Crowded out of the quest for gold at Idaho Springs, prospectors continued up the canyon, where they found little gold but plenty of silver.
Two mining communities – Elizabethtown and Georgetown – grew up as neighbors. In 1868, residents of the two communities agreed to unite into one town named Georgetown.
Like many mountain towns, Georgetown’s growth was greatly helped when a railroad line connected the town to goods and services on the prairie.
The surviving portion of the rail line, the Georgetown Loop, still runs tourist trains during the summer.
In 1893, when Georgetown’s population soared to 10,000, there was an abortive attempt to move the state capitol from Denver.
Silver Plume was incorporated in 1880, although it had existed since the 1870s.
A devastating fire, fought unsuccessfully by hand with leather buckets, destroyed the east end of town. A hand pumper purchased after that experience is still shown in parades.
In addition to silver, Silver Plume mines were a source of granite, some of it used in the Colorado state capitol building.
The town’s population rose to 2,000 hard-partying souls. Silver Plume became known for its enthusiastic celebrations, including horse races, concerts and hand-drilling competitions. The state’s first ski club was in Silver Plume, after a resident who had lived in Norway cajoled a coworker into helping his supply homemade skis to all interested residents of the town.
When political decisions choked the silver market, the heyday of the two towns was over. But, the mountains had another boon to offer – the increasingly popular sport of skiing.
Georgetown and Silver Plume are comfortably located on the path to some of the Rockies best ski areas and skiers returning from slopes near Loveland and Guanella Pass find it a convenient stopping place on the way home.