Breckenridge History

Breckenridge Colorado
> Breckenridge Colorado
> Breckenridge History

Breckenridge History

Breckenridge history witnessed mining booms and busts that nearly turned it into a ghost town, finally to be saved by skiing, the newfangled sport that visionaries used to save the town. Read More

  • Both the Pikes Peak Gold Rush and the founding of Breckenridge occurred in 1859.
  • The railroad reached town in 1882, securing the town a permanent foothold in the state.
  • Breckenridge nearly became a ghost town in both 1870 and 1960.
  • The ski area was opened in 1961 to the 17,000 skiers who visited the inaugural season.


  • Prior to 1840 - The area is used as summer hunting grounds by the Ute tribes of the area.
  • 1840-1859 - Trappers and traders start to explore the area, as well as some traders.
  • 1859 - The town of "Breckinridge" is founded by George E. Spencer. Pikes Peak Gold Rush brings prospectors from all over the country, creating new towns and camps, some of which would decay into ghost towns and others which would survive until this day.  This marks the start of modern Breckenridge, Colorado history.
  • 1860 - According to folklore, the town is named after the current Vice-President John C. Breckinridge, named in hopes of getting a post office in the fledgling town. The plan succeeded, creating the first post office between the Continental Divide and Salt Lake City.
  • 1861 - The vice-president namesake sides with the confederacy in the civil war, and the town quietly changes its name to "Breckenridge."
  • 1870 - Placer mining has slowed to a trickle and the population drops to 51, leaving opportunity for consolidation of land rights by individuals and businesses.
  • 1880 - Spurred by the new hard rock silver mining, the town lays out an ambitious city architecture, including a wide center street that is still in place today.
  • 1882 - The Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad reaches Breckenridge, summiting the technically challenging Boreas Pass at 11,481 ft.
  • 1887 - "Tom's Baby," a 13-pound gold nugget, is unearthed. The fame of the find spreads throughout the state, reviving the mining industry in Breckenridge.
  • 1898-99 - Known as one of the harshest winters on record, the town is in isolation while tracks are cleared, only to be covered again by snow. The record snowfall keeps the community snow-locked for 78 days. The historic rotary snowplows used to clear the tracks are on display in Breckenridge.
  • 1900's - The first half of the century was a slow one for Breckenridge. Mining continued to expand and grow, but new technologies required less people than the earlier placer and hard rock mines.
  • 1920's - Ski jump contests are held on Shock Hill.
  • 1940 - The first ski club and rope tow are created at Carter Park Hill, starting a new page in Breckenridge, CO history.
  • 1942 - Dredge mining is halted by government procurement of metal to support the military effort during World War II.
  • 1945 - Country Boy Mine is closed after a massive flood of the area. Starting operation in 1887, this is one of the mines available for touring in the area surrounding Breckenridge.
  • 1950 - Population is reaches rock-bottom at 293. Residents fear that Breckenridge will become a ghost town.
  • 1961 - Breckenridge Ski Area opens for its inaugural season, attracting 17,000 skiers and arguably saving the town from extinction.
  • 1973 - The Eisenhower Tunnel is opened, creating easy access for Denver residents to the ski areas of Summit County.
  • 1980 - The history of Breckenridge is recognized by being listed on National Register of Historic Places.
  • 1981 - World's first high-speed chairlift is installed, leading the industry in technological advancements.
  • 1984 - Breckenridge is the first major ski area in Colorado to permit snowboarding, a milestone in Summit County history.
  • 2005 - Highest chairlift in North America is opened, heading to 12,840 ft.

Historic People in Breckenridge

  • Edwin Carter - Arriving to Breckenridge in 1859, Edwin devoted himself to studying nature and collecting samples, which would later form the Denver Museum of Natural History and the Edwin Carter Museum in downtown Breckenridge.
  • John L. Dyer - The Methodist preacher became known as the "Snowshoe Itinerant Preacher," traveling between mining camps on 12-foot wooden skis after arriving in 1861. In 1880, he would found the chapel on French Street that still continues to hold services.
  • Barney Ford - This ambitious runaway slave and wife came to Breckenridge in the 1880's to start a successful restaurant, Ford's Restaurant and Chop House. He also lead the early civil rights struggle for African Americans in Colorado.
  • Trygve Berge - As a Norwegian National Ski Champion and Breckenridge's first Ski School Director, Trygve brought prestige and fame to the upstart ski area.
  • C.J. Mueller - This local speed skier, known for often exceeding 100 mph, held three separate world record titles, bringing even more renown to Breckenridge.