush.

Kenneth Jessen is a Loveland author with 11 books and more than 600 articles to his credit. He was an engineer for Hewlett-Packard for 33 years and now runs a publishing company.