The town of Guffey, Colorado got its start in 1890 with the promise of gold and big money. It quickly attracted prospectors from all over the country. The Cripple Creek mine was just 30 miles away from town, and so the town was the perfect supply hub for mining claims that were expected to spring up between Cripple Creek and Guffey. When Guffey was established, the mining camp was called Idaville, but shortly thereafter its name was changed to Freshwater.

Guffey was actually legally incorporated in 1895, and it was immediately booming as a mining, lumbering, and ranching community. The Freshwater Mining District wasn’t just about gold mines. The area also produced copper, lead, and other minerals. The minerals that could be mined in the area made Guffey a center of activity. For most, gold was the big draw, mostly because they didn’t understand the value of the other minerals, like we do now, with new technologies and new uses for minerals. On August 31, 1896, the Colorado Daily Chieftain reported, “All of the arrangements have been completed, and negotiations closed for the construction of a cyanide mill on Currant Creek, of a capacity of 60-tons per day. The mill is now assured beyond any doubt, and ground will be broken for its construction within a fortnight. The capitalists behind the enterprise are Roadhaven and Vanderpool, of Saint Louis, who have visited the camp several times, investigating our mines and ores, with William Goodman of Cripple Creek, who has been largely instrumental in consummating this enterprise. They claim to be able to treat $7 ore at a profit, which it is claimed will make of Freshwater the biggest camp in the world. The townspeople have guaranteed the company 50 tons of ore per day. This step locates Freshwater beyond the boundary of a prospecting camp and places it in the list of producers.”

The town would receive another name change in the late 1890s, this time due to the fact that there was another town with the same name in California. In honor of James McClurg Guffey, an oilman and capitalist, the town was named Guffey. The town was known throughout the region for its dances, which included lots of fiddlers and other musicians. Guffy reached its peak during this period, with over 500 residents and 40 businesses…most of which were brought in with the promise of gold.

While there were many mines and prospects around Guffey, the total production recorded was disappointingly minor. The cattle ranches and lumber operations located nearby supported Guffey while mining wasn’t profitable. In reality, the town was probably more suited for ranching anyway. Soon many of the businesses began to leave. The Park County Bulletin, dated January 17, 1902, stated, “With this issue, the GUFFEY PROSPECTOR will cease publication. This is due in part to the fact that the camp has another paper and to the additional fact that the Freshwater districts have failed, so far, to develop sufficiently to support a newspaper. The PROSPECTOR has for some time been published from the BULLETIN office, and while working faithfully for the camp, it has never been a paying investment. Those in the Freshwater districts who wish to settle their accounts with the paper can do so with Captain Sylvis at the Guffey post office. To those who wish it, the BULLETIN will be continued to their address, and we will try to make it meet their requirements as always up with the news of Park County. We still have faith in the Freshwater districts and believe that, when sufficient depth has been obtained, there will be pay mines made and profitable mining is done.”

Before long, the people started to move away too. While Guffey still exists today, the community has only around 49 residents and relies heavily on tourism. There are still several of the original structures remaining and are actually occupied. The others have been kept up, though empty, so that the town can keep its historic value and possible income potential for the future. The town currently has a charter school, restaurant, small museum, and more. Guffey continues to be the center of activity for nearby ranches, some of which are Park County Historic Landmarks, including the Aspen Creek/Bener/Moore Ranch, Campbell Ranch, and Thirty-One-Mile Ranch. So, while the town’s size has dwindled, its usefulness has not. Guffey also sits in a very scenic area created by three ancient volcanoes. The Guffey volcanic center is part of the Thirty-nine Mile Volcanic area, the largest remnant of the Central Colorado volcanic field. There are two mineral springs just a mile south of Guffey, that feature spring waters bubbling up from large mounds over 20 feet high and 50 feet across.

Sadly, not all is well in Guffey. As in any town, crime can happen. In January 2001, the bodies of three members of the Dutcher family were found near Guffey. They had been murdered. Later, three teenagers were convicted of the crime. Apparently these three boys had decided to form a paramilitary organization. They were supposedly practicing for future action they planned to take in the country of Guyana. The murders were part of their “practice sessions.” The brutal nature of the crime and its bizarre motive attracted national attention, but really not the kind of attention that the town wanted to be famous for.

The town does have some real oddities that it doesn’t mind being famous for. It would be considered a “somewhat ghost town” and strangely, has a habit of electing animals as Mayor. In fact, while the two main political parties are the Democrats and the Republicans, the current Mayor, Monster the Cat was elected in 1998. Lydia Reynolds of Guffey’s 31 Mile Ranch and Bill Sioux of Guffey Garage left us a comment confirming Monster was still alive and well…as of November 2019 anyway. I suppose that in a small town, you could get away with an animal as mayor, but for most of us, that would definitely be odd. Nevertheless, I guess it just adds to the charm of this quaint, old town.

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