In 1859 gold was discovered in the mountains near Idaho Springs, CO. A small party led by General George E. Spencer pitched a camp along the Blue River. The settlement was named “Fort Mary B” after the lone woman in the party. The camp soon grew and Spencer renamed the settlement “Breckinridge” after the United States Vice President of the time. Spencer hoped that this politically astute move would result in the area being awarded a post office. His strategy paid off, and in January of 1860 Breckinridge boasted the first post office between the Continental Divide and the state of Utah. Later that same year, Breckinridge officially became part of the Colorado Territory.
One year later, former-Vice President Breckinridge chose to side with the Confederate Army and accepted a post as brigadier general. This choice sat poorly with the residents of the small town, so they chose to change the spelling of their community to Breckenridge…which continues to be the spelling today.
Breckenridge boasts a number of famous citizens. George Spencer later became a U.S. Senator. Barney Ford, once an escaped slave and member of the Underground Railroad built several businesses, established an adult education program and is considered one of Colorado’s Founding Fathers. Father John Lewis Dyer juggled his passion for God and the outdoors by skiing across the Continental Divide and delivering gold, mail and the gospel. Edwin Carter originally arrived in the area in 1859 and began his search for gold, but after seeing the damage mining efforts made to the area’s natural beauty he began efforts to catalog and save local plant life. The converted naturalist collected thousands of specimens during his life and was largely responsible for the founding of the Denver Museum of Natural History.
Gold continued to be the primary draw to Breckenridge into the early 1900s. The most famous find is credited to Tom Groves in 1887. Groves presented his nugget wrapped in a blanket and it was named “Tom’s Baby.” Oddly enough, after putting the 13 lb nugget on the train to Denver it disappeared. By the time it surfaced 85 years later, it was five pounds lighter. By early the early 1900s, the Blue River was being dredged and these efforts continued until shortly before WW II when labor resources dried up.
Today, Breckenridge benefits from its proximity to another major mountain draw – tourism. The Colorado Mountains draw thousands of visitors every winter for snow, and still more visitors who enjoy the areas fishing, hiking, biking and golf during the summer. Breckenridge was once a rustic mining town of tents, but today it is a vibrant community with an array of hotels, condos and choices for Colorado vacation rentals [http://www.playnicevacations.com] — Colorado recreation brought a renaissance to the town.