W.S. Stratton was indeed the “Midas of the Rockies.” For 19 years he was a failed prospector, but in 1891, his luck changed and he became legend. As owner of the Independence and Little Portland Mines, he was in control of the greatest gold producers in the history of Cripple Creek. Together, the two mines produced over $88 million of ore!
Arriving in Colorado Springs in 1868, he was following rumors of fortune to be had in the Pike’s Peak country. He continued to follow every rumor of gold in Colorado for the next 17 years with no success. Finally, he took a course in mineralogy and, armed with new knowledge, headed for Cripple Creek where, on July 4, 1891, he staked his claims on Battle Mountain. He hit the mother lode in his “dream mine,” The Independence, a rich vein of gold that never ran out! He then invested in what would become Cripple Creek’s greatest producer of all; the Little Portland Mine.
To “Crazy Bob” Womack, discoverer but not heir to Cripple Creek riches, Stratton wrote a check for $5,000 as consolation. When Cripple Creek burned to the ground leaving its population homeless, he insisted all emergency costs be charged to him. His anonymous gifts to the community were numerous and generous, and each Christmas he had coal delivered to the poor families of the mining towns. Most memorable of needy visitors to his door was H.A.W. Tabor, Leadville’s mining king. He was a beaten man, whose fortune had collapsed with the end of silver coinage. Stratton gave him $15,000 and saw to it he was named Postmaster of Denver; and when the famous Brown Palace Hotel was at the brink of bankruptcy, Stratton rescued it by paying off all of its bills. A gift of $25,000 to the Colorado School of Mines provided for completion of a “Hall of Metallurgy” which bears his name. In 1899, a deal involving the sale of stock on his mines gained him $10 million in cash, the largest mining transaction the world had seen! He set out to revitalize Colorado Springs, providing for parks, city hall, the county courthouse, the post office, and much more. When W.S. Stratton died in 1902, much of his estate served to establish a model home for the indigent near the posh Broadmoor Hotel.