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June 10, 2022

B. Ware and I. Steele, Pawnbrokers, Ironton, 1886

The traveling Western photographer Charles Goodman took this photograph of the cheekily-named pawnbrokers “B. Ware and I. Steele,” which also offered “plain sewing,” in the San Juan mountain town of Ironton on September 8, 1886.

Located few miles south of Ouray at a time when the rugged terrain and weather could make such a trip last many hours or occasionally even days, Ironton was an important transportation and freighting hub for the mines in the area. It was the first stop on Otto Mears’s famous toll road that would later become the basis for the Million Dollar Highway.

Ironton was established as Copper Glen in 1883, but within months the more prosaic name of Ironton was in common use, and as such it was incorporated in 1884. The town grew quickly, and soon had more than a hundred buildings and wooden sidewalks. Like all of the mountain towns in Colorado, the Panic of 1893, the last American depression of the nineteenth century, hit it hard, but its importance as a transportation hub allowed it to bounce back quickly. Its post office, for example, closed in 1893, but was reopened just the following year.

But the slow decline in mining eventually did take its toll. The population dwindled away. The post office closed for good in 1920. Two of the last men living there, the brothers Ernest Oliver Milton Larson (1891–1964) and Harry E. L. Larson (1889–1959) continued mining their own claim until their deaths. Milton was the last person to live in the town. Milton appeared on the T.V. panel show “I’ve Got a Secret” on December 18, 1961.


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