The Four Mile Historic Park is in Denver, Colorado. It is conveniently next to the Cherry Creek Trail. The visitor’s center (Grant Family Education Center) offers indoor exhibits. There is a small gift shop area inside of the Grant Family Education Center. We purchased Hammond’s Root Beer Candy at the gift shop.
The Four Mile Historic Park staff explained to us how the candy was created in a factory in Denver. We added a factory tour to our mental list of things to do in the future.
Just beyond the visitor’s center is a walkway that leads you to the animals at the Four Mile Historic Park. There was a corral with horses. We watched them as they snacked on their lunch. There were also goats, chickens, and pigs.
There was a collection of historic buildings. We visited the Four Mile House, Summer Kitchen, Bee House, Blacksmith Shop, Gate House, Miner & Trapper Cabin. The buildings took us back to a time that was simpler but more difficult in many ways.
Trappers and Miners
There was information posted about the life of the trappers and miners. These descriptions of their life helped us understand what their daily life was like. Below is a copy of what was written:
Before the gold rush brought miners to the cherry creek valley, the trappers passed through there on their way to the mountains to trap beaver during the early 19th-century fur trade. Beaver fur (traps and pelts hanging on the wall to the left) was required to keep fashionable people in top hats back in the states and Europe. This industry thrived until the early 1840s when the beaver was nearly gone from the mountains. (Luckily for them, silk from the orient replaced fur as the material of fashion!)
Mountain men trappers lived a solitary life, live in temporary lean-tos or tens as they followed the beavers and trading with the seasons. Those who chose to stay in the mountains after the fur trade ended continued trapping and hunting for trade or served as guides for the many emigrants headed west for gold and land. As they become more stationary, a cabin such as this would be used as a home base to provide shelter and a semblance of settling down. Pelts and furs could be processed and stored here until taken away for trade. Nature provided materials for furniture – pine logs for chairs and aspen branches for table lets (along far wall). Finished wood was often scavenged from other abandoned buildings or wagons – the wall paneling here is from the dismantled roof of Four Mile’s stallion barn. The manufactured table and chairs are a luxury perhaps received in trade or found abandoned by an overloaded wagon that had to be lightened to continue the trek west.
The small cast iron stove gives off plenty of heat and the nearby ax is handy to cut wood small enough to keep the stove fire going. Sleeping quarters are around the corner – a small wooden shelf that holds blankets and sleeping pallets by night and acts as seating and storage by day. Windows also a luxury, would have likely been taken to be used again, from chanced upon abandoned buildings or from a particularly good trade.
As pioneers settled the valley, towns sprang up. A trip to town would offer the opportunity to purchase food staples, such as beans, rice, and coffee. Trappers and their families living in cabins in the mountains relied mostly on hunting and small gardens for their food.
The first wave of the Pikes Peak gold rush brought prospectors to the Rocky Mountains in 1858. Four Mile House was constructed that year by the Brantner brothers, who came to farm and trade. They had no illusions about getting rich on the gold that was supposed to be laying all around on the ground in quantities such that a man could get rich in a few weeks and return home back east with enough money to live a life of luxury. For those who DID believe those rumors life was a process of following gold strikes from one boom camp to another. Miners eager to get rich quick moved quickly and often, and rarely set down roots.
As mining established itself and large mining companies hired wage-earning workers, minders began to settle down realizing they probably weren’t going to strike it rich and accepting that they wanted to stay in the Rockies. A cabin such as this was typical. If the miner was married, a feminine touch such as calico curtains and a vase of wildflowers would spruce it up a bit but the basics are here. A cast iron wood stove for heating and cooking with pans and utensils hung on the far right wall. Food came from hunting, the occasional trip to town, and from growing vegetables nearby, though many mountain gardens were thwarted by deer, rabbits, and other animals looking for a tasty meal – it wasn’t easy to maintain a thriving garden with that kind of competition!
On the shelf to the near right are lamps to light the way into the underground mines: the candle holder with spike could be driven into rock crevices and lighted, added fire to the list of dangers of underground mining and the variety of carbide lamps, dating from the early 20th century, which miners attached to their hats and they went below ground. A row of pans recalls the days of panning in the cold streams for all the easy gold that would make one rich in just a few weeks – days that were long gone by the time a cabin like this was occupied!
We would recommend visiting Four Mile Historic Park for a relaxing day out that is affordable.
Based on our visit, we have a few recommendations.
- Sunscreen – There is not a lot of shade throughout the park.
- Packed Lunch – We would recommend bringing a packed lunch. There are picnic tables that you can sit down, relax, and enjoy the historic surroundings.
- Cherry Creek Trail -We would recommend that you extend the day out by visiting the neighboring Cherry Creek Trail. There is a paved trail that runs along the trail. If you walk down towards the water, there is a dirt trail closer to the water. The trail is 40-miles long.
Our cherished moment at Four Mile Historic Park was when the kids were looking at the chicken coop and discovered a little critter. They affectionately named him Ratapoopy. They were laughing and running back and forth together. It was a moment I will cherish forever.