A Colorado Pioneer 1817-1902
By Maggie Magoffin
A letter from Mountain City, Colorado, August 14, 1859.
I left Saint Joseph Missouri on the twenty third Day of May with a team and load of goods and made the journey to Danver via the Platte route in thirty five Days. Your letter of the 28th May was received by me on my arrival at Danver. My Papers have not been received, in future Direct them, to Danver Kansas Territory by Express from Leavenworth and letters also. I am at present located in the Rocky Mountains forty miles west of Danver in what was formerly known as Gregory Diggins, it was here where Mr. Greeley made his Debut in the early part of June last.
Gold is found here in all the Ravines, Gulches, hills and Mountains in this vacinity. And may be had for the Digging. But the mines are not rich, it is true, some companies are making from eight to ten Dollars per Day to the hand, but many companys are not doing so well, and the average cannot be more than three to four Dollars per Day to the hand. Wages in these mines are from two Dollars to three and a half Dols. per Day, the workman to board himself. Provisions are high, flower is seling at twenty Dollars per hundred pounds bacon at thirty five cts. Per pound shugar forty Syrup four Dollars per gallon and other things accordingly.
Since the opening summer the adventures Gold hunter has been pushing his researches to the north and South and to the west in quest of rich Diggins and I believe not without success. About a fortnight ago it was reported here that a new El Dorado has been found on the head waters of the South Platte and also on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. About the richenes of the new mines I know nothing of my own knowledge, but ounce Diggins has been reported by those that have returned. This news created the most intense excitement in this vacinity and for the last ten Days their has been a perfect stampede going on from this place, and in a few Days more Mountain City will be pretty much Deserted. This new El Dorado lies about one hundred and fifty miles south west of Danver on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. I am at present engaged in keeping a miners provision store.
Lorenzo M Freas
Lorenzo M. Freas’ provision store was located on the north side of Lawrence Street, where he acquired an adjoining lot on January 8, 1862. He was said to have had a store in Georgetown also. On June 28, 1863, he purchased for $1,500 from David G. Green, the Briggs Hotel, also on the north side of Lawrence Street in Central City. On July 15, 1865, he bought for $1,400 a lot lying between the Briggs House and the Montana Theater.
The demand for shelter by homeless men in the mining community was very great, and the hotel business prospered. The proprietor rented not a whole room or even a whole bed, but sleeping space – two or three men in a bed. During nights of great demand, every space on the floor in bedrooms, corridors and lobby was occupied by sleeping forms.
Lorenzo M. Freas now owned a row of brick buildings known as the “Freas Block,” on the north side of Lawrence Street, with land extending back to First High Street. They must have been more substantial than most of the buildings in Central City for, in the great fire of 1873, they remained standing, although only one other building in the area survived. After the fire, he rebuilt his hotel in granite and renamed it the “Granite House.” To do this he borrowed $6,000 on November 14, 1874, giving David Ettien a mortgage on the property, October 1, 1876.
Records of Gilpin County show that he bought and sold mining claims, lent money on them as security, and acted as attorney to sell property for those who had left Central City.
It was said that at one time Lorenzo M. Freas operated a freight carrying service between Central City, Denver, and St. Louis, for which he owned twelve large wagons with teams.
After the outbreak of the Civil War, Lorenzo aided in the organization of the first two companies of the Union Army from the county. He furnished necessary supplies and trusted to the future action of Congress for payment. His bill was among the first from this state that was recognized.
In 1876, Lorenzo M. Freas closed his provision store. As the fortunes of Central City declined, likewise did those of Mr. Freas. Placer deposits and all accessible gold were exhausted; miners and prospectors departed to more promising fields. Gold was still there, but in ore requiring machines to extract and crush it, and hence investment of capital. Hand labor did not produce enough to pay a day’s wages.
The opening of the Teller House brought severe competition in the hotel business. This situation was discovered by Lorenzo Freas Goshow, nephew and namesake of Lorenzo M. Freas, when he spent two years, 1878 to 1880, with his uncle in Central City. On November 4, 1878, the nephew wrote to his family in Manayunk, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “The hotel business is brightening up now we have had the house full for a week and have had to hire another dining room girl. I do hope he will make some money and get on his feet again. Mining agrees with me very well. The name of our mine is the Mary Eliza, two names that have always been in our home.” This hopeful letter was written on paper with the letterhead “Granite House, Lawrence Street, L. M. Freas, Proprietor.” Subsequent letters were written from Lake Gulch or Lake District. In a letter from young Goshow, dated July, 1879, he indicated mining was not a success and in 1880 he returned to Philadelphia.
By that time, Lorenzo M. Freas was in serious financial difficulty. On July 8, 1880, he sold a part of his property on Lawrence and High Streets to William Edmondson for $1,500 and then left Central City. On September 21, 1880, Frank C. Young, acting as Lorenzo’s attorney, sold the hotel property at auction.
The last years of Lorenzo M. Freas life were lived out in Durango, La Plata County, Colorado, where he died October 15, 1902.
Colorado Magazine, Vol. XL, April 1963, Article written by Mildred Goshow of Philadelphia, a great niece of Lorenzo Martin Freas.