A Brief History of Cripple Creek’s Most Famous (and Infamous) Residents

Cripple Creek in the early part of the 20th century

Source: hhhistory.com

When a town’s population is 1,155 (not counting the donkeys), it is hard to believe that much of anything can go on there; however, Cripple Creek isn’t just any small town. Not only is there plenty of fun and entertainment to be had today, but it is also a town with a rich history. These are just a few of the famous people who have made an impact on our mountain town.

Sam Strong

Pure gold nugget ore found in mine with natural water sources

Sam Strong was born into a family plagued by tragedy, and by the age of ten, he had already lost his mom and two of his nine siblings. When Strong was old enough to branch out independently, he worked his way to Colorado, eventually settling in Colorado Springs. A night of cards changed Sam’s life when the local drunk stumbled into the volunteer firehouse where they were playing with a chunk of gold in his hand. Sam and his friends rushed to set up homesteads on the mountains of Cripple Creek, and soon all became millionaires from the gold in the hills. With too much time and money on his hands, Sam Strong became somewhat of a notorious ne’er-do-well in the mining town of Cripple Creek, but it eventually caught up with him. After a night of drinking and grappling with a man named Grant Crumley, Crumley reached for a shotgun and gunned down the notorious Sam Strong in the Newport Saloon in August of 1901.

Mollie Kathleen Gortner

Mollie Kathleen and a map of Cripple Creek and other mining towns nearby

Source: cration.com

Mollie Kathleen is a legend of Cripple Creek, and her mine is still operating as an attraction today. Mollie landed in Cripple Creek after her son sent home news of the gold strikes in the area. Mollie had no dreams of striking it rich, but fate had other ideas. After her son told her about a herd of elk he had seen the day before, Mollie set out by herself to see if she could see these beauties of nature. Mollie sat to rest on her way up the hill in an area nicknamed Poverty Gulch for its lack of gold. It was the most profitable rest of her life as she looked down and found a vein of gold at her feet. In a pioneering move, Mollie claimed the gold strike in her name, which still bears her name today.

Lowell Thomas


Source: Britannica.com

You can visit the Museum of famous writer and radio personality Lowell Thomas in nearby Victor, CO. While Thomas was born and got his start in Victor, there is no doubt that he was no stranger to neighboring Cripple Creek. Thomas traveled the world, which was a much more challenging feat when he did it in the 1920s, and brought what he learned back home to share with the country. Though his roots were in Victor, Thomas became a significant figure in national and international media, even pioneering Cinerama, a movie platform before its time.

Groucho Marx


The famously mustachioed comedian became a short-time resident of Cripple Creek, but not by choice. Marx was traveling with a comedy troupe that performed in Victor. They stayed the night in the town, and when he awoke the next day, he found that his group had left him and stolen the money in his pocket to boot. With no other recourse, Marx started delivering ice and other goods between Victor and Cripple Creek to a local grocery store. Despite trying to make a new life in Cripple Creek, Marx decided Colorado wasn’t for him, so he called home and begged his mom for enough money for a train ticket home to New York. Upon returning to NY, he and his brother joined to create the now famous Marx Brothers.

Dr. Susan Anderson

dr quinn medicine woman

Source: tvinsider.com

Before becoming a doctor, Susan Anderson was a young Cripple Creek transplant who moved to the area with her father and stepmother. Susan left for Michigan to earn her medical degree but returned to Cripple Creek to live with her grandparents. She opened a medical practice, but being a female doctor in a gold camp didn’t sit right with many in the town, and she eventually left to travel around the state treating pioneers. While you may have never heard of Susan Anderson, you probably heard of the television show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, loosely based on her life.

Ralph Carr

carr important business man

Source: Denverlibrary.com

Coloradans and history fanatics will likely know the great governor, Ralph Carr. Carr went to high school in Cripple Creek and had a law office in town before moving to Denver. Carr’s most significant claim to fame was his support of Japanese Americans in WWII when the country was in turmoil. Carr believed that the constitution protected all Americans, including first-generation Americans, and he refused to send the Japanese-American citizens in his state to internment camps.

The Robert Ford Incident


Source: cbc.com

As many history buffs will know, Robert Ford was the coward who shot outlaw Jesse James in the back of the head in James’ Missouri home. Ford was a member of the James gang but never liked Jesse and took an opportunity to murder him for bounty money. After the assassination, Ford fled Missouri and headed to Colorado with the alleged intention of settling in Cripple Creek. However, the Sheriff of Cripple Creek received word of Ford’s plan, met him at the city limits, and asked him to kindly turn around.

A Town Full of History

Fall in the Colorado Rockies, Cripple Creek

There have been plenty of famous people who have either lived in or passed through Cripple Creek. While the people are notable, the town is full of history, which is on display. Cripple Creek and the surrounding area have many museums to enjoy. The museums are only a tiny part of how Cripple Creek has preserved history; many of the historic buildings are still in use today, like the Butte Theater, which was initially built in 1896. When you come to stay and play at Triple Crown Casinos, you find yourself right in the center of pioneer history. While we know you’ll have a lot of fun at our casinos, there is so much to explore, and you will leave with a new appreciation of pioneer history.

Stay & Play at Triple Crown Casinos

Whether you decide to stop in at the Brass Ass, Midnight Rose, or McGills, you will have lots of fun, food, and comforts to choose from! Dynamite Dick’s is a great place to satisfy your craving for great food almost any time of day with separate breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus and is conveniently located in the Midnight Rose. If you are looking for casual American fare and a pint to wash it down with, check out the specialized lunch and dinner menus at the Pint and Platter in McGills Casino. Finally, for a quick bite that still satisfies, stop in the Miner’s Pick in the Brass Ass Casino.

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